On Friday night, both Buffalo Grove and Conant encountered a golden opportunity of sorts, as the winner of their contest would improve to 2-0, with both squads headed into consecutive weeks of play against teams from the Central Suburban League.
Thanks to a pair of quick second-half scores and a defense that rose to the occasion when it needed to, the visiting Bison took advantage.
Buffalo Grove held on to best the host Cougars 14-8 in an MSL divisional crossover in Hoffman Estates.
"I love this team. I'm so proud of our effort tonight." Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk said. "Especially when you're trailing on the road entering the second half. We preach about how important it is to respond quickly when you face such adversity, which is what we did."
The Bison (2-0) faced it quickly, after Conant (1-1) took its opening possession in for a touchdown by going 11 plays and 61 yards with junior Jack Rieger (12 carries, 95 yards) running it in from the 5. The Cougars tacked on a 2-point conversion and led 8-0 with 7:10 left in the first quarter.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound second-year letterman accounted for 40 of those yards on the drive himself, in addition to setting up great field position with a 39-yard return on the opening kick-off.
From there, the defenses controlled the remainder of the first half as the nearest either came to the end zone was when the Cougars drove to the BG 31 late in the second quarter before the drive sputtered on an errant snap.
On Buffalo Grove's third play from scrimmage in the second half, the Bison hit pay dirt when junior quarterback Connor Adams connected with senior wideout Matt Prawica on a 47-yard pass play that pulled them within 8-7 at the 10:53 mark.
After putting the clamps on another pair of Conant drives that ended in Bison territory, Buffalo Grove grabbed the lead for good on the opening play of period four. On a fourth and 1 from the Cougars 44, junior running back Tom Trieb broke a pair of tackles en route and scored.
"It was the offensive line who held their blocks," an appreciative Trieb said. "I never heard a whistle blow and just kept running."
In addition to the 140 yards on 10 carries he had on the ground, the 6-2, 215-pound junior was a factor on the defensive side in the game's final minutes.
After Andrew Polk stopped Rieger (12 carries, 95 yards) behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-4 from the Bison 9 for a 2-yard loss, Trieb made a leaping block of a pass attempt by Matt Majer (15-for-22, 102 yards) with 5:25 to play.
Buffalo Grove's defense again pitched in as Tom Salat recovered his second fumble with 2:20 remaining. And junior linebacker Luke Muscarello broke through and sacked Majer on a fourth and 1 at the 27 to close the deal with 38 seconds left.
"I love how we're getting stronger out there," Trieb said. "I feel like we are one of the better defenses in the league. Our front seven, I believe, can play with anybody and our secondary keeps improving. We are starting to bond like brothers as a team."
Vlk and his assistants begin the preparation for Week 1 of MSL-CSL crossover play with a trip to Des Plaines to face a 2-0 Maine West squad on Friday night.
"They have a couple of good players back from last year," Vik said. "It will be a tough challenge."
Conant travels to Glenview for a matchup at Glenbrook South next Friday.
"From day one we've preached about how important the little things are, not only in a game but in the season," said Conant coach Bryan Stortz. "Tonight, we played very well on defense but we had our struggles on offense in terms of developing consistency. It starts with me, through our coaches all the way through our team, to correct those mistakes."