Until very late in Saturday night's 27-20 Neuqua Valley win over visiting Simeon in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs, most of the Wildcats' points came from special-teams play.
But when Neuqua got the ball back with 2:40 to play on its own 37, it needed a dose of offense and it needed it bad.
Enter senior wide receiver Jordan Maclin.
On the second play of the drive, quarterback Broc Rutter found Maclin open and tossed the football to him. Maclin grabbed the ball and tried to drag a Simeon defender hanging on to him farther downfield, but he was brought down at the Wolverines' 12, a gain of 51 yards.
Running back T.J. Scruggs, who led the Wildcats' offense with 123 yards on 22 carries, then ran the ball three straight times before taking it in from the 2 with 32.7 seconds left in the game. Ryan Kuhl's extra point made it 27-20. Simeon fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and Neuqua ate the rest of the clock to improve to 10-1 and face Naperville Central in the quarterfinals.
It was an emotional time for Maclin in the postgame meeting. He's been dealing with more than just football this season.
"My father passed away at the beginning of the season. It was my chance to shine and make my father proud and I was thinking that I hope he sees it," Maclin said.
Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said Maclin's speed is a big asset to the Wildcats' offense.
"It was a great catch. He came up huge when we needed him," the Neuqua coach said.
Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to Naperville Central in the quarterfinals. To say Neuqua wants another shot at the Redhawks would be a huge understatement. Naperville Central holds the distinction of being the only team to stop the Wildcats so far this season. Naperville Central won 58-35 in Week 2 on its home field.
And as soon as the win over Simeon (7-4) was in the books, thoughts were completely on the rematch against the Redhawks.
"It's been pretty much on our minds, beat Central, beat Central," Maclin said.
Simeon got the ball after Neuqua fumbled on the game's second play, and the Wolverines showed great consistency on offense, putting together a 10-play drive that lasted almost 4½ minutes and which was capped by a 14-yard run by junior running back Jordan Jackson. Jackson was a pain to the Neuqua defense all night with a game-high 156 yards on 26 carries.
The Wildcats responded in kind with a sustained drive of their own that ate close to four minutes on the clock. Rutter found Mikey Dudek all alone for a 12-yard TD pass that pulled Neuqua to within 7-6.
Simeon took a 14-6 lead before the Wildcats scored twice on special teams to lead 20-14 at intermission.
Andrew Fraczek blocked a Simeon punt and Nolan Dean pounced on it in the end zone with 4:54 left before halftime.
With just 26 seconds remaining until intermission, Dean blocked another punt and returned it 47 yards for the score.
"We've asked Nolan to play defense, offense and special teams and that's a tough task. But he's done very well," Ellinghaus said.