Hegranes, Wheaton North seize the moment
Senior safety Trenton Hegranes had just helped Wheaton North make another defensive stop Friday just before halftime when he was summoned for another reason.
The Falcons moved quickly from their 39-yard line with 25.7 seconds left. Hegranes was needed to attempt a career-long 34-yard field goal with one second left.
"I was thinking to myself we're probably going to take a knee or something. All of a sudden the crowd makes a huge noise and I can't see anything because I'm sitting on the bench," Hegranes said. "I was like, 'Now I've got to be ready in case.' "
That field goal turned out to be the final scoring and the difference in the Falcons' hard-fought 10-7 victory over Glenbard North in DuPage Valley Conference action in Wheaton.
Wheaton North (5-1, 4-1 in DVC) now has the minimum five victories to be eligible for its first playoff appearance since 2013. The Falcons have finished 4-5 the past three seasons.
"It would mean a ton (to qualify)," Hegranes said. "We've just worked for this the whole off-season and this is the main goal. Everything comes down to playing in October and November. This is what we play for."
Glenbard North (3-3, 2-3) actually outgained the Falcons 254-184 but missed a 27-yard field goal wide on its first drive and had another drive that reached the 14 late in the third quarter stopped by a senior linebacker Bo Neidballa's fumble recovery just in bounds at the 16 after senior Jameson Smykal tackled quarterback Lee Rady.
With two minutes left and the Panthers driving to the Falcons' 33, Rady tried a fourth-and-inches sneak that came up about two inches short after a tough spot.
"It was a lot tough," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "We had some opportunities. We didn't help ourselves much with holding calls and turning the ball over. The defense played well enough to win without question. We just couldn't muster enough offensively."
The game featured two of the area's top rushers. Wheaton North senior Sam Singleton had 136 yards on 19 carries, including a huge 66-yard TD run in the second quarter on the first play from scrimmage after Glenbard North's Josh Flowers scampered 48 yards for a touchdown playing quarterback in a wildcat formation.
Glenbard North running back Mark Finley had 134 yards on 33 carries after gaining 295 last week in his season debut.
"This whole week we knew we had to stop the run because that's what they do," Hegranes said. "They're pretty much similar to our offense. We run the ball a ton so we see this in practice all of the time."
Surprisingly, the Falcons' field goal was set up by a 41-yard carry to the 20 by fullback Michael Jarosz, who believes he has only 4 carries this season.
"I haven't gotten far in my other carries but this carry I saw the hole and I hit it and that's what you've got to do," Jarosz said.
"That (field goal) was big for us, obviously," Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. "Once you see the final score, then it's exciting but they were really good defensively and we had a hard time moving the ball. That's a credit to them. Now that there's (0:00) on the scoreboard, the kids are happy and the coaches are happy."
In the second half, Rady completed 4 passes to Tyrik Henderson for 51 yards to supplement the running game. On the fumble, Neidballa carefully made sure he recovered the ball in bounds.
"I didn't know exactly what was happening but I just saw the ball on the ground and the whistle didn't blow so I just fell on it," Neidballa said.
The game ended with Wheaton North senior lineman Sean King's first sack of the season at the Panthers' 22.
"I assumed somebody would probably score in the second half," Hegranes said. "I assumed our offense would score. I guess it was just tight in the second half."