CARY – Let's begin with a grammar lesson.
Word: Roothog (v.)
Definition: To crouch low, particularly on the defensive line, and de-root an opponent, briefly separating his cleats from the surface of planet Earth.
Example: Whoa, Jimmy just roothogged that offensive lineman!
Origin: "We just kind of made it up," Cary-Grove senior Emerson Kersten said.
So now you'll understand this statement: Despite a disappointing loss Saturday against Boylan, the hard-working Trojans roothogged all expectations this season.
C-G always seems to be good at football, and they were again this season, winning seven games to earn a No. 9 seed in the IHSA Class 6A playoffs. But the Trojans ran into a tough opponent in No. 1 seed Boylan (11-0), which overcame a halftime deficit and a late charge by the Trojans to hang on for a 17-10 win.
In any year, C-G's deep playoff run would have been impressive.
But this season, with only 14 seniors on a roster of 51?
C-G coach Brad Seaburg asked for big things from his small group of seniors, who had advanced to the state championship game as juniors a year earlier. Seaburg said it was highly unusual to have so few seniors, but the group embraced its leading role.
"They stuck with the program for four years, and they worked extremely hard," Seaburg said. "They left a legacy here. We would have liked to have won more games than we did, but they did a great job of leading us this year."
And, as always, the group battled from whistle to whistle.
That proved to be true against Boylan, which entered Saturday's game with 49 wins in its past 50 games, including state championships in 2010 and 2011. Boylan featured a high-powered offense led by quarterback Demry Croft, but C-G made him and his teammates fight for every inch, every foot, every yard.
"Even until the last couple of seconds, we went down fighting," C-G senior defensive lineman T.J. Sorensen said. "We didn't take any plays off. We definitely didn't lose because of hustle."
The Trojans went down fighting, all right. But that wasn't all.
They went down hacking: Sorensen rushed from the edge, crashed into Croft and jarred the ball loose with a sack-fumble. But football can be a game of funny bounces, and this one found its way back into the arms of a Titan.
"The whole game, we were preaching, 'Strip the ball out, strip the ball out,' and I saw my chance," Sorensen said.
They went down sacking: Senior defensive lineman Joey Maxwell burst through the line of scrimmage on multiple occasions, dumping Croft on third-and-long on one series and stuffing Boylan's top running back for a 3-yard loss on another.
"The key to getting back there was the thought in my mind, thinking this could be the last game of my life," Maxwell said.
They went down picking: With his team trailing by four points late in the third quarter, Kersten transformed into a one-man highlight factory. He blitzed, saw Croft release the ball, and raised his arms in time to deflect the pass and reel in his own deflection.
"I realized that I could make the play," Kersten said.
With their seniors leading the way, the Trojans made all kinds of plays this season.
So it was appropriate when Kersten and fellow senior Matt Hughes anchored the final huddle before the Trojans left the field.
"Roothog on three!" Kersten screamed. "1, 2, 3..."
"Trojans on three!" Hughes screamed. "1, 2, 3..."
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.
Cary-Grove featured only 14 seniors on its 51-man roster this season. Here is the group.
• Joey Maxwell, No. 3
• Kevin Fisher, No. 6
• Chris Ruelle, No. 19
• Danny Nick, No. 23
• Talon Michaelis, No. 26
• Brian Nordengren, No. 27
• Joey Scott, No. 28
• T.J. Sorensen, No. 46
• Jack Timmins, No. 47
• Emerson Kersten, No. 50
• Will Mollett, No. 58
• Johnny Klodnicki, No. 65
• Brandon Caccavallo, No. 66
• Sean Maher, No. 83