For three quarters, this game featured none of the usual craziness of a Grant-Wauconda battle. Then the two teams proved it's never too late for bizarre occurrences to break out.
Grant was cruising along with a 29-3 lead at the end of three quarters. But visiting Wauconda produced an astonishing 36 points in the fourth to turn this into a marathon thriller.
Had Wauconda been able to recover an onside kick, it probably would have won, but went 0-for-4. Grant managed to hang on for a 46-39 victory in a North Suburban Prairie contest in Fox Lake.
"Overall, we did not play well," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "Offense was good. Everything else, bad. It's a win, but we've got a bad taste in our mouth. They're a good team. They probably should have won the game."
Grant fullback Jonathan Wells ran for 191 yards on 22 carries and twice seemed to put the game away. He scored on a 49-yard run with 2:25 left to make it 39-26. He added a 20-yard touchdown with 41.6 seconds left.
Wauconda always had answer, though. Last season, Grant rallied from a 34-14 halftime deficit to beat its Bulldog brothers in the final 10 seconds, and Wauconda nearly returned the favor this time.
Quarterback Austin Swenson had 9 yards of passing at halftime and finished with 302, completing 15 of his last 18 passes. Senior Austin Piekarski piled up 129 receiving yards on 7 catches.
"I don't know. A bunch of holes opened up and we started to find them," said Swenson, who connected with seven different receivers. "We got the time up front and just connected. I think everyone knew we still had it in us. We just kept believing."
Grant (3-0) led 32-11 with six minutes left after Cody Meyer drilled a 37-yard field goal. Wauconda junior Tom Tometich picked up a short, bouncing kickoff and returned it 61 yards for a score. After getting a defensive stop, Swenson drove the visitors 85 yards in just 7 plays and suddenly Wauconda (2-1) was within 32-26 with 2:35 left.
The ensuing onside kick was touched before it went 10 yards and Wells scored on the next play. Swenson then drove Wauconda 74 yards in 5 plays, hitting Alex Schwickrath on an 8-yard slant to make it 39-33 with 1:24 on the clock.
Wauconda's final touchdown, a 23-yard pass to Erik Fuller came with just 6.6 seconds remaining. There was time to recover an onside kick and toss a final pass into the end zone, but Wells recovered the bouncing ball for Grant and the game was finally over.
"I think the thing you'll find with our kids is they're going to fight," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "Whether they win those fights or not, they're not going away. Miracles can happen. We just came a play short of a miracle tonight."
Grant lost four defensive starters to injury during the course of the game, including both cornerbacks and a safety. The Bulldogs resorted to using Wells and quarterback Kyle Whitman on defense at the end of the game. Grant racked up 165 penalty yards, while Wauconda finished with 9 fumbles (1 lost), mostly on botched snaps.
"I don't know what got into our defense," Wells said. "We'll be ready next week. We've got to forget this game, because it wasn't a very good one."