Wheaton North wins another thriller
First-year starting quarterback Nathan Love and the Wheaton North offense were beginning to find success running the two-minute drill during practice Thursday.
When the Falcons needed it Friday, they came through again.
Antowon Tolbert scored from the 2-yard line as time expired and the Falcons completed a 60-yard drive in 1:11 for a wild 23-21 DuKane Conference victory over Glenbard North in Wheaton.
"I was confident. I have not been more confident for a drive in my life," said Love, who passed for 147 yards. "I'm definitely getting better as a quarterback, just taking what they give me."
Wheaton North (3-2, 2-1) had pulled ahead 17-14 with 3:50 remaining. Gus Walakehwon's first catch of the season was a 6-yard TD reception.
But Glenbard North (0-5, 0-3) regained the lead 21-17 with 1:17 to go on a 23-yard TD run by Angelo Cusumano, whose electrifying 55-yard interception return 28.3 seconds before halftime gave the Panthers their first lead at 14-10.
Last week Wheaton North beat Lake Park 7-6 in overtime by denying the Lancers' 2-point conversion for the victory.
"Right before we went out (for Friday's final drive) I told the kids do it like you did in practice yesterday and luckily we executed. I was excited for the kids," Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said.
"We're still going to need the defense to play good for us, but it was certainly nice to have the offense step up and put some points on the board finally."
On Friday's winning drive, Love completed 7 passes on the first eight plays between 6 and 11 yards, mostly finding receivers who quickly went out of bounds to stop the clock. Leading receiver Eli Odell and tight end Jake Johnson each had two receptions.
With first-and-goal at the 3, Tolbert gained 1 yard. The Falcons had one timeout left, but Wardynski hoped they could get off one last play before giving the Panthers a chance to regroup.
"I was kind of concerned because I looked up and there was 10 seconds before we snapped the ball. The next thing you know we got a touchdown and the game was over," Tolbert said.
This was the most frustrating loss for the Panthers after once again displaying big-play potential and many great individual efforts.
The Panthers found their spark when Jaheim Edmond caught a ball in traffic near the sidelines, broke free and then cut back across the field for a 65-yard TD pass play 1:08 before halftime.
After the Falcons went ahead 17-14, the Panthers' Jordan McQuarter returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards to the Glenbard North 48 and turned a fourth-and-3 into a 16-yard gain to the 29 when quarterback Michael Vazquez handed off while being tackled.
"There were big efforts by both sides," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said.
"The defense played great for us all night, had some huge turnovers. Offensively, we just couldn't get much going. When we needed it, we finally put something together, but there were other opportunities where we should have."
The Falcons' defense set the early tone by stopping the Panthers' first three drives that reached the Falcons' 41, 18 and 29. Two were started by fumble recoveries.
After their first five carries all lost yardage, the Falcons got going offensively at the start of the second quarter. Odell turned a sideline screen pass into a 57-yard gain and Tolbert followed with a 7-yard TD run. Love added a 31-yard field goal on the following drive for a 10-0 lead.