With the playoffs out of reach for both teams, Naperville Central and Lake Park played as if they didn't want their seasons to end on Friday night.
The game, and football season, came down to the final snap with Naperville Central's Andy Delgado drilling a 32-yard field goal to give the Redhawks a 17-14 DuPage Valley Conference victory over the visiting Lancers.
"I'm a little shocked right now," said Delgado, who had to overcome two Lake Park timeouts before the kick and the memories of just his second missed PAT of the season earlier in the game. "I just went to my basic mechanics. I was a little nervous, I'm not gonna lie, but my teammates were there for me and I knew they'd be there for me even if I missed it."
Naperville Central coach Mike Stine saw it as a serendipitous turn of events.
"That's where we practice our last-second field goals," he said. "That hash, that spot and it couldn't have worked out any better."
Delgado's kick completed a stunning comeback for the Redhawks (4-5, 4-4). They trailed 14-0 entering the fourth quarter as Lake Park (2-7, 1-7) stymied Naperville Central with a bend-but-don't-break defense for most of the night.
The Redhawks had drives stopped at the Lancers' 1-, 17-, 30- and 19-yard lines on consecutive drives from the second through fourth quarters before they broke through with A.J. Deinhart's 3-yard run with eight minutes to play, though it was after that score that Delgado missed his PAT attempt to keep the deficit at 14-6.
Gabe Soria's interception set up the tying score with Patrick Ryan completing 6 passes for 66 yards on the drive. Ryan capped it on a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Coyne, followed by Ryan's 2-point conversion pass to Deinhart that knotted the score at 14 with just more than four minutes to play.
The Lancers led 14-0 after one quarter on Antonio Tamayo's 2-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Davis and Davis' 4-yard scoring run, which was set up by Matt Paulauskas' fumble recovery and 22-yard return to the Naperville Central 6.
Lake Park could have been excused if it felt the advantage should have been bigger as the Lancers recovered 3 fumbles in the first quarter alone and outgained the Redhawks 142-54 in the first half. In the second half Lake Park could not record a first down and was held to 28 total yards.
"We let go of a couple of opportunities that would've put the game away," said Lake Park coach Chris Roll. "Then we kept giving the ball up on a short field."
On Naperville Central's winning drive Ryan completed 6 passes for 57 yards to set up Delgado's game-winning, memory-building heroics. In the fourth quarter Ryan completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards.
"Pat struggled early, but down the stretch he made plays, and the defense kept getting the ball back for us," Stine said. "I'm really happy for them, they worked hard all year and this was a great way for them to go out."