The pandemic has been especially rough on kids. There are plenty of studies to back that up, and almost everyone has a real-life example from their everyday life.
It’s a topic that comes up often before and after games all over the area. It’s rare for an athlete to say they were able to use the downtime to improve.
Rolling Meadows basketball star Max Christie was one who was able to buckle down and focus. Another basketball player, Glenbard West senior Braden Huff, said in February that all the downtime had allowed him extra time to strengthen his game in certain areas.
Add Cary-Grove quarterback Jameson Sheehan to the list. The senior led the No. 10 Trojans to a 42-7 win against No. 23 Prairie Ridge on Saturday in Cary.
“[Sheehan] came out of COVID a different player,” Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. “Some guys went into the quarantine and maybe took a step back. Jameson had a mission, and he wanted to get better. We lost contact with the kids for three or four months. When he came back, he was bigger, stronger, more mature and really was a great leader, too. Hats off to him. He figured out a way to get it done during COVID. Ever since then, he’s really emerged as a quarterback force.”
The Trojans already were off to an undefeated start with Sheehan at the helm, but the scope of his improvement was on full display against Prairie Ridge. Seaburg opened up the offense and allowed Sheehan to showcase his passing.
He completed his first five passes and finished 5-for-7 for 98 yards with two touchdowns. Both scores went to tight end Noah Riley, who had five catches for 76 yards.
“I was just happy I was able to execute,” Riley said. “We’ve always focused on passing in practice. It’s part of the game. So we just have to make sure that when we get called on in the game, we can execute.”
Cary-Grove looked really strong on its opening drive. QB Jameson Sheehan scores on a pretty 44-yard run.— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) September 25, 2021
Trojans lead Prairie Ridge 7-0. pic.twitter.com/VTOGyiS4Cu
The Trojans (5-0, 5-0 Fox Valley) jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Sheehan scored on a 44-yard run in the first quarter, a 23-yard run in the second quarter and a 37-yard run just before halftime. He had nine carries for 145 yards.
Linebacker/running back Wade Abrams had seven carries for 85 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, for Cary-Grove.
“It was awesome to throw a bit,” Sheehan said. “The receivers made great plays. It was just how we practiced it.”
Prairie Ridge’s score came on a bit of a trick play: Quarterback Mason Loucks passed to running back Zach Bentsen, who found Noah Solis streaking downfield for a 69-yard touchdown pass.
Bentsen had 16 carries for 54 yards, and Nathan Greetham added 12 carries for 73 yards for the Wolves (4-1, 4-1).
“They are right there [with all the recent state title winners from the Fox Valley conference],” Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. “We had guys ready to make plays, and their guys just out-athleted us.”
Terrific TD grab by Noah Riley. Cary-Grove leads Prairie Ridge 21-0, 2Q. pic.twitter.com/iyCPeRPRCQ— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) September 25, 2021
Cary-Grove has an excellent chance to run through the regular season undefeated. It’s looking too far ahead, but a possible Class 6A state title game against highly regarded East St. Louis would be fun. The Flyers and the Fox Valley have dominated 6A recently.
East St. Louis beat Prairie Ridge in the 6A title game in 2019-20 and won Class 7A in 2016-17. Cary-Grove won 6A in 2018-19, and Prairie Ridge won it in 2017-18 and 2016-17.
“Our challenge is just the next game,” Sheehan said. “That’s our main focus. We aren’t looking ahead. There’s no big game. They are all big games. We have Huntley next week. That’s how we approach everything.”