Buehler, Crystal Lake Central get back on track against Dundee-Crown

The start of the 2023 season hasn't sat well in the Crystal Lake Central locker room.

Losing two games by a combined eight points ate away at the Tigers throughout a week of practice that senior Griffin Buehler called businesslike. All of that frustration was put to good use, though, on Friday night.

Crystal Lake Central put up eight touchdowns in cruising to a 55-19 win over Dundee-Crown.

An offense usually geared toward the pass allowed the running back to shine a bit as Buehler rushed for 145 yards on 16 carries with a career-high four touchdowns. Not to be outdone, quarterback Jason Penza threw for four touchdowns - two to Carter Kelley - and 254 yards on 14-of-27 passing.

Big plays defined the offensive day. On consecutive plays in the second half, Buehler broke loose on a 60-yard scoring run while Penza connected with Kelley for a 41-yard touchdown. George Dimopoulos also had a 43-yard touchdown reception for CLC (1-2).

"I think it's a big part of our offense," Buehler said. "Last year against PR we did that, and I think our offense is capable of having a lot of explosive plays. We have a lot of talent on the offense. I mean everyone was involved today.

Tommy Hammond had a 12-yard touchdown catch for the Tigers as well.

"It's really about learning from the losses," CLC coach Dirk Stanger said. "That's really how we get better as people is by failing. Not everything is a success. But these guys have shown a lot of resolve. In the first two weeks we played the No. 7 team in 6A and we played the No. 11 team in 8A. It's a tough schedule coming out of the gate, but we fought our butts off."

Despite the final score, it was a close football game for almost the entire first half. In fact, the Chargers (0-3) were within 21-13 following a huge 64-yard touchdown pass from Zach Randl to Kali Freeman on third and 11 with 7:47 to go in the half.

Following a defensive stop, Dundee-Crown moved all the way to the Tigers 14 before a clutch interception by Drake Tomasiewicz thwarted the drive.

Disaster hit D-C one more time in the half as a bad snap on a punt attempt forced Freeman to try and take off running. On the tackle far behind the line of scrimmage, he was injured and unable to return to the game, a huge blow to the Chargers after big plays the first few weeks of the season.

That failed fourth down play was followed immediately by the 43-yard TD pass from Penza to Dimopoulos to make it 27-13 going into halftime.

That fourth-down play and missed tackled defined the game for the Chargers in coach Mike Steinhaus' mind.

"When a kid is scoring a touchdown after three or four missed tackles, that's on us," he said. "We're going to have to get better. As I told the guys at the end, defense is want to. We have to improve our want to. And we'll do that. We're a young team."

Randl finished 17-of-28 for 181 yards and three touchdowns for Dundee-Crown.

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