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A night that started out so promisingly for Rolling Meadows took a turn for the worst in the second half.
Lake Forest scored five times after halftime while holding Meadows to just a field goal on its way to a 42-24 victory in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Fridady at Robert A. Hoese Athletic Field.
Meadows led 21-7 at halftime and still held a 24-14 advantage midway through the quarter, but 3 takeaways by Lake Forest, two of which resulted in touchdowns, were costly.
"When you put in the time and effort and don't win a game like that, it hurts all the more," said Meadows coach Matt Mishler.
The Mustangs (7-3) scored on their first two drives with quarterback Jack Milas hitting James Grier on a fade route for a 15-yard score and following that up with a 64-yard heave to Alex Niecikowski, a play which Milas escaped a collapsed pocket and fired a strike.
With Lake Forest (7-3) coming out in press coverage early, Milas was able to take advantage with Matt Campbell (10 catches, 213 yards), who returned to the lineup after missing two games due to injury.
Milas hit Campbell down the right sideline for his third and final touchdown of the night with 7:04 left in the second quarter.
"He stepped up and made a difference," Milas said of Campbell. "It was nice to have him back."
"They were coming up in press-man and we said all week that if they do that, we're going to automatically check to fade," Mishler said. "We took advantage of it."
The Scouts adjusted at halftime after Milas (33-for-70) threw for 270 of his 428 yards in the first half.
"They didn't give us the press and that's what we were hitting a lot of our big plays on," Milas said. "We just didn't execute in the second half."
Lake Forest quarterback Andrew Clifford (26-for-45, 285 yards) threw for all 3 of his touchdowns in the second half, including the go-ahead score to Andrew Freeman with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter that put the Scouts up 28-24.
But the play that really sucked the life out of the home crowd was when Regis Durbin stripped a Mustang ballcarrier and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 3 points in the third quarter.
"First half, they kept throwing deep on us so we decided to play off a little bit more and we shut them down the whole second half," Durbin said after closing out the scoring with an interception return for a touchdown. "It was a big defensive stand in the second half."
The Mustangs bid farewell to a senior class that had their sophomore season canceled due to lack of participation. After winning six games as juniors, winning seven this year along with a share of the East was a fitting way to go out for a group that never stepped fighting.
"I thought that because of how resilient these guys were, sticking it out despite not having a sophomore season, we would come back tonight," Mishler said. "They committed themselves in the off-season and have done everything we asked. Lake Forest was just too good tonight."