One of the South Elgin football players summarized the situation succinctly as the final seconds ticked away in the Storm's 36-21 victory over visiting Geneva in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover Saturday.
"One down, one to go," he yelled.
Needing wins in its final two outings to make the playoffs for a third straight season, South Elgin (4-4) indeed accomplished Part 1 of a two-part challenge by running wild against Geneva (6-2), which entered the game ranked eighth in Class 7A.
Senior Adolfo Pacheco set a school record by gaining 318 of South Elgin's 415 rushing yards on 27 carries (11.8 avg.). Opponents had previously averaged 148 rushing yards per game against the Geneva defense.
The Storm will try to snag that all-important fifth win next Friday in the regular-season finale at Waubonsie Valley (7-1).
"We're trying to make that push and get in the playoffs because we think we can play with any team," said Storm offensive tackle Jon Slania, an all-conference lineman who returned to action after missing two games with a "tweaked" knee. "This is a huge momentum boost for our team and a huge accomplishment."
The win was the second in a row for South Elgin. The loss was the second in three games for Geneva, which took the field without three suspended starters, including two starting defensive tackles. However, Vikings coach Rob Wicinski refused to use that as an excuse.
"It was one of those things where the basics were really missed, the blocking and the tackling," Wicinski said. "We've been trying to work on that all year. We'll go back to the basics and keep pounding away and make plays. They made a lot more plays than we did."
The biggest of those plays was turned in no surprise here by Pacheco. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but Pacheco quickly put the Storm ahead to stay by erupting for the longest run in South Elgin history.
With his team pinned at its own 6-yard line, the 200-pound running back somehow turned a bottlenecked 31-lead into a 94-yard touchdown run.
"There was someone there right away and he kind of flung me off," said Pacheco, who credited his success to the blocking of new fullback DJ Green. "I had to switch directions, so I went down the sideline to the right and made a cut. Then I had to use my speed."
South Elgin defensive back Michael Bahena intercepted Northern Illinois-bound Geneva quarterback Matt Williams on the ensuing possession. Bahena stepped in front of intended receiver Ben Rogers at the Geneva 40-yard line.
The Storm capitalized five plays later when fullback Geno Passarelli burst up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown. Bahena, the holder on point-after attempts, ran for the two-point conversion when the kicking play broke down, giving South Elgin a 29-14 lead with 7:42 left in the third quarter.
Geneva pulled within 29-21 when junior Bobby Hess capped a 7-play, 80-yard drive with a 14-yard run to make it a one-possession game with 4:47 to play in the third quarter.
But the Vikings could do nothing to stop Pacheco. He rumbled 40 yards to set up first-and-goal at the Geneva 6-yard line, and he scored his fourth touchdown of the afternoon 2 plays later on a 1-yard run.
"He runs a little crazy," South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said. "When he's really running and doing a good job he runs like he's angry. I thought he did a great job today."
David Reisner's fourth extra point of the afternoon provided the final margin with 4:48 to play in the fourth quarter.
Geneva rushed for 212 yards, led by senior Parker Woodworth's 93 yards on 21 carries. Williams was limited to 62 yards in the air on 6-of-19 passing. He was intercepted twice.
Geneva's defense surrendered 459 total yards, typified by a 98-yard South Elgin drive in the second quarter, which Pacheco capped with a 2-yard run to tie the game, 14-14.
"They had a 98-yard drive, great for them for executing," Wicinski said. "Then a (94)-yard run ... that's just crazy, especially when we're in a soft Cover 2. We had guys who just didn't make plays.
"Usually by this time I pretty much have an idea of what kind of team I'm dealing with. We're not really sure who we are right now. We're having a little bit of an identity crisis both offensively and defensively. We've got a couple of games to get it together and figure it out."
Geneva took a 7-0 lead on game's opening possession by marching 74 yards in 13 plays. Woodworth rushed 9 times for 62 yards on the drive, which Williams completed with a 1-yard sneak.
South Elgin immediately answered as Pacheco carried 4 times for 61 yards and scored on an 8-yard handoff.
Geneva went ahead 14-7 on a Woodworth 2-yard run, set up by a 9-yard pass on fourth down from Williams to Rogers. The Storm answered with its 98-yard drive to tie the game before halftime.