The North Chicago lead had swelled to 13 points in the third quarter of homecoming day at Wauconda on Saturday afternoon. And the Warhawks kicked off following their score to Wauconda senior Bruce Pearl.
And for a few seconds, it looked like Pearl was standing around waiting for something to happen.
"I wanted to follow my blockers," Pearl said after his Bulldogs fell 27-14 in an North Suburban Prairie Division matchup.
And then Pearl turned on the jets. He was on his way to an 81-yard kickoff return that eventually would die out at the North Chicago 5-yard line.
"It was a fun game," Pearl said. "I can't believe I didn't score. Let's call it a yard away."
On paper, this game matched unbeaten North Chicago against the once-beaten Bulldogs of Wauconda. And the home team, despite a struggling offense, managed to stay right with the Warhawks for most of the contest.
"Our defense did great,'' said Wauconda quarterback Austin Swenson. "We were just a little short offensively. We missed some things short. But we are still a force to be reckoned with."
It was a tough day for Swenson. He was knocked out of the game in the second quarter and was replaced by sophomore Alex Payne. Swenson returned to the field to open the third quarter.
"I went inside and iced it and felt better," Swenson said.
It was still anyone's game at halftime. The Warhawks took a 7-0 lead to halftime. The North Chicago lead jumped to 13-0 in the third quarter on an 8-yard touchdown run by junior Arnold Shead.
"Wauconda fought hard," Shead said. "It was their homecoming and they didn't want to lose."
Shead wasn't a big fan of the Wauconda field conditions but still easily led all rushers with 105 yards.
"Hey our line works their heads off," he said.
He also found a defender to compliment on his team. It was senior Zenes Corea.
"He gets in the backfield whenever he wants to," Shead said.
The Bulldogs (3-2) waited until the last five seconds of the third quarter to finally dent the scoreboard. It came on a 16-yard TD pass from Swenson to Alex Schwickrath, and it pulled the home team to within 13-7 entering the fourth quarter.
North Chicago answered with a 59-yard drive for a touchdown. Shead again did the honors from 3 yards out. Pearl's kickoff return followed that score, and two runs from Kacper Kulesza paid off with a touchdown. His 5-yard TD made it 20-14.
"Our defense was outstanding," Pearl said. "Our offense still has to step up."
The Warhawks had one more drive to salt this game away. Instead of handing the ball to Shead on most every play, junior Jamal Dixon got into the act and carried on four consecutive plays, pushing the ball closer.
Despite a heroic goal-line stand by the Wauconda defense, quarterback Jay Mays broke through on fourth down for the clinching score.
That opportunistic Wauconda defense intercepted one pass and fell on two North Chicago fumbles. The Warhawks defense answered back with 4 quarterback sacks.