It was a game of two different halves, as St. Charles North coach Mark Gould said.
South Elgin took command of the second half for a 14-6 victory Friday that not only ended the retiring 13-year North Stars head coach's final game with a loss, in St. Charles, but knocked them out of playoff consideration at 4-5.
"They feel sorry for me," said Gould, the only head varsity coach the program's had. "I said, don't feel bad or sorry for me, I've got 40 years of football under my belt. They're the ones, the seniors, many of these guys aren't going to play next year so you feel bad for them.
"They worked hard, they put themselves in position, they're going to be successful because they put so much effort into it. I'm going to be fine. It's those guys, they're going to another chapter."
In the Upstate Eight Conference crossover, South Elgin (4-5) played a second half markedly different from the first. After completing 1 pass in 7 attempts for 6 yards and an interception in a first half devoted mainly to the ground game, junior quarterback Robert Cuda was 10 of 19 for 128 yards in the second. He connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Chris Bingham and a 14-yarder to Joe Crivolio for the game-winner with 10 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.
As it did in the first half, South Elgin's defense clinched the win in the fourth quarter with Tyler Thorson's fumble recovery and Jon Ortega's interception with 1:52 left, his second of the game.
"I think it was the motivation our seniors had, a lot," said Cuda. "It's the last half, for most of them, in their lives. We just had a good talk, got pumped up. We were sick of not scoring so we just started going harder and really working hard at it."
In muddy turf inches deep, in the first half St. Charles North outgained the Storm 155 yards to 24. The backfield of Evan Kurtz and George Edlund ran for 61 and 60 yards, respectively, nearly all of it in the first half.
St. Charles North lived inside South Elgin's red zone but died there, too, three of four first-half possessions. The killer was failing to convert fourth-and-goal from South Elgin's 1-yard line. Defensive lineman Zach Saldivar, 6-foot-4 and 230, stopped Kurtz short.
"We knew they were running the ball up the middle, and I just did my job," said an emotional Saldivar after his last prep game. "I was glad I did my job right."
"Every time we drew close I don't know, something stalled," Edlund said. "They brought it, can't explain it. On fourth-and-1 we should get it in. We don't. There's not much to say about that."
St. Charles North came out on fire in the second half, Zach Kirby returning the third-quarter kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown. That was the Stars' second-half highlight of Gould's last game.
"I was real proud to be part of this, be part of Mark's last night," said South Elgin coach Dale Schabert. "He's a great coach and a great person and I've known him for a long, long time. I've got nothing but good things to say about him. I'm kind of honored. If it was going to be his last game, I got to be here with him and see it."