Wheeling sure put on a homecoming show for its big crowd on a brisk Friday night.
At halftime, the hundreds of fans were treated to music synchronized with a fireworks display.
Then the football team lit up the field with its own fireworks in the final minutes.
With his team trailing 8-6, Wildcats defensive back Tyler Urban recovered Buffalo Grove's 10th fumble of the game with 2:14 left at the Bison 26-yard line.
Three play later, sophomore quarterback Amani Dennis threw a 17-yard pass to Mike Yoshino before his brother Sam Yoshino raced 4 yards for the winning touchdown with 50.9 seconds left in the Mid-Suburban East battle.
After the Wildcats missed the 2-point conversion, the defense preserved the 12-8 victory, capped off by linebacker Henry Gonzalez' interception near midfield on the final play of the game.
"They all seem to go this way," said Wildcats first-year coach Brent Pearlman after the victory over his alma mater. "When we are in the games at the end, we tend to pull them out.
"I thought the defense played great. Their offense moved the ball a little but at the critical times I thought our defense stepped up."
Noah Ihde, Mike Martinez and Sal Dominguez helped control things on the front line for Wheeling (3-4, 1-2) while Jesus Rodriguez, Martin Falkiner, Gonzalez and Sam Yoshino roamed right behind.
In the backfield were Mike Yoshino, Chad Mikosz, Urban and Nick Randazzo.
"It was just being disciplined and not overdoing things," said Mikosz, a three-year varsity player who saved a couple of long runs with key tackles in the backfield. "It was an exciting game. We fought to the end."
It wasn't until the end of the first half when Wheeling scored the first points of the game.
After stopping BG (1-6, 0-3) on a fourth-and-4, the Wildcats took over on their own 41-yard line and marched 59 yards for the TD.
Sophomore Isaac Branch raced 30 yards up the middle on a dive play for a 6-0 lead with 1:11 left before intermission.
BG tied the game late in the third quarter when defensive back Mario DiCarlo picked off his second pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
On its next possession, Wheeling had a 69-yard TD run called back by holding and two plays later the Bison recovered a fumble at the Wildcats' 17 yard line.
BG, though, fumbled at Wheeling's 2-yard line and Falkiner recovered with 11:06 left in the game.
"I thought we played hard but you just can't put the ball on the ground (lost four fumbles) as much as we did," said coach Mike DiMatteo, also in his first year at BG.
"There's not much to say." he added. "We just had too many mistakes. We just gave it away. But the kids all played as hard as they could. The offense just wasn't clicking."
The Bison defense though, clicked two plays later when Jona Augustyn made a tackle in the end zone for a safety and 8-6 Bison lead.
Michael Schmitt had a big sack for BG which forced Wheeling to punt with 6:07 left.
But Dominguez recovered a fumble to get the ball back for Wheeling with 4:41 left.
The BG defense forced another punt with 2:59 left. The Bison took over at their own 27 but two plays later Urban made the fumble recovery which set up the winning TD by Sam Yoshino.
"We never stopped fighting," junior Sam Yoshino said. "We had our backs to the wall with two choices, either back down or go for the win."
"We were definitely struggling offensively," said senior Mike Yoshino. "But the defense really picked us up. We just had to be resilient on offense even when we weren't moving the ball."
Branch ran for 76 yards behind Tom Shover, Matt Greenberg, Jim Cooke, Alex Parra and Dominguez.