METAMORA -- The South Elgin football team was back at work on Labor Day, but costly penalties at the most inopportune times cost the Storm in a 17-10 loss to the host Metamora Redbirds.
In a game played two days later than originally scheduled due to thunderstorms that swept through central Illinois Saturday, South Elgin (0-2) drew 10 penalties for 75 yards in the nonconference contest compared to 4 penalties for 40 yards for Metamora (1-1).
"You can't blame the refs for anything," South Elgin quarterback Zach Gross said. "We did what we can do. That's an intangible. We just have to fight and work harder and do what we can do to control the game."
Two flags stood out due to their game-changing effect.
With the score tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter, Metamora faced fourth-and-4 at the South Elgin 48-yard line. Quarterback Bryan Burk's pass fell incomplete, but the Storm drew a flag for roughing the passer.
The ball was placed at the South Elgin 34 and the Redbirds cashed in 5 plays later. Junior Dekota Doerr's 23-yard sweep up the left sideline set up a 2-yard touchdown run by senior running back Charlie Nowotnik, who rushed 28 times for 132 yards. Prestin Van Mieghem's point after kick gave Metamora a 17-10 lead with 7:53 left in the game.
The teams traded punts before South Elgin took possession at its own 49-yard line with 2:17 to play. Gross dropped back to pass on third-and-10 only to tuck the ball and ran up the middle untouched for what appeared to be a touchdown. However, another yellow hankie behind the play resulted in a penalty for a block in the back, which gave South Elgin a first down at the 35 instead of a touchdown.
A pass interference call against Metamora put South Elgin at the 20-yard line with 1:56 left. Gross gained 5 yards on first down, however, the senior threw off-balance on a rollout for an incompletion, he was hurried on an incomplete pass intended for Tommy Asa and his fourth-down pass intended for Andrew Weedman was off target. Weedman's plea for an interference penalty fell on deaf ears.
"You don't want to talk about the penalties, but we had (receivers) down the field getting tugged from behind and nothing's called," South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said. "It makes it tough."
"We've been on the other end of that, too," Metamora coach Pat Ryan said. "I know it's tough. It was a physical game. We're not going to hit much in practice this week, especially with the short week. We have a lot of respect for these guys, and we wish them well the rest of the year."
The fourth-quarter dramatics negated a comeback for South Elgin, which trailed 10-0 after a quarter. Metamora took a 2-0 lead when Gross scrambled backward for 20 yards to the goal line and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
The Redbirds took the ensuing kickoff and marched 56 yards in 10 plays, capped by Austin McVey's 15-yard touchdown run on a reverse out of the option backfield.
The Storm fought back, sparked by a pair of fumble recoveries by the defense. Metamora's only completed pass of the game to sophomore Sam Ryan resulted in a fumble, which Storm senior Zach Werba recovered and returned 11 yards to the Metamora 46.
Keyed by a 28-yard run by Pacheco, South Elgin's leading rusher with 120 yards on 10 carries, the Storm drove 40 yards before having to settle for a 23-yard field goal from David Reisner.
Nowotnik fumbled on Metamora's ensuing possession. South Elgin linebacker Chris Bingham recovered at the Metamora 40, and the offense converted 7 plays later. On second-and-7 from just outside the 7-yard line, Gross rolled to his right and connected with junior tight end Zach Saldivar for a touchdown with 1:07 left in the first half.
"It was designed so I would get a delayed release and go out past the safety, who was supposed to be covering the run," Saldivar said. "It worked."
Reisner's kick tie the score 10-10.
Playing on a Monday means South Elgin's staff has only three practice days to prepare the Storm for the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division opener at Lake Park on Friday.
"We tried to joke about the odyssey of Saturday and everything that happened because that's the only way you could survive it, but it puts us in a real bind," Schabert said. "We have to travel back home and get ready for Lake Park, who has already been resting for three days. We'll only get about two good days of practice. Our walk-through might need to be a more physical practice.
"This whole thing has brought us some adversity, but here's a teaching point now. You show them that when the chips are against you that you have to do everything you can to fight back."