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With fireworks set to go off after the game, Elk Grove came up with an explosion of its own to stun Rolling Meadows as time expired for a 34-33 victory Friday in Elk Grove.
"We did everything we could to lose this game," Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. "But we persevered and found a way to win at the end."
Trailing 33-26 with 9.5 seconds to play, Elk Grove had just one chance left, from its own 48-yard line.
Quarterback Adam O'Malley, who just minutes earlier, threw his third interception of the game, dropped back to pass. He was quickly flushed by two Rolling Meadows defenders, breaking tackles as he rolled to his right.
O'Malley eventually flung the ball in the direction of Mike Bischoff. But the pass was woefully short and bounced off a Rolling Meadows defender, and then off of Elk Grove's Alex Manahilov, who was prone on the ground.
"The line broke down," O'Malley said. "I ran around pump-faking it. I saw Bischoff and I threw it a little short, and Alex (Manahilov) tipped it up. It was miraculous."
Bischoff caught the ball at the 16-yard line. He then broke to the middle of the field and was beginning to be tackled at the 2-yard line by a pair of Rolling Meadows players. But Bischoff found a surge of energy and dragged both defenders and himself into the end zone to make it 33-32, still in Meadows' favor.
"He knew where I was going to be and he just threw it up," Bischoff said. "The ball got tipped and ended up in my hands. I wasn't going to be stopped. I knew I was in."
Elk Grove then went for the kick to tie the game. But Travon Royal's kick was partially blocked and the ball missed wide left.
Officials, however, flagged Rolling Meadows for having a 12th player leave the field through the end zone instead of via the sideline as required. With the penalty, the ball was moved to the 1½-yard line.
Calhoun opted go for the win, calling the same jet sweep play that had failed earlier on a 2-point conversion.
"I heard coach call the same play," said John Pass, who fumbled the handoff on the earlier in an unsuccessful attempt. "There was no way I wasn't getting in. The wide receivers blocked great for me and I just headed for the pylon."
The 2-point play gave Elk Grove (4-2, 2-0) an improbable win as the Grenadiers overcame 4 turnovers, three of which were in the end zone and one that resulted in a 92-yard interception return.
"We have been talking about mental toughness all year," Calhoun said. "And it really came into play today."
Rolling Meadows (3-3, 1-1) led 10-7 at the half on a 32-yard field goal by Alex Niecikowski and a 7-yard touchdown run by Kevin Montero (18 carries, 127 yards). Sandwiched between these was a an 87-yard kickoff return by Pass.
The game had four lead changes in the third quarter.
O'Malley, who fumbled at the goal line in the first quarter and struggled throughout the first half, found his game on the first drive of the third quarter. He hooked up with Matt Wary, who made a nifty move after the catch to score on a 35--yard play to make it 14-10.
Elk Grove appeared on the brink of pulling away on its next possession. O'Malley drove the Grens to the Mustangs 17. But his pass was deflected, and Matt Campbell picked it off before racing 92 yards to put Rolling Meadows up 17-14.
O'Malley came right back two plays after the kickoff and connected with Pass on a 40-yard touchdown play to make it 20-17. But Meadows, which rushed for 248 yards, drove the ball down the field on the esuing possession and scored on a 1-yard pass from Bobby Suchecki to Matt Campbell to make it 24-20 with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
Meadows appeared to be in control when Suchecki (13-of-25, 147 yards) connected with Niecikowski on a 7-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Mustangs up 31-20.
Again, O'Malley brought his Elk Grove team back. This time O'Malley, who was 18-of-32 for 331 yards, connected with Manahilov on an 18-yard pass to close to 31-26.
Meadows, which drove the ball midway through the quarter to Elk Grove one, only to be turned away on fourth down, came away with a safety on a tackle by Eddie Cardenas to make it 33-26 with 5:18 to play.
After a defensive stop by Elk Grove, O'Malley had the Grens down to the 4-yard line with just over two minutes to play. But Meadows' Peyton Dezonna picked off O'Malley.
Another defensive stop by Elk Grove gave the Grens the final opportunity they needed.
"I am pretty sick right now," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "But I know our guys can bounce back. What can you do? Their quarterback kept them alive and the bounce just went their way.
"I am proud of our defense. They gave us every opportunity to win this game."