Rolling Meadows needed a spark.
It got one on an outstanding special teams effort by senior safety Matt Zieba, which propelled the Mustangs to their seventh win of the season without a loss.
State-ranked Meadows was clinging to an 8-6 halftime lead over winless Elk Grove while being thoroughly outplayed by the Grenadiers for two quarters.
"That was the worst half we've played all season," said Meadows linebacker Kevin Haltman. "But we were still ahead, and we used that as our motivation."
And after holding Elk Grove to a 3-and-out to begin the second half, Zieba made the game-changing play.
Zieba blocked the ensuing punt and Haltman recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, igniting a 28-point Meadows third-quarter barrage en route to a 43-6 victory over the visiting Grens.
Meadows senior quarterback Asher O'Hara threw for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win.
"I challenged our offense (at halftime)," said Mustangs coach Matt Mishler. "We were kind of getting hit in the mouth -- Elk Grove was playing much more aggressively than we were. But our guys responded. That's what they do."
Elk Grove (0-7, 0-4) came out strong from the opening kick, sacking O'Hara on the second play of the game and recovering a fumble.
The Grens scored first on a 4-yard TD pass from QB Tyler Selvig to Sammy Prestia but missed the extra point.
Meadows (7-0, 4-0) responded when O'Hara connected on a short pass to senior Devonte Amos, who zig-zagged into the end zone from 18 yards out.
A 2-point conversion sent the Mustangs to the locker room with a 2-point lead -- but a nagging feeling that they weren't playing up to their potential.
"I felt that we had the momentum going our way to start the second half," said Elk Grove coach John Sigmund. "Then they (Rolling Meadows) came up with the big block."
After their first series of the third quarter, Elk Grove was forced to punt from its 10-yard line, and Zieba came up with the clutch deflection.
"I was wide and had a clear gap to the kicker," said Zieba. "Our coaches drew it up perfectly."
Haltman, who recovered the ball for the TD, was thankful for his teammate's big assist.
"I couldn't have done it, obviously, without Zieba," said Haltman. "He deserves all the credit."
Zieba almost had the defensive touchdown himself after the block, but the ball just eluded him.
"The funny thing is," said Haltman, "we were talking Thursday and he (Zieba) said he was wondering what it would be like to score a touchdown. I thought he had it."
Meadows broke the game open with 3 more scores in the third -- an O'Hara touchdown toss to Amos, a floater into the end zone from 33 yards away, another O'Hara TD toss, this time 30 yards to Jose Camacho, and finally a 37-yard scoring run by tailback Kevin Lacosse.
A 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth by Lacosse closed out the scoring.
So what was the message from the Mustangs coaching staff at the break?
"Think about our legacy," said Zieba. "You gotta do what you gotta do, and we came out and did the job."
Lacosse finished with 86 yards on the ground, while Amos caught 3 passes for 74 yards including 2 TDs.
Running back Genio Hyppolite was a workhorse for the Grens, rushing 18 times for 54 yards.
"We're a young team," said Sigmund, "and I know that the fight and the effort was there tonight. We've just got to learn how to put four quarters together and we haven't done that yet."