After suffering through a winless season last year, Willowbrook showed heart in its first game this season as it hung on for a 42-41 victory over Glenbard East on Friday night.
But that win didn't come easy for the Warriors.
The Warriors blew a 22-7 lead in the first half and found themselves tied up 35-35 with just more than five minutes left in the third quarter. They scored with 1:11 left in the third quarter as Brian Johnson hooked up with Dom Battaglia for an 8-yard touchdown strike, giving the Warriors a lead going in to the final quarter.
That was when things got interesting for Willowbrook.
After being forced to punt with just less than seven minutes left in the game, the Rams used a slow, methodical drive to run the clock down. Rams quarterback Joe Kotch showed his senior leadership as he converted two third-and-longs and then set himself up for some heroics.
With just less than 22 seconds remaining in the game, the Rams found themselves in a fourth and goal from the 4-yard line. Kotch took the snap and ran a quarterback draw in to make the score 42-41. Instead of going for an extra point and forcing overtime, Glenbard East coach John Walters opted to go for 2 points and the win.
On the 2-point attempt it was Kotch again running a draw, but this time he was gang-tackled a yard short.
"It was all based on the clock," Walters said. "If there were two or three minutes left, we would have kicked it. But with 16.7 left on the clock, it was a no-brainer. Our defense wasn't able to stop them all game, so it was almost like whoever had the ball last was going to win. Unfortunately for us, we came up short on the conversion."
The 2-point try didn't surprise the Warriors.
"We knew they were going to gamble and try for the win," Battaglia said. "That is just the team they are. I didn't think we would give up 41 points and still get the win, but after a rough season last year, we will definitely take this one."
Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth didn't care his defense gave up 41 points. He only cared about one thing.
"I feel great for our seniors," Hildreth said. "It really shows the hard work they put in this off-season. To not win a game last year, I am so proud of our seniors who stuck this out and earned their first win."
Johnson completed 27 of 38 passes for 377 yards and 3 touchdown passes in the win.