Elk Grove appeared to be on its way to a running clock runaway at halftime of Saturday afternoon's Class 7A second-round football playoff game.
But the Grenadiers ended up having to think about running out the final 5:51 on the clock after visiting Machesney Park Harlem sliced a 32-point deficit to 10 points.
A minute-and-a-half later, Dejan Basara was churning into the end zone from 33 yards and fourth-seeded Elk Grove (10-1) was out of danger with a 39-22 victory at Robert Haskell Stadium.
"It seemed like we had all the momentum in the first half and played the way we wanted to in the first half," said senior Fernando Lozano after catching 2 touchdown passes from Adam O'Malley and running for a 16-yard score to help push Elk Grove to a 32-0 lead.
"I thought we were going to come out strong (after halftime) and we all knew we were the better team," said Elk Grove sophomore defensive lineman Johnny Assimakopoulos, who had 2 tackles for losses and a sack. "No one was satisfied and everyone was ready to play. I don't know what happened."
What did happen was the Grenadiers took advantage of 5 turnovers for their first 10-win season and quarterfinal appearance since 2004. They'll play at 1 p.m. Saturday at No. 8 Lake Zurich (9-2), which stunned top-seeded and previously unbeaten Glenbard West 10-3.
"It was an unbelievable job by everybody," Basara said after rushing for 161 yards and 3 touchdowns on 21 carries. "It's a great feeling. I can't describe it."
The game took a stunning turn Elk Grove's direction after Lozano raced 25 yards with a bubble screen from O'Malley (6-for-13, 72 yards) in the first quarter. Harlem (9-2) saw its next four possessions end in turnovers.
Stefan Skoneczka forced fumbles recovered by Mike Maize and Mike Bishoff. Kishan Patel and Basara had interceptions against a team that had scored 40-plus points eight times.
"Coach 'P' (defensive coordinator Rob Pomazak) always wants us to get turnovers and he reiterates it practice," Lozano said.
"The whole week we had it pushed in us to get turnovers and be physical," Assimakopoulos said of the tone he helped set up front defensively with Greg Johnsen and Dan Egan.
Elk Grove made Harlem pay for every mistake.
Lozano caught a pass deflected by teammate Darren Little for a 4-yard touchdown. Lozano's 16-yard run capped an 83-yard drive behind Egan, Johnsen, Martin Diaz, Kevin O'Malley and Brian Mack.
And 1- and 9-yard scoring runs by Basara made it 32-0 with 2:50 left in the first half.
"I thought we did an unbelievable job in the first half of being physical with them," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll.
"We just seemed to be a little overmatched in the first half," said Harlem coach Jim Morrow. "Defensively they really took it to us. But I thought we stepped up our game and played with a little more pride."
Then it became about more than just playing for pride for Harlem. Quarterback Cody DiGiovanni (16-for-28, 161 yards) passed and ran for touchdowns and threw two 2-point conversions and Brenton Benedict's leaping 3-yard score made it 32-22 at 5:51.
"All of a sudden it was big play, big play, big play and we've got a game," Doll said.
But Little recovered the onside kick, Basara covered 51 yards on three runs and Egan provided the exclamation point with an interception.
"When I went into the locker room at halftime, the least important thing is the score," Basara said. "I kept saying, 'The game is not finished' and I was telling everybody not to tell anyone good job because the job wasn't done yet."
Now Elk Grove can go to work on next Saturday's trip to Lake Zurich.