A shutout for nearly the first 11 minutes was hardly a precursor to one of the wildest shootouts ever involving a Mid-Suburban League football team.
Rolling Meadows hitting the half-century mark in points for only the third time in school history didn't seem likely after it was blanked for the first 21-plus minutes.
And the Mustangs needed every single point right down to the final ones on a 2-point conversion pass from Jack Milas to Artie Checchin to complete an incredible 50-49 season-opening victory over York on Friday night.
"Wow," Meadows' Matt Mishler said as the clock approached midnight after his head coaching debut. "I was just having fun. It was fun watching that game."
Here's a look back and ahead from a fun night that produced 1,149 yards of total offense, 108 pass attempts, 12 touchdown passes and 25 penalties.
The Milas touch: Once Meadows junior quarterback Jack Milas found it after a slow start he was close to unstoppable. Milas hit only 9 of his first 20 passes for 70 yards but finished 33-for-59 for 493 yards and 6 touchdowns.
"I just wasn't making the reads right (early)," Milas said. "(Then) it was like 7-on-7."
From late in the first half into the third quarter, Milas had a stretch where he hit on 10 of 12 throws. On the game-winning 80-yard drive one of his 4 incompletions in 9 attempts was an intentional spike to stop the clock.
"Once he caught a groove it looked like he could throw any ball," said Meadows versatile senior Ryan Gundersen, who caught 9 of them for 101 yards and the final touchdown. "He works really hard at his position."
Needless to say, two former MSL quarterbacks in Mishler (Hoffman Estates) and offensive coordinator Steve Kolodziej (Schaumburg) came away impressed with how Milas bounced back.
"Coach Kolodziej and I were looking at each other and saying, 'What's going on,'" Mishler said of Milas' slow start. "How he played in the last three quarters is how we expected him to play. The kid's got loads and loads of talent."
An unsung part of Milas' success was up front with a mix of two seniors in Nick Leidecker and Kevin Puleo, two juniors in Mark Schmid and Alex Rojas and sophomore Matt Long.
York fourth-year senior stud linebacker/defensive lineman Nick Skuteris had a pair of first-half sacks but Jason Scally's sack about five minutes into the second half was the last one on Milas.
"Our O-line was unbelievable as far as pass protection, and they were firing guys," Mishler said of the group coached by Jim Rucks. "We had gotten on those guys a few times this summer and holy cow, did they respond."
Meadows' big sparkplug: All the ways Meadows is counting on Ryan Gundersen this year were on display. Offense, defense, special teams, you name it, Gundersen did it Friday.
But his biggest play came when York led 21-0 and appeared to be driving toward a rout with the ball near midfield late in the first half.
Gundersen, who plays the "flex" hybrid linebacker/safety in Meadows' 4-2-5 defense, stormed in and separated York quarterback Joe Lucca from the ball. Miles Urban recovered and three plays later, Checchin was tiptoeing the sideline with the first touchdown pass from Milas.
"That started everything," said Meadows senior receiver Tyler Bobowski, who caught 5 passes for 152 yards.
Gundersen followed that up with an interception that led to another touchdown. He ran the ball twice, kicked 4 extra points, caught a conversion pass and punted five times for a 37.4-yard average.
"He was amazing," Matt Mishler said. "But you can say that about a lot of guys."
Particularly on a warm August night with Gundersen, Checchin and Garrett Peterson hampered by cramping issues. Derek Heer caught all 6 of his passes for 71 yards in the second half and Steven Royster caught 2 passes for 30 yards.
The only catches by juniors Jacob Grant and John Burkiewicz came on successive plays for 28 and 10 yards to get Meadows within 41-35. Urban also blocked a pair of extra points and Jake Wingo helped spring Gundersen loose on his go-ahead 62-yard punt return.
"All I needed was one good block and Wingo was the one who had it," Gundersen said.
The big picture: Ironically, a defensive play, senior Kevin Learnan's interception, sealed the win as Meadows fell short of the 53 points it scored against Fremd in 1986 but matched the 50 it dropped in a 1991 shutout of Prospect.
So, how big was it for a team coming off a tumultuous season where it saw a seven-year streak of playoff appearances snapped with a 4-5 finish?
"Especially after last year and not making the playoffs, we knew we had to bounce back this year," Bobowski said.
"We've talked a lot about not making the playoffs and how disappointing it was," Gundersen said. "We don't want to be that team again."
The Mustangs want to continue being the team they were in the final 27 minutes against a York team coming off a share of the West Suburban Silver title with Glenbard West. They have tough challenges coming up with Palatine on Friday and Schaumburg the following week.
But beating York certainly was a nice confidence booster.
"We knew we were going to beat York," Milas said. "We have the talent. We have to execute."