Senior Tanner Plowman always is a standout for the Westmont football team at center and linebacker.
On Friday he gladly shared the spotlight with his teammates and one of the program's greatest victories in years.
The Sentinels surprised many by defeating Interstate Eight Small rival Lisle 18-14 at Benedictine University and capturing the annual Old Plank Road Trophy after losing their past two meetings by a combined score of 92-0.
"I can't even put it into words. I'm just so happy. It's my last year. It means everything to me," the 6-foot Plowman said.
"We've been down to 16 people, but we keep fighting. Even though we're losing, we're showing what Westmont can do. I hope I'm setting a foundation for them and they keep building numbers. We've made the right steps, we have great coaches and everyone's doing their job."
Westmont (3-4, 1-4 Interstate Eight Small) trailed 14-6 at halftime with just 12 net yards of offense, but senior quarterback Brenton Baldwin found offensive success in the air, including a momentum-changing 53-yard TD strike to junior Troy Schlicher.
The Sentinels also collected four of their five turnovers in the second half. Junior Michael Thompson's recovery of a muffed punt at the Lisle 18-yard line led to Baldwin's 5-yard run for the game-winning score with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
"No one expected us to win and we came in there and beat one of the best teams in our conference," Baldwin said. "We got that plaque. It means so much for me personally. I'm so emotional right now."
After a 2-0 start Westmont had lost its last four games to conference foes by a combined 165-29.
"We've talked about this from the summer, trying to change the culture of what it's been in the past. This is something we needed," Westmont coach Dan Woulfe said.
Lisle (3-4, 2-3) got 220 yards and two rushing touchdowns from senior Jared Hunter. But the Lions played without two-way starter Cameron Stitt and lost starting quarterback Jay McGrath for the second half to a lower body injury on a tackle just before halftime.
The Lions still never quit. They had one last chance after Benjamin Laning's blocked punt gave them the ball at the Westmont 39-yard line with 1:15 left but no timeouts. They reached the 32 followed by four incomplete passes.
"We didn't (pull it out). Give them credit," Lisle coach Paul Parpet Sr. said. "They won the game. That's all I can say."
Senior T.J. Buesser had 2 interceptions and Thompson also had a fumble recovery at the Westmont 46 in the third quarter. The Lions' following drive reached the 7 but after a 3-yard loss was stopped on fourth-and-8.
Later drives ended on downs at the Westmont 23 and Lisle 44. In the first half Plowman blitzed and stopped a fourth-and-1 run up the middle from the 12, followed by a fourth and 11 stop at the 20.
Two plays after Buesser's interception return to the Lisle 22, Westmont had taken an early 6-0 lead on an 11-yard pass from Baldwin to Jaden West.
Hunter put the Lions ahead 7-6 by completing a 42-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run with 4:47 left in the second quarter followed by McGrath's extra point.
Following a three-and-out, the Lions covered 59 yards in five plays with Hunter scoring on a 28-yard run 1:59 before halftime.
"I told (our players), 'You've got to look at the scoreboard right now. After what we had dealt with the last four weeks, you can win this game,' " Woulfe said. "We haven't had a game like that, coming out of halftime where we really felt really good about where we were. Being down 14-6 we're like, 'Guys, now is the time to start believing.'
"They were talking about it, got excited, knowing they had a chance."