Midway through the third quarter, it seemed as though Grant was about to get back in the game against Libertyville, driving past midfield while trailing by 10 points.
But then a shake of the magic football told a different story -- "Outlook not so good."
Backup quarterback Jason Bach lost the ball shortly after the snap and the next thing anyone knew, Libertyville linebacker Zach Herr was racing 55 yards into the end zone. The touchdown turned the momentum and the host Wildcats held on for a 38-21 victory in North Suburban crossover action.
How the ball traveled into Herr's arms was almost a sleight of hand. All of the sudden, it was just there and he was off to the races.
"I agree. It just took a Sunday hop right into my hands and my first instinct was to sprint into the end zone," Herr said. "That's what I did."
Overall, it was a good night for the Libertyville offense, especially two former quarterbacks who recently converted to receiver. Junior Jake Mansfield had 8 catches for 89 yards, while sophomore Riley Lees added 4 catches for 93 yards, including a pump-and-go, 63-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
According to quarterback Anthony Monken, Mansfield played receiver last week for the first time and Lees made the switch this week. They got more reps in Thursday's game in part because senior Bryan Scanlan left with an injury early in the contest.
"Riley is an unbelievable athlete," Monken said. "To get a guy like that on the field anyway we can is incredible. Their defense definitely had some holes. They fought all game with us and they were adjusting to everything we did. We saw what we needed to do and adjusted to that."
Monken completed 20-of-27 passes for 243 yards. Running back Conor Simpson finished with 141 yards on 12 carries and got the night off to a good start for Libertyville (2-1) by breaking a 74-yard touchdown run on the game's second play.
The Bulldogs answered quickly with a 54-yard pass from Jake Bychowski to Jeremy Bredwood, who made a leaping, one-hand catch, then was off to the races.
Libertyville fumbled the ensuing kickoff return and Grant's Andy Preidis recovered on the 23-yard line. Marshall Clark broke up the middle for 11 yards to set up a 1-yard plunge, which gave the visitors a 14-7 edge.
On the next possession, Libertyville faced a second-and-22 after consecutive procedure penalties. But Monken found Simpson for 7 yards and Mansfield for 15 to keep the offense on the field. Four plays later, Simpson broke a 16-yard touchdown run to tie the score early in the second quarter.
At that point, Libertyville's defense was the first to find some footing. After a three-and-out and short punt, the Wildcats needed just two plays to travel 38 yards, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 22 yard pass to Mansfield.
Just before halftime, junior John Lubenow drilled a 46-yard field goal to make it 24-14.
Grant lost starting quarterback Bychowski early in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. He took a hard hit on a 1-yard gain, limped back to the huddle, then gave way Bach.
Bach produced 89 yards passing and 39 rushing. Clark finished with 91 yards on 17 carries. His 9-yard touchdown brought Grant within 31-21 early in the fourth. The Bulldogs fell to 0-3 against a tough early schedule that also included losses to Lake Forest and Crystal Lake Central.
"Our defense hasn't been playing well," Grant coach Kurt Rous. "We haven't been doing what we need to do on offense, which is control the ball. Keep the ball out of their hands. I don't have any answers."