Coming up short is never enjoyable. The little things, such as leaving a putt short on the golf course or hitting a baseball to the warning track, provide momentary disbelief.
Failing to capitalize on an opportunity to make the state playoffs brings with it a bit more disappointment as Grayslake Central and its fans experienced Friday night in a 30-20 loss to Woodstock in the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division season finale.
The loss took the Rams to 4-5 overall (2-4 in Fox Division) and out of the running for a playoff berth, leaving many people wearing green at Larry Dale field to ponder what might have been.
"It's really, really tough," said Grayslake Central coach Ben Ault. "You look back at all of the hard work and when it doesn't go your way, you don't feel good about it."
After trading touchdowns in the first half, Woodstock (2-7, 2-4 in Fox Division) got the ball back with 37 seconds left in the half at their own 35-yard line. A series of short passes to the sideline moved the Blue Streaks to the Ram 33. The clock management lead to a final Hail Mary pass from quarterback Jace Pohlman that was hauled in by receiver Jordan Sumner to give the hosts a 7-point halftime advantage. The momentum for the Blue Streaks carried over through halftime as running back Michael Santucci (game high 108 yards rushing) took a fake reverse 63 yards to the end zone on the first offensive play of the second half.
"We ran that play in the first half," said Santucci. "We saw that they (Rams defense) kind of bailed out so we realized we could run it. So I kept it and Mitch (receiver Mitch Kohley) threw a great block and paved the way."
It was special for Santucci, a senior on senior night as well as Woodstock's homecoming.
"I can't even describe it," said Santucci. "I've spent four years here in the program and I would not trade one second of it for anything. I love all of my teammates and it has been a blast."
Junior running back Alex Shannon complemented Santucci with 95 yards rushing including a 5-yard touchdown run in the final quarter.
Grayslake Central had its running game going early behind Malcolm Reed (83 yards rushing), who scored from 4 yards out in the first quarter. But Reed was held in check in the second half and quarterback Alex Lennartz failed to get into a passing rhythm. Lennartz did connect with Matt Loeffl on an 80-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter, but only completed 3 of his last 16 passes.
"They had a goal coming into this season," said Ault of his team. "When they look back at this, even though they fell short of their goal, they busted their butts all year. They are going to see all of that effort and realize that the effort is what is needed and they will achieve their goals in life. They will double their effort and get where they need to go."