Winning teams make good use of their opportunities.
That was the case in Friday night's Mid-Suburban East contest between Buffalo Grove and Hersey, in which the host Huskies prevailed 20-14.
Late in the third quarter, the score was tied at 7-7.
The Bison had forced a Hersey punt and were taking over on their own 2-yard line.
After a short run on first down, a miscommunication between BG running back Scott Smithern (20 carries, 147 yards) and Andrew Apel (who was substituting from his wide receiver position at quarterback on the play) led to a fumble in BG's own end zone.
Hersey defender Grant Burke dove on the ball for a Huskie touchdown and 14-7 lead.
"I was in the right place at the right time, and just scooped it up right in the end zone," Burke said. "I just happened to get free and end up with the ball. It could have happened to anyone else."
Early in the fourth quarter, with Hersey (4-2, 2-0) still leading 14-7, BG forced another Hersey punt.
The punt was muffed, and the Huskies recovered the fumble.
On the ensuing play, Hersey quarterback Jack Warner (11-of-19, 146 passing yards, and 12 carries for 67 rushing yards) connected with wide receiver Tyndale Dahnweih (3 catches, 82 yards) for a 45-yard touchdown to put Hersey up 20-7.
"We knew that we weren't going to give it (the lead) up," Dahnweih said of how the team felt after going up 20-7. "Our defense led by Grant Burke, Jack Carroll and Sam Harvey, they work too hard to give it up."
Despite the two costly mistakes, Buffalo Grove (1-5, 0-2) refused to give in.
On the drive after Dahnweih's touchdown catch, Bison quarterback Trey Cervantes (20-of-28, 231 passing yards) connected with Apel (10 catches, 135 yards) on a 41-yard touchdown.
The Bison forced a Hersey punt on the ensuing possession, and took over on their own 10-yard line with 5:27 left and a chance to tie the game. Unfortunately, the drive stalled at the Hersey 45.
The Bison defense held one final time, but a desperation scenario with BG starting from its own 9-yard line with 9.2 seconds to play did not pan out.
Buffalo Grove outgained Hersey 376 yards to 292 yards in the game.
"We're trying," said Buffalo Grove coach Mike DiMatteo. "We're trying to learn how to win. We're trying to get there. We're trying to get better, and I can't say enough about our guys. I am so proud of our guys.
"But the problem is we get happy with staying close, and we've got to stop being happy with staying close. And that's really what it comes down to."
With its second consecutive gritty home win, Hersey has put itself in a position to challenge for the MSL East title.
The Huskies will not allow that distant goal to affect their approach to each game.
"You've got to take it one day at a time," Hersey coach Dragan Teonic said. "We can't think too far ahead. We're not good enough to take anybody lightly. We need to continue to focus on work, and I don't think this group will have any problem with that."