Travon Royal, who missed an earlier extra point and a field goal, split the uprights with his conversion kick in overtime to give Elk Grove a 23-22 season-opening victory Saturday afternoon against visiting St. Charles North in nonconference play.
"I just didn't want to let my team down," said Royal, who took a couple of extra practice swings with his right leg.
"After the first couple I missed, I was really down. But my teammates were behind me to pick me up. I knew I would make it."
At the time, it really didn't appear that Royal's misses were all that significant. That's because Elk Grove was in complete control with just over two minutes to play, building a 16-0 lead.
Adam O'Malley had the Elk Grove offense in form.
O'Malley (18-of-29, 188 yards) put the Grens up 7-0 late in the first quarter when he hooked up with a leaping Mike Bishoff just inside the pylon.
It became 10-0 in the second quarter as Royal, who pulled an earlier 27-yard field goal, nailed one from 23 yards out.
O'Malley scored on a quarterback draw from 16 yards out to make it 16-0. But Royal missed the extra point.
It didn't seem to matter because the Grens' defense was stifling. They held the North Stars to just 126 yards of total offense and turned the ball over five times. And even when Jordan Bergren recovered a fumble at midfield, there still wasn't much hope for St. Charles North.
"I knew I had to redeem myself," said St. Charles North quarterback Erik Miller, who had thrown 5 interceptions. "We just needed to go to work."
After a late hit call against Elk Grove and a huge third-and-12 completion to Nate Newbill kept the drive alive, Miller scored on a 4-yard run with 46.8 seconds left. Evan Kurtz scored on the 2-point conversion to make it 16-8, and the North Stars had a flicker of hope.
Cameron McKenzie recovered the ensuing onside kick as the hope began to build.
Again the North Stars faced adversity, with a third and 10 at the Grens' 32 with 18.6 seconds left. Miller then hooked up with Garrett Johnson, who used his 6-foot-5 frame outleap the Elk Grove defenders for a touchdown. And when Kurtz scored again on a conversion run, that hope became a reality as the Norh Starts sent the game into overtime.
It became even more improbable when Miller and his team faced a third-and-goal from the 17. Miller threw a dart to Newbill for a touchdown. But when the North Stars went to kick for the conversion, the snap was bad, leaving an opportunity for O'Malley and Elk Grove.
And O'Malley led the Grens right through that opening.
"I told them that we had resiliency," O'Malley said. "I knew that I had their back, and I knew they had mine."
After rushing for 5 yards around the right end on first down, O'Malley rolled to his left on second down. With no intention to run, O'Malley zinged a pass to Mark Lathinen for the tying touchdown. Royal blasted the kick and Elk Grove snatched a crazy win.
"I feel like we beat them for almost the whole game," Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. "And then we nearly gave it back to them. They are a good football team. But our guys reached back when they needed to."
St. Charles North first-year head coach Rob Pomazak, who was the defensive coordinator last year at Elk Grove before taking over the North Stars this season, was pleased at his team's effort.
"I am proud of them, to be honest with you," Pomazek said. "But I want us to understand that we are trying to turn the tables. In order for us to be a playoff football team, we have to win games like these."
Both teams showed first-game sloppiness as they combined for 223 yards of penalties.