Burlington Central ends Cary-Grove's 18-year playoff streak, keeps own postseason hopes alive

In the span of about 10 minutes, Griffin Kohlhoff experienced the highs and lows of being a kicker.

He had a chance to give Burlington Central a win over Cary-Grove with a 37-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, but he hooked the kick wide left as time expired.

But after teammate McKade Naus recovered a C-G fumble in overtime, Kohlhoff got a shot at redemption. His 18-yard field goal sent the Central sideline and fans into a frenzy as the Rockets topped the Trojans, 10-7, in a Fox Valley Conference thriller on a windy, rainy Friday night at Rocket Hill.

"After I missed the first one, I got incredible support and encouragement from my teammates on the sidelines," Kohlhoff said. "I knew I was making that last one. Game-winning snap. Game-winning hold. I couldn't have done it without my teammates."

The win keeps playoff hopes alive for Central (4-4, 4-4), which can make the postseason with a victory next week over McHenry. The loss ended an 18-year playoff run for the Trojans, who fell to 3-5.

Despite driving the ball to the 1-yard line in OT after a trio of short runs by Daryious Smith and Michael Ganziano, Central coach Brian Iossi didn't hesitate to put the game back in Kohlhoff's hands - or more specifically, on his right foot - on fourth down.

"He's one of the best kickers I've ever seen. He's a great athlete, he plays soccer and I knew the entire time I was going back to him," Iossi said. "He's usually money from 35 (yards) and in, and I will go with him any chance I get."

The first half was played in a steady rain, and offense was in short supply. Burlington got on the board first on a 6-yard pass from Ryder Bergemann to Michael Person with 5.8 seconds left in the half. Cary-Grove tied the game midway through the third period on a 43-yard run by Jack Rocen.

C-G played without its starting fullback, Colin Desmet, and wingback Alex Schuppe. Rocen filled in admirably, finishing with 92 yards on 10 carries. The Trojans finished with 226 total yards, all on the ground.

"Our defense played a great game. We battled all night," C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. "A few things didn't go our way, but that never stopped our kids from fighting and battling."

Iossi said the victory was simply a part of the team's season-long journey called "destinations."

"The first destination was to make the playoffs, the second one is to win a state championship," the first-year coach said. "We're a young team and we made a lot of mistakes - penalties, especially. But the kids never stopped working. I have all the respect in the world for Brad and his program. This is just such a huge win for us, but we still have one more to go."

Ganziano finished with 89 hard-earned yards on 19 carries while quarterback Jackson Alcorn fought off a leg injury and completed 10-of-20 passes for 133 yards. Alcorn and Bergemann rotated series behind center. L.J. Kerr caught four passes for 76 yards while Person nabbed three for 47.

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