For Schaumburg's Jordan Salgado, Week 9 proved to be an experience with both the ultimate highs and lows of a high school football player.
As a sophomore call-up two seasons ago, he played a key role in a win at Fremd that clinched a playoff berth for his team.
As a junior, he endured a loss at Palatine that eliminated his team from postseason contention.
On Friday night, he departed Fremd with the look of having successfully completed his mission: to get Schaumburg back to the playoffs.
After rushing for 138 yards on 23 carries plus making 6 tackles and snaring a key fourth-quarter interception on defense, it may very well be a mission accomplished come Saturday night when the IHSA announces its playoff pairings.
The Saxons held off persistent Fremd 24-20 at Hildebrant Field in Palatine.
The win grants the Saxons (5-4, 2-3) playoff eligibility with a guaranteed minimum of 40 points, not counting their nonconference opponents' play on this final Friday evening of the regular season.
"This is my family," Salgado said. "I wasn't going to let them down like I felt like I did last year. We put in the work in practice this week that we needed in order to be ready."
Schaumburg had never missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons under coach Mark Stilling, and the coach was pleased to have a chance to extend that streak.
"This was an awesome experience for our team to have tonight," Stilling said. "It was great competition in a playoff-type atmosphere. For our guys to be able withstand Fremd's effort and be able to grind out a victory in what was essentially an elimination game really makes me proud of this team and what they were able to accomplish."
Schaumburg got off to an early lead with 2 touchdowns on its first two possessions of the football on a pair of TD tosses from junior Marcus Ross (8-of-12, 63 yards).
His first score, a 6-yarder toss to senior and former Saxon QB Deontae Arnold in the first quarter concluded a 12-play, 67-yard drive that featured 34 yards on the ground from Salgado.
Ross' second TD pass to junior Heze Trotter (17 yards) with 46 seconds left in the first quarter finished an 8-play, 55-yard drive that got a starting boost with a 20-yard Fremd punt shank.
The Vikings (1-8, 1-4) rallied back to tie it in the second quarter when they halved the deficit by going on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ended with sophomore QB Andrew Saxe's 3-yard TD toss to senior Ben Konopka (7 catches, 56 yards) with 7:06 left in the first half.
Fremd sophomore Rasheed Amos (11 carries, 74 yards) tied the game at 14 on a 2-yard run with 2:47 left before halftime. It was set up by junior Nick Rattin's interception that started the Vikings at the Saxon 45.
Salgado's 2-yard run on Schaumburg's first possession of the second half wrapped up an 11-play, 57 yard drive that gave the Saxons the lead for good at 21-14.
On that drive, Salgado gained 32 yards on the ground thanks to an offensive line that helped grind out 286 yards.
Jon Mueller's 20-yard field goal extended the lead to 24-14 with 9:45 remaining.
"Our O-line was tremendous," Salgado said of starters David Drs., Robert Grasse, Jaylen Young, Tristin O'Connor, Paul Anderson in addition to reserves Mike Dan and Mike Hughes. "They gave me the space I needed to get extra yardage when I hit the line."
Drs., a three-year varsity letter winner, emphasized the brotherhood that his linemates offered over the past couple of seasons.
"As the game wore on, we kept talking about how we needed to keep on grinding,' he said. "Especially when both Mikes came in the fourth. We're all in there blocking together. I love playing with these guys and I'm super excited to get the chance to play with these guys again next week."
Fremd made one final charge on backup QB Zach Garnmeister's 1-yard scamper behind center, getting the Vikes within 24-20 with 5:25 to play. The junior stepped into the contest for Saxe (11-of-23, 71 yards passing and 11 carries for 69 yards rushing), who was knocked out of the action with a fourth-quarter injury.
The Saxons kept the ball the rest of the way, running out the clock by picking up 4 first downs to seal the deal.
"Give Fremd credit," Stilling said. "For all that they've been through including tonight they showed a tremendous will and gave us a tough fight."
Fremd coach Lou Sponsel made note of his 27 seniors on their final home game in their careers.
"They played like champions," he said. "At any time they could have given up with all the adversity they encountered but they showed tremendous resiliency all season long."