Hersey quarterback Owen Goldsberry was just laying in the weeds, waiting to strike.
And when Goldsberry made his move, it propelled the Huskies to a 28-6 victory over Rolling Meadows in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs in Arlington Heights on Friday.
Hersey will host Lincoln-Way Central next weekend in the second round of the playoffs. Lincoln-Way Central beat Rockford East 58-0 on Friday.
Goldsberry threw for 2 touchdowns, rushed for another and also had an interception return for a score as No. 8 seed Hersey (9-1) beat Mid-Suburban East rival Rolling Meadows for the second time in three weeks.
"I just stay with it," said Goldsberry, who scored 3 touchdowns in Huskies' 21-20 win over Meadows a couple of weeks ago. "Don't get too down and don't get too high. Be even-keel and play."
The battle between divisional rivals was scoreless until late in the first half. And it was defense that kept the Huskies in the game.
After Rolling Meadows' Max Sobkowicz recovered a fumble at the Huskies' 17, Hersey's defense went to work. Meadows drove the 1, but thanks to a Jordan Hansen tackle for loss on third down and some solid pass defense on fourth down, the game stayed tied.
"It has been a long time since we had a home playoff game and I thought our composure was awesome," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "Our defense really carried us in the first half. They were flying in the first half. I was impressed."
With Hersey's defense making its stand, it became time for the Huskies to strike gold.
After a short punt into the wind, Hersey drove 40 yards on 5 plays. Goldsberry, who'd carried the ball just 3 times prior, carried it 3 times on that drive alone, including the final 5 yards to make it 7-0 with 1:48 left in the first half.
Rolling Meadows (6-4), which was seeded 25th, threatened to score just before the end of the half.
Arek Kleniuk (17-of-30, 162 yards) moved the Mustangs down to Hersey 9. But with 4.5 seconds left, Tim Szylak caught a short pass and was stopped at the 4 as time expired.
Early in the third quarter, Rolling Meadows drove inside the Hersey 5 for a third time -- only again to be turned away. On fourth and 2, Nick Steger stopped a Meadows run short of the line.
"We left three scores out there again tonight," Mishler said. "You can't do that against a good team. You have to capitalize on every opportunity, and we didn't do that."
Goldsberry then extended the positive momentum for the Huskies.
On third and 10 from his own 4, Goldsberry found a wide open Ian Ziegenhorn down the near sideline. Ziegenhorn, who'd been injured most of the season and was in the lineup after an injury to Kacper Rutkiewicz, hauled in the pass and went 96 yards for the TD that made it 14-0.
"I haven't been so excited in my life," said Ziegenhorn, who'd only caught one pass prior to that this season. "This is probably one of to best nights of my life. I knew this my my time to step up and I needed to make a play, and things worked out."
Meadows came right back.
After an injury to Szylak, who was taken away by ambulance, the Mustangs responded when Kleniuk connected with Justin Kretz on a 24-yard touchdown pass. The conversion kick was wide and the score was 14-6 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
Meadows kept the pressure on Hersey, but that Huskies defense led by Caleb Augustyn, Luke Cecala, Zakary Kaufman and Colton Kamysz kept the Mustangs at bay.
"We have had this mindset all week that we had to play faster," Kamysz said. "We were more aggressive than we were two weeks prior. We changed up some schemes to better prepare ourselves."
And on fourth and 7 at the Hersey 35, one of those schemes worked to perfection.
Goldsberry, who was inserted at safety in key passing downs, jumped a route by a Mustangs receiver. Goldsberry picked it off and raced 69 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-6 with 6:59 to play.
"He is the best player in the conference," Mishler said. "I feel like that we have had the best player in the conference a few times in the last several years, and it makes a difference. Great players do great things."
Goldsberry put the game away with 3:09 to play when he found a wide open receiver, this time connecting with Sean Watters on a 35-yard touchdown pass.
"We really were trying to take what they were giving us," said Goldsberry, who was 6-of-15 passing for 198 yards and rushed for 94 yards. "These are just game-time decisions."
"Owen just seems to get better the more he settles in," Pardun said.
Mishler, whose team was making its seventh consecutive playoff appearance
"It is really disappointing," Mishler said. "I just wish we had played better. I thought we really improved this year. I think we were in prime position with the first Hersey game. But things just went the other way for us."