JaQuan Buchanan caught a 40-yard touchdown pass with 54 seconds left, giving West Aurora a 28-24 come-from-behind win at Geneva Friday night.
Vikings quarterback Bobby Murray nearly rallied his team after Buchanan's score, marching Geneva all the way down to West Aurora's 6-yard line with :07 to go.
Murray completed a short pass to Jack Krieger who tried to get out of bounds. Officials ruled he didn't, and the final seconds ticked off with Geneva 3 yards away from a win it needed to become playoff eligible.
Instead, West Aurora (7-2) picked up some momentum heading into the playoffs by outscoring the Vikings 22-6 in the fourth quarter to snare a game Geneva (4-5) controlled most of the way.
"Hats off to Geneva," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. "They played their absolute tails off. Those seniors, that's a tough way to go out.
"On the flip side, we've kind of been struggling for this being down and falling apart. I told the kids, in my seven years that might be the best second half comeback I've ever seen."
Geneva got off to a good start on the opening possession when Ian Hanson deflected a West Aurora pass on 4th down.
The Vikings then unleashed their ball control offense, mixing the run and short passing game to run 16 plays, drive to West Aurora's 5-yard line, and settle for Reilly Waldoch's 22-yard field goal.
The Blackhawks answered with their only score in the first half. On 4th-and-goal from the 4, Buchanan ran into the end zone out of the Wildcat formation for a 6-3 lead.
It stayed that way until late in the first half. Waldoch, who rushed for 116 yards on 22 carries, broke free on Geneva's longest play from scrimmage in the game, a 41-yard run for a 10-6 lead with 2:14 left in the half.
Geneva quickly got the ball back, and like he did at the end of the game, Murray directed a perfect 2-minute drill. The drive ended with Waldoch's 10-yard score on a screen pass with just: 02.5 left for a 17-6 halftime lead.
"Our QB did a really good job of time management," said Hanson, who caught 9 passes. "We've been working on that all year. We executed really well today."
Geneva still led 17-6 with 8 minutes left in the game. Trevon Tittle's 3-yard run got the Blackhawks within 17-14, and Camron Donatlan followed with an 82-yard burst down the left sideline to put the Blackhawks ahead 21-17 with 6:09 left.
Murray, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 234 yards, put Geneva back up 24-21 with 2 minutes remaining on a 15-yard pass to Hanson after the two connected moments earlier on a 4th-and-6 completion.
Donatlan followed with a 55-yard kickoff return to give the Blackhawks the ball at Geneva's 34. The Vikings' defense nearly held, putting the Blackhawks in a 4th-and-11 before sophomore quarterback William Tammaru hit Moshe Rogers on a 35-yard touchdown only to see the play called back because West Aurora had too many players on the line of scrimmage.
On the next play, the Blackhawks lined the speedy Buchanan up at tight end, and he got behind the Geneva defense to catch Tammaru's long strike for the game-winning score.
"We have a fighter's mentality and we have another play so we just have to do it again," Buchanan said. "We caught them off guard. It was a great game. I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight. It's a great way to go into week 10."
Donatlan led West Aurora with 152 yards rushing, but it was still Geneva who outgained the Blackhawks 444-345.
"I'm so proud of my guys," Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. "I kept telling them you have it in you, you have it in you. If we brought out this fight in the third or fourth week of the season...but we just weren't ready yet, we weren't able to get our act together.
"We were a play away, here or there. To be in the fight is so much fun. We had opportunities. It goes back to their guys made plays."