It's just Johnny Peltz's first varsity game -- but good luck trying to top this moment.
Wheaton North's junior quarterback hit a leaping Coleton Hrgich for an 18-yard touchdown pass on the game's final play to beat Bartlett 26-24 in a thriller at Rexilius Field.
"That last play I had all the time in the world to throw," Peltz said, "and Coleton just made an amazing play. It's one of those plays you hope someone's open, you throw it to a spot and hope for a great catch."
The Falcons looked like they were about to lose their season opener in heartbreaking fashion.
Bartlett, trailing 20-10 at halftime and into the fourth quarter, scored twice in the game's final seven minutes. AJ Bilyeu's 9-yard jump-ball touchdown pass to Lorenzo Mitchell with 36.4 seconds left gave the Hawks a 24-20 lead.
Mikey Sammer returned the ensuing kickoff to the Falcons 39, and after an incompletion Wheaton North's Johnny Daniels snared a tipped pass for a 26-yard gain. Another Daniels catch in traffic went for 17 yards down to the Bartlett 18.
Three incompletions followed, leaving Wheaton North with fourth down and 3 seconds remaining.
Peltz rolled back, fired down the middle and Hrgich rose up among a sea of Bartlett defenders to pull down the winning grab.
"He threw a great ball and I went up and got it," Hrgich said.
"We had attacked the outside several times and so we felt like we wanted to take one shot down the middle of the field and see if we couldn't get the safeties to widen a little bit," Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. "Putting Daniels outside might have held that safety a little bit."
Bartlett stunned the Wheaton North crowd with its two late touchdowns, but in the end it was the Hawks left shaking their heads. Air Force-bound Bilyeu completed 15 of 26 passes for 169 yards and ran for 72, his 56-yard run on a quarterback draw setting up the touchdown pass to his 6-foot-3 tight end Mitchell.
"It wasn't because of a lack of heart and desire -- we just let it slip away at the end," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said.
Peltz completed 13 of 23 passes for 150 yards and ran for 87 more yards. He completed his first 5 passes, hitting Micah Penn for a 16-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring. Bartlett's James Butler answered with a 2-yard touchdown run, before Wheaton North running back Patrick Sharp broke two tackles at the line and rumbled 71 yards for a score and 13-7 lead.
After a 44-yard Bartlett field goal, Sharp took a draw 29 yards for his second touchdown and a 20-10 Falcons halftime lead. Sharp ran for 168 yards on 13 carries.
Bilyeu's touchdown run made it 20-17 with 6:55 left, and Wheaton North hooked a 26-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 1:59 to play before Bartlett's go-ahead touchdown drive.
"I never saw a doubt in the eyes of our team, ever," Peltz said. "We showed a lot of poise at the end."