The South Elgin football team doesn't spend much time throughout the week practicing Hail Mary plays.
"We spend about 5-10 minutes each week trying to perfect it," Storm coach Pat Pistorio said.
Friday night it showed it don't need much more time perfecting it.
Quarterback Nate Gomez connected with Jaron Wells on a 47-yard Hail Mary as time expired in the first half to give South Elgin a lead it did not relinquish. The Storm improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2010 with a 37-22 Upstate Eight Valley win over Glenbard East.
Did Gomez really expect to connect on the heave?
"Not really, to be honest," Gomez said with a smile. "I just kind of threw it up there and hoped my teammates would go up there and get it and they did."
It was an especially big momentum shift in the game.
After an interception the Rams (0-3, 0-1) marched the ball to the Storm 21. Jared Rech kicked a 38-yard field goal with 22 seconds left in the half.
"We definitely felt like we had the momentum, hopefully, going into the second half," Rech said. "Then they throw that late Hail Mary pass, which kind of took the wing out of our sails."
Just as a back-breaker for the Rams, the Storm marched 80 yards in 12 plays to open the second half and killed nearly five minutes off the clock. Gomez punched it in from a yard out to cap the drive. Gomez finished with 377 total yards, 283 of them on the ground and 5 touchdowns total.
"What we talked about at half was coming out and getting a stop," Glenbard East coach John Walters said. "What hurt us, was the Haily Mary plus the third quarter drive. That's a (16)-point swing in a few minutes.
"All of a sudden, you take a game you were up 16-14 and you make it (30)-14, it's a two-score game."
Still, the Rams fought back. Rech connected with Kenny Adams for a 24-yard touchdown with 2:53 left in the first quarter to make it 30-22.
But Gomez and the Storm were quick to answer back. On South Elgin's next play from scrimmage kept the ball on the option and ran it 73 yards for a touchdown.
"It was huge," Gomez said. "My O-line did a good job, my running back did a good job escorting me, that gave us a lot of momentum. That was a great way to execute."
Glenbard East opened the game with some trickery.
On the second play of the game, the Rams ran a double reverse, where Rech ended up with the ball, and found an open Adams for a 66-yard touchdown. Rech had a second 66-yard touchdown pass to Matt Shockey in the second quarter.
"Early on in this week, we thought we could put that into our play scheme and maybe start the game out gate running fast," Rech said. "I saw nobody around him and I just threw it to him. We practiced it all week and it worked out."