A Buffalo Grove team that won't ever quit came up Friday night against a Hoffman Estates team that's just getting started.
Two programs rebuilding themselves showed why there's cause for optimism. But it took an overtime period and a nervous few seconds awaiting a referee's delayed call before Hoffman quarterback Jeff Mayes' daring 3-yard dive stood up for a 2-point conversion on the last play for a 22-21 Hawks win.
But why even go for 2?
"The decision was pretty simple," said Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci, in his first home game leading the program.
After watching BG's Mike Schmitt go almost untouched for 10 yards and a TD on a neatly executed option on BG's first overtime play, Donatucci said he felt his tired Hawks might have trouble stopping BG (1-1) in a second overtime.
"We weren't doing it," he said simply.
So after Mayes read his check-downs perfectly and tossed a 7-yard TD to Keegan Mugerditchian in the right flat on Hoffman Estates' second play of overtime, it was 2 or bust.
"We had trust in the coaches," said Mayes, admitting a bit of surprise on the 2-point call. "We were expecting 1. But coach Donatucci said, 'Let's go for it.'"
It was a fitting, suspenseful climax to a game filled with drama.
BG patiently built a 14-0 lead, relying on field position, defense and special teams. Schmitt, playing both ways, Michael Dax, big Corey Gill (6-5, 332) and John Maddox, also going both ways, helped control Hoffman's offense. Schmitt scored on 14- and 10-yard runs, and triple-option quarterback Andrew Apel's 3-yard burst accounted for BG's points.
And the game seemed over. But Mayes got an unreal catch on a semi-broken play from Dante Cleveland for a 62-yard gain to set up Mugerditchian's first score on a 1-yard run to tie the game. Mayes, on the final play of the first half, darted 3 yards for a score after Kabrian Johnson (8 carries, 146 yards) bolted 47 yards to set up the tally.
"I have confidence in my receivers," Mayes said of Cleveland's play.
But Mayes said he also felt the late first-half score was crucial.
"I honestly think that was the most important play," he said of the score that gave him and the Hawks some confidence as they rallied from a 14-0 deficit for a second straight week.
For BG, Cleveland's catch and Johnson's runs of 47 yards in the first half and 43 in the second were the only big plays surrendered by a defense that otherwise played superbly.
"They got a couple of big plays on us," said Schmitt, filling in for injured running back Scott Smithern with 56 yards on 6 carries. BG ran the ball 41 times for 234 yards.
"Our offense has to put more points up," said second-year BG coach Mike DiMatteo, who, like Donatucci, is building a solid foundation.
"Apel's done a good job," DiMatteo said of his wide receiver-turned-triple-option quarterback. "He's a leader."
And the Bison are confident they'll bounce back.
"We'll get after it (Saturday)," Schmitt said of reviewing film. "We played hard."
"We're 2-0," said an excited Mayes, whose teammates have taken to calling him "Jeffrey Football" for his tendency to make big plays.
"We're going to have highs. We're going to have lows," he noted, like a long TD run by Johnson that got erased by a penalty and the 2-point conversion call that left everyone momentarily hanging.
"We'll get right to work tomorrow morning," Mayes said.