West Chicago players emptied onto the field on Friday night after the team scored its first football win of the year with a thrilling 28-26 overtime victory over Elgin in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover matchup.
West Chicago (1-1) got the scoring started in the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run by Luke Seeman. It was the offense's fourth trip inside the 30-yard line this season and its first points.
"The biggest difference was offensively we moved the ball," West Chicago coach Ted Monken said. "Then we were able to get in the end zone and just change the whole complexion of the game."
In the second quarter Elgin (1-1) made up for its offensive struggles with some trickery. The Maroons lined up to punt and after some personnel issues caused West Chicago to call a timeout, they elected to run a fake.
The payoff wound up being a 60-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Jackson to Roy Panthier.
West Chicago immediately responded with a 10-yard touchdown run from C.J. Griffin on the ensuing drive.
The Wildcats defense was stifling in the first half outside of the breakdown on the fake punt. They held the Elgin rushing attack to negative-8 yards in the first two quarters.
"Our defense played their tails off for 57 snaps," Monken said. "Then three snaps result in the three long touchdowns. That's the hardest thing about defense, guys who play there have to have a thick skin and a short memory."
To start the second half West Chicago made a bold decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 29. It paid off in a big way when Griffin sprinted 71 yards around the end for a score.
The versatile playmaker also had an interception from the defensive backfield and ran for 105 yards on 5 carries while playing some quarterback on critical possessions.
"It's really important because we really don't have the numbers anymore," Griffin said when asked about the value of his versatility. "So it's really helpful when I can come out and help my team in any way possible."
When Elgin took over on the next possession, the return of quarterback Kristan Flowers gave the Maroons a huge spark. Flowers was suspended for the first half for a violation of team rules earlier on Friday afternoon.
On his first play of the game, he found Panthier for a 37-yard touchdown and made the offense generally more dynamic the rest of the night.
"Since I've been here, for three years, we've talked about elite character. Nobody's perfect, but we're always trying to get to that elite stage," Mason said.
With Flowers back in the game, Elgin continued to spread West Chicago out and outflank the Wildcats in the second half. Flowers struck it rich again when he found Trevon Morris for an 84-yard score in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
West Chicago and Elgin traded turnovers and then a pair of stalled drives each to send the game in overtime.
There, on the first play from scrimmage Dae'Vion Arthur hit payday from 10 yards out but the 2-point conversion fell short giving Elgin the 26-20 lead.
On West Chicago's possession it managed to knot the score with a dramatic 2-yard touchdown run by Seeman on fourth-and-goal. Then Griffin hit Jahleel Humphrey on a fade in the corner of the end zone to cement the 28-26 victory.
"I just knew he was coming down with and that we had won the game," Griffin said of the heave.