There were some nervous moments for Wauconda fans throughout the second half, but when push came to shove the Bulldogs got the job done in their Northern Lake County Conference football finale against visiting Grayslake Central.
Trailing 16-7 at halftime, the Rams came out with some trickery midway through the third quarter to pull to within 16-14. But despite shutting down Wauconda's offense for the better part of the second half, the Bulldogs came up with 2 touchdown passes in the final 2:55 of the contest en route to a 30-14 NLCC victory.
Wauconda (2-7, 2-5) moved the ball effectively on the ground right out of the gates as senior running back Salvatore Piccolo (118 yards on 28 carries) took a pitch from quarterback Andrew Saccameno and raced 24 yards down the right sideline for a 6-0 lead 5:02 into the game to cap a 71-yard drive.
A bad snap on an attempted punt by Grayslake Central (3-6, 3-4) led to great field position for the Bulldogs as they took over on the Rams' 10-yard-line.
Three plays later, Saccameno scored on a 6-yard keeper on the quarterback option before the extra point by Oscar Acosta staked Wauconda to a fast 13-0 lead.
The Rams responded early in the second quarter when a 5-yard penalty made it fourth-and-goal from the 15. Then quarterback Sam Lennartz (19-for-37, 200 yards passing) hit senior Garrett Martin with a 15-yard TD pass as Martin eluded at least two defenders near the goal line. Austin Wagner's extra point made the score 13-7.
Acosta added a 30-yard field goal with 8:36 left in the first half as the score remained 16-7 at the intermission.
Besides the 2 late TD's on offense on senior night, the Buldogs were also the beneficiaries of 2 huge interceptions by senior Mike McDonough late in the fourth quarter to help seal the hard-fought victory.
"It was a tough game, we all came together in our last game , and we all came together like we should have all season," said Piccolo, who had 75 yards rushing in the first half. "It wasn't looking good (on offense), but Brian (Trelstad) got his first touchdown ever, and it was a great way to end for my last game."
Grayslake Central pulled out all the stops with numerous trick plays late in the first half as well as a successful halfback option play midway through the third quarter.
Junior Nick Paul got the job done on the halfback option as he hit a wide-open Jordan Franco for a 57-yard scoring strike before Wagner's extra point cut the lead to 16-14.
The Rams defense had also buckled down on Wauconda's running game for the better part of the second half. But Grayslake Cental lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter along with the 2 interceptions (3 overall in the game).
Saccameno came through with a 39-yard TD pass to tight end Matthew Nolan on a play-action pass as Nolan's TD made the score 23-14 with 2:55 to play.
Then McDonough intercepted a halfback pass by Paul and took the ball 38 yards down to the Rams 27-yard-line. Saccameno hit tight end Trelstad three plays later on the right sideline for a 25-yard TD pass as Trelstad scored untouched when the final Rams defender fell near the end zone.
"They were bringing eight or nine guys up in the box, and we had two touchdown passes to tight ends so they are always open," said Wauconda coach Dave Mills, who saw Saccameno throw for 131 yards overall. "It was senior night so it was nice to see the seniors come out and make big plays. The way this season has gone it was a nice way to end it."
Graylake Central coach Jason Schaal also praised his senior class following the game.
"In the end we were trying to gain a lot of yards in a short amount of time and it led to a couple of interceptions, but I thought we played well," said Schaal, whose team had 309 yards passing between three players. "I can't be more grateful to our senior class, they did a great job and they will be missed. We might have gotten six or seven school records that have been around for quite awhile."