Facing an uphill battle throughout, St. Charles North's football team finally reached the summit during Saturday's Class 7A playoff opening round game against Carmel.
It just took a little longer than regulation time for the North Stars (9-1) to finish its climb.
Senior quarterback Zach Mettetal (23 for 36, 200 yards) tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Tyler Nubin on third-and-goal and the North Stars' defense forced back-to-back incompletions on the Corsairs' last two plays from scrimmage during St. Charles North's 31-24 double-overtime victory in St. Charles.
Mettetal relied on his improvisational skills on the eventual game-winning play, scrambling to his right before delivering a low throw to a sliding Nubin in the middle of the end zone -- giving the North Stars their first lead of the contest.
"I was going to run it in and the kid defending Tyler (Nubin) kind of fell and he came wide open," said Mettetal. "I threw it low and I was like, 'oh, no,' but he caught it."
"That was just an athletic play," said North Stars coach Rob Pomazak, whose team visits Rockford Auburn (9-1) in second-round play next weekend. "The play broke down and Zach found Tyler in the end zone.
"That's why he's the best player in the conference. The kid plays his heart out."
For the second consecutive week, the North Stars showed their resiliency.
Carmel (5-5), which led 7-0, 14-7, and 21-14, wasted an excellent opportunity to win the game in regulation.
With 2:30 remaining and the score tied at 21-21, the Corsairs took over possession of the ball at the North Stars' 43-yard line and marched to the 20 in the final minute.
That was when junior Lucas Segobiano stripped the ball loose from a Carmel runner and Nubin recovered the fumble at the 12 with 31 seconds left.
"We were almost done and then Lucas found the corner of the ball," said Pomazak. "That's how hard he works. I told him he won the game with that play."
"We were going to kick the field goal and unfortunately it popped out there at the end," said Carmel coach Andy Bitto. "Our field goal kicker has been real good so we felt we had a good chance to win in regulation."
Both teams traded field goals in the first overtime, with Matt Hellen connecting on a 34-yard kick for Carmel before Adam Durocher delivered a 25-yard kick for St. Charles North.
"I thought we had it in the first overtime and then we went to a second (overtime)," said Pomazak. "The resiliency of these young men -- they're teaching me something because they're digging deeper than I thought they could.
"That's not a knock on them. That shows you how hard they work to keep things going. I'm so happy for these boys to keep another week going because it's special."
Two-way standout Eric Lins provided the second-half scoring for the North Stars, scooping up a fumble and returning it 36 yards for a TD to tie it at 14-14 and adding a 4-yard TD run to knot the score at 21-21 with 10:07 remaining.
"We just didn't give up," said North Stars senior linebacker Henry Kellogg. "We faced adversity and we won."
Sophomore tailback Zaire Barnes ran for 189 yards on 23 carries with a pair of touchdowns for the Corsairs while teammate Sean Lynch added 152 yards on 28 carries.
"We played seven games that were decided in the fourth quarter (and overtime)," said Bitto. "I'm proud of our kids. We battled all year long."