Trevor Fitzsimmons' 53-yard return of the opening kickoff late Saturday afternoon was a clear indicator that Jacobs was not content to have its historic postseason run end in the Class 7A state football quarterfinals against visiting Fenwick.
And with a full moon rising in the early-evening darkness, senior quarterback Chris Katrenick was leading one final drive toward potentially adding another chapter to the magical ride for the Golden Eagles. One where the underdog 28th seed led twice in the first quarter, was tied midway through the final quarter and now trailed fourth-seeded Fenwick by 7 points at a raucous Jacobs Athletic Stadium in Algonquin.
But when linebacker Brett Moorman fell on a loose ball at the Friars' 20, they were able to run out the final 2:33 on the clock and escape with a 28-21 victory that ended Jacobs' furthest advancement in the state playoffs.
"We were going to go for the win and we had the 2-point play ready," said Jacobs coach Bill Mitz of the last drive after Conner Lillig's tiebreaking 64-yard touchdown run for Fenwick with 4:16 to play.
"After that everyone believed we were going to punch it in and tie the game," Katrenick said of consecutive completions to Aidan Ludlum and Trevor Loewen which, along with a 15-yard personal foul penalty, turned a third-and-22 at the Jacobs 35 into a first down at the Fenwick 26.
"We knew this could be our last game and we were playing like it would be the last time we would ever go on the field," Ludlum said after his second interception of the game set up the tying drive. "We dug in there and played our hearts out."
Fenwick (11-1), whose only loss is to defending 8A champion and unbeaten Loyola, advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1995 and next weekend will host No. 16 Plainfield North (10-2), a 30-7 winner over No. 8 Rockford Auburn (10-2).
"Give Jacobs a lot of credit, they ran the ball really, really well against us," said Fenwick coach Gene Nudo. "Our kids are gritty."
The running of Jacobs (7-5) juniors David Butros (13 carries, 93 yards), Loren Strickland (17 carries, 76 yards) and sophomore Stephen Kavanaugh -- along with Fitzimmons' first kick return and second of 33 yards -- helped set up Katrenick (8-for-14, 131 yards) to hit Loewen (4 catches, 81 yards) for first-quarter touchdowns of 23 and 17 yards. Loewen was wide open on the first and on the second the Bowling Green recruit lofted the ball perfectly over a defender in the end zone.
"That's been the key to our offense is the run," Katrenick said. "We knew that coming in. After the first two passes it really helped us and we were able to run the ball all game."
Fenwick answered the first touchdown with a 14-play, 72-yard drive that took 5:28 and was capped by a 1-yard run by Lillig (27 carries, 158 yards). The second response required just one play as Jacob Keller (11-for-17, 183 yards) hit Mike O'Laughlin for an 89-yard touchdown.
Jacobs had two shots to break the tie before halftime. But on the first, Katrenick was hit as he threw and Lorenzano Blakeney got the first of his 2 interceptions a yard short of the goal line.
Then on the second, on fourth-and-goal from the 2, Loewen broke open in the end zone but Katrenick's pass was batted down at the line by Moorman.
"Our kids played great but we've got to finish off some of those deals down there," Mitz said. "It was more we kind of stopped ourselves than them stopping us, but they've got some really good players, too."
Lillig powered in from a yard to put Fenwick up 21-14 with 11:42 left. Jacobs went three-and-out, but a double pass from midfield by O'Laughlin wound up in the hands of a diving Ludlum at his 15.
"I give that pick to (assistant) coach (Bob) Mackey," Ludlum said. "He prepped us all week for that play."
That led to an 11-play, 85-yard drive where Katrenick sneaked in from a yard to tie it with 5:06 left. Fifty seconds later, Lillig had Fenwick back in the lead, but Fitzsimmons nearly got the points right back with a 45-yard kick return where he was finally stopped by kicker Conor Hendzel.
But the lost fumble and two first-down runs by Lillig ended the Golden Eagles' dreams of extending the run another week.
"At 4-4, from that moment on every game was a playoff game, win or go home," Katrenick said. "When you look at how we finished, it's pretty crazy and it was a great accomplishment for us.
"Every week we continued to get better and we got to the playoffs and made history. This game we knew would be a dogfight."