Friday night's North Suburban Prairie matchup between Grant and Round Lake provided many twists and turns in a plot that would make any network programming executive envious.
After a five-minute delay due to a dispute over a non-penalty call and a Round Lake timeout, Grant kicker Cody Meyer drilled a 24-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to give the visiting Bulldogs a heartstopping 17-14 victory over the Panthers.
Meyer's successful kick ensured Grant's another postseason trip. The victory was Grant's sixth of the season and nets the Bulldogs an automatic berth in the state playoffs.
"I missed one earlier," said Meyer, who earlier in the second half missed a 22-yard field goal. "I was able to stay calm, breathe, say a little prayer, and take what I do in practice and put it on the field."
The field goal capped off an action-packed final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. With the score tied at 7, Grant (6-2, 4-1 Prairie Division) rattled off a 13-play, 61-yard drive that finished with a Kris Smith (101 rushing yards) 14-yard touchdown scamper.
Round Lake (0-8, 0-5 in Prairie) responded immediately as running back Kevin Perry took the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to the end zone to once again even the score at 14. That was Perry's second touchdown of the game as he earlier caught a 1-yard shovel pass from John Ridley.
"Chris has been out for four or five weeks" said Round Lake coach John Coursey. "He was our starting running back at the start. We got him back last week and played him sparingly. But he was 100 percent healthy this week and he's a good player."
The Panthers then immediately got the ball back as Grant fumbled the kickoff return at their own 37 yard line. However, the Bulldogs defense stood tall and broke up a fourth-down pass to set up their game winning drive.
"The team pulled through, did great in the second half," said Grant running back Andy Cacchione, who had a team-high 111 rushing yards, "Cody made a great kick. He's been practicing kicks all week."
The last drive for the Bulldogs overshadowed the effort of the Round Lake defense, who forced 5 Grant turnovers and bottled up the inside running game for Grant most of the game.
Grant coach Kurt Rous was a man of few words after the game was over: "We're in the playoffs. That's all I will say."
Jason Bach scored Grant's first touchdown on an 8-yard run.
"It was probably our best defensive game," said Coursey. "We played really hard. We know that they (Grant) had some issues on offense but they are a good football team. It's not what other teams are doing to us, but what we are doing to ourselves. We didn't execute as well as we should have but we are getting better each week."