So close. Wauconda stood 1 yard away from all but securing a stunning win, which would have been its first in the playoffs in 24 years and would have crushed Antioch after an unblemished regular season.
So far away. After Wauconda's offense failed on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Antioch running back Brandon Lind stood nearly the length of the football field from the end zone.
"I was just looking for a couple of yards to get out of the end zone and get us a little more space," Lind said.
He got a lot more. Lind's 96-yard touchdown run and ensuing conversion run with 1:57 left in the fourth quarter rallied No. 2 Antioch to a 29-28 win over visiting Wauconda in a Class 6A opening-round thriller Friday night.
"I just happened to break it," Lind said of his improbable TD. "After that, I just took off and hoped my best that I wouldn't get caught."
Antioch then went for 2 instead of kicking the PAT to tie the score. Like on Lind's TD, Antioch lined up in its jumbo package featuring linebacker Ben Gutke and huge offensive lineman Jared Strohman in the backfield.
Antioch coach Brian Glashagel didn't hesitate to make the call.
"Lind was around the 20 (on the TD), and we were already talking about (going for two)," Glashagel said after his Sequoits improved to 10-0 and earned a second-round game against No. 7 DeKalb (8-2). "We were like, 'We have to try to end this now.' "
No. 15 Wauconda (5-5) was in position to capture its first postseason win since 1992, when the Bulldogs beat Cary-Grove in the second round. Leading 28-21, the visitors faced fourth down from the Antioch 1 with 2:13 left in the fourth. Instead of attempting a field goal to make it a two-possession game, the Bulldogs went for the touchdown.
But Jacob Bicknase fumbled the snap and was tackled at the 4.
"It wasn't difficult," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said of his decision. "I believed in our kids. Put it out there again, and I'll do it again. Credit to Antioch. They stopped us. I love our kids. ... Every senior out there, every kid out there said, 'Coach, let's go. Let's go.' I said, 'All right. Let's go.' "
"I felt a sense of relief," Lind, who was part of Antioch's defensive stand, said of the stop.
Glashagel wasn't surprised Wauconda went for the touchdown, especially since the Bulldogs boasted one of the best backfields in the county this season in Bicknase and Tyler Stankiewicz. Antioch had beaten Wauconda 33-29 in Week 3.
"I'm not kicking that," said Glashagel, whose Sequoits converted a fourth-and-2 from their own 47 early in the game. "I'm going for it too. I would never question that call by Dave. Heck, yeah. Give the ball to (No.) 28 (Bicknase) or (No.) 42 (Stankiewicz). Why wouldn't you? They had been running amok on us all night."
Stankiewicz rushed for 192 yards, including touchdown runs of 63 and 80 yards. Bicknase gained 118 yards on the ground. Behind them, as well as a Antonio Acosta's 59-yard TD pass to Kyle Drobnik and Andrew Nolan's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown, Wauconda led the entire night until Lind's heroics.
Antioch, which got 124 rushing yards from Hunter Price and 127 from, Lind, was missing six injured starters on defense, including star linebacker George Bessette. Also out were John Howe, Griffin Hackeloer, Nicholas Clifton, Marino Martinelli and Nico Chiappetta.
Stankiewicz's second TD had Wauconda up 28-14 in the third quarter. Lind's 5-yard TD run got Antioch within 28-21 entering the fourth.
"I don't think we came out the second half with the same mindset we did in the first," Stankiewicz said. "They're a good team. We're a good team too. It was a battle."