Nursing a 10-7 lead, Downers Grove North's football team had nearly 20 minutes to sit and think about its biggest play of the season.
When the Trojans and Wheaton Warrenville South returned from an extended injury timeout, the Tigers came through with a huge fourth-down conversion to Downers North's 11-yard line with under a minute remaining.
Downers North, though, was far from finished. In fact all the Trojans thought about during that timeout was finishing this game.
On the next play Downers North senior linebacker Michael Dashut snared an interception in the end zone to seal the Trojans' 10-7 victory over host WW South in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs.
The eighth-seeded Trojans (7-4) return home for next week's quarterfinals to face No. 2 Mt. Carmel (10-1), a 20-15 winner over St. Rita.
"(In the quarterfinals) last year, against Benet, we lost in 3.4 seconds ... the same kind of situation," Dashut said. "That's all we were preaching. We were preaching 'finish.' The game's not over until it's over."
Dashut's interception epitomized a brilliant night for both defenses. The Trojans held No. 5 WW South (8-3) scoreless for the final 46 minutes of the game, allowing just a 55-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Graham to Zack Moberg on the Tigers' first possession.
Downers North quarterback Sebastian Calvino, playing again for injured starter David Edwards, set up the game-tying second-quarter touchdown with a 33-yard pass to Richard Olekanma. Calvino, who rushed for 119 yards on 26 carries, tied it at 7-7 on the next play with a 2-yard dive for a touchdown.
A short punt in the fourth quarter set up Downers North at WW South's 29-yard line. Eight Calvino runs and nearly five minutes later, the Trojans chose to kick a field goal on fourth down at the 1-yard line. Gareth Jones put the Trojans ahead 10-7 with a 17-yard field goal with 4:28 left.
"I feel bad for our seniors, a very classy group of kids," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "Forty-four of them. Probably one of the best groups I've had."
WW South had twice the first downs as Downers North and outgained the Trojans 258-212 in total yards. The Trojans kept holding firm, however, forcing 6 punts by the Tigers.
Injuries also played a factor as Edwards and Downers North defensive standout Vontae Diggs played sparingly. For WW South, starting running back Isaiah Campos missed the second half with a shoulder injury while Moberg broke his arm on the fourth-quarter play that forced the long injury timeout.
The tight, physical showdown looked eerily similar to the teams' first-round playoff meeting in 2008, also at Grange Field. Downers North won 8-7 after a short fourth-quarter punt led to a game-winning touchdown and 2-point conversion in the final minute.
For the second time in five years, the Trojans handed WW South a heartbreaking, season-ending defeat.
"That was a heck of a high school game," said Downers North coach John Wander. "If you want to watch Oregon, this wouldn't have been enjoyable. But for a guy like me, that's as enjoyable as it gets."
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