Jacobs football games aren't decided until senior quarterback Bret Mooney says they are.
One week after he willed the Golden Eagles to a victory over Crystal Lake South with a long lateral pass that freed Josh Walker to score the winning touchdown on the game's final, crazy play, Mooney successfully directed a 58-yard, 10-play, game-winning drive in just over a minute to lift host Jacobs to a 36-35 victory over Cary-Grove in a Fox Valley Conference Valley Divison showdown between first-place teams.
"You can't get used to wins like those," Mooney said. "It's so emotional. It's awesome for our team."
Facing third-and-10 at the Cary-Grove 15-yard line with under 10 seconds to play, Mooney stepped up in the pocket and threw as he was being tackled. Junior Nick Gierlak caught the ball in front of a charging defender to draw the Golden Eagles within 35-34 with 2.2 seconds left.
"I was supposed to run a curl, but I saw Bret escape," Gierlak said. "I just tried to get to an open spot because I saw him moving. I got to an open spot, he got me the ball and I caught it. (The defender) got a hand on it, but I came down with it."
Jacobs coach Bill Mitz immediately signaled for the 2-point conversion try and the win. Mooney rolled to his left and again spotted Gierlak, who originally ran a slant pattern from the slot but kept cutting across the end zone. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback feathered a pass to his 5-foot-9 receiver, who jumped and came down with it for the game-winning 2 points, sending the pink-clad Jacobs student section into delirium.
"He made a lot of great plays with the conference championship on the line," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said of Mooney. "It was a great battle between two good teams."
The Jacobs crowd stormed the field moments later after Cary-Grove's final, desperate offensive play ended with a fumbled lateral.
"We've told them all year about having to play 48 minutes and last week they actually lived it," Mitz said. "I didn't think we were going to live it again this week. I've never had games back to back like this. And we had to go for 2 to win it, so we faced some adversity and we came back strong."
That adversity came in the form of Zach McQuade's 55-yard touchdown run. McQuade split good perimeter blocks from junior Matt Sutherland and sophomore Jimmy Freskos and sped up the left sideline to give the Trojans a 35-28 lead with 1:08 to play
"We executed real well on the perimeter and you couldn't have drawn it up any better the way the kids executed it," Seaburg said.
McQuade's touchdown put the pressure squarely on Mooney and the Jacobs offense.
"I was trying not to freak out," Mooney said. "We had a minute left. Our offense is good enough to do that ... We knew what we could do. We practice two-minute offense every practice. We had it."
Jacobs took possession at its own 42 with 1:04 left. Mooney passes to Hunter Williams (9 receptions, 91 yards) of 21 and 9 yards and Mooney's 12-yard run advanced the ball to the Trojans' 15.
"It shows the resiliency of the team, for sure," Gierlak said of the game-winning drive. "This goes back nine months with everyone working toward the season, wanting it more than the other team, playing 48 minutes every game."
Mooney completed 16 of 26 attempts for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 41 yards and 2 scores. Running back Josh Walker finished with 82 yards and a touchdown.
Cary-Grove outgained Jacobs 425 yards to 348, led by freshman fullback Tyler Pennington (18 carries, 128 yards) and McQuade (9-105).
Jacobs took a 7-0 lead on Mooney's 1-yard run, but the Trojans responded with a 6-yard score by McQuade and a 7-yard run by Matt Sutherland to take a 14-7 lead. Ryan Sargent caught an 18-yard pass from Mooney, but Cary-Grove's Trevor Ruhland blocked the extra point to preserve a 14-13 lead at the half.
C-G quarterback Jason Gregoire made it 21-13 with his 4-yard, third-quarter run, which was set up by Pennington's 50-yard burst. But Jacobs drove 56 yards in 10 plays and picked up a fourth-down conversion that led to Walker's 5-yard touchdown with 4:20 left in the third quarter. Mooney then added the conversion run to tie the game at 21-21.
Cary-Grove subsequently drove 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by Gregoire's 16-yard keeper for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. Collin Walsh's extra point made it 28-21. Mooney answered with a 22-yard pass to Williams and a 29-yarder to Gierlak to set up his 4-yard touchdown. Sargent's extra point knotted the score at 28-28 with 6:12 left in the game.