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updated: 10/7/2017 12:31 AM

Schaumburg roars back for OT win at Conant

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By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent

Schaumburg's football team was hoping to preserve its playoff hopes.

And thanks to a trio of juniors and their performance at Conant on Friday, those hopes are alive and well.

Behind a pair of TD tosses from Marcus Ross to Heze Trotter which erased a 14-point Saxons deficit in the final 7:53 of regulation, plus a 26-yard Jon Mueller field goal in overtime, Schaumburg topped Conant 24-21.

The comeback victory at Feutz Field in Hoffman Estates moves the Saxons (4-3, 1-2) to within 1 win of playoff eligibility.

"I am so incredibly proud of our kids in coming back tonight," saxons coach Mark Stilling said. "Our team made a decision in showing resilience in the face of things not going our way during the first 42 minutes, rather than resign ourselves to defeat."

Conant (1-6, 0-3) gained control of the contest just 2 plays after receiving the opening kickoff. Junior running back Brendan Spates take it in from 10 yards out to give the home team a 7-0 advantage 45 seconds in.

Spates' touchdown was set up by Jack Rieger's 57-yard jaunt on Conant's first play from scrimmage.

Schaumburg saw an opportunity to equal the game go by the wayside when, after a 42-yard Trotter punt return, the Saxons were in business at the Cougar 7. But the drive went 20 yards backwards on a pair of fumbled exchanges from center and a sack before senior QB Deontae Arnold was flagged for an illegal forward pass on fourth-and-goal from the 27.

Conant made Schaumburg pay on its next possession. After reaching the Saxon 42 on 7 straight runs, including a 4-yarder by senior Domimic Giannini on a fourth-and-2 fake punt, sophomore QB Ross Pedro found junior Anthony Wachal for a 42 yard TD pass that expanded the Cougars' lead to 14-0 with 3:29 remaining in the first half.

Trotter came up with an 89-yard run on the final play of the third quarter, setting up Schaumburg at the Conant 5 to start the fourth.

Saxons senior running back Jordan Salgado took it in on the next play and Conant led 14-7.

Conant regained its 14-point lead by going on a 7-play, 69-yard drive keyed by Rieger's personal involvement on all 7 plays, including a 42-yard run and a pair of completions for 31 yards. The 6-1 senior (26 carries, 192 yards) took it in from the 1 with 7:53 left in regulation.

At this point, Ross (3-for-5, 114 yards) got the call at QB from Stilling. After an intentional grounding penalty left Schaumburg with a third-and-24 at its own 10, Ross took the snap from center and threw a change-up that Trotter snared at midfield before taking it to the end zone with 6:57 to play.

"I gotta give the O-line credit to give me the time to make the throw -- and Heze credit for doing the rest," Ross said.

After Schaumburg's defense held on Conant's final series of regulation, the Saxons (4-3, 1-2) started their final possession of regulation at their own 20.

Ross came up with 39 yards on the ground, including a 9-yard run on a fourth-and-4 with just under a minute remaining. He finished the drive by finding Trotter from 4 yards out with just four seconds left in regulation.

"I knew that we had to start making big plays," said Trotter, who finished with a staggering 350 all-purpose yards. "It had been rough going throughout most of the game, but we kept fighting. We could've easily given up but our guys showed a lot of heart out there. I am so proud of each and every one of them for doing so."

Mueller's third succesful conversion officially evened things up at 21, setting things up for extended play.

In the extra session the Schaumburg defense held Conant to minus-1 in total offense, and a 33-yard field goal miss. That set Schaumburg up for Mueller's game-winning heroics after the Saxons placed Mueller at the Cougars 9 with three running plays.

"Our defense did an outstanding job of keeping us in the game, especially on that last series," Stilling said. "Our league, I feel it's as completely balanced in terms of level of play as I've ever seen in my 13 seasons. Give Conant a tremendous amount of credit. They outplayed us for over 40 minutes and it took some tremendous grit to be able to pull this one out."

The Cougars travel to Palatine next Friday while the Saxons play host to Barrington in their regular-season home finale.

"We have great confidence that we can play with anybody," Ross said. "We have faith in one another in each one's ability to do so."

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