Benet cheers an end to skid
Colin Gillespie's pass couldn't have been more on the money, lightly settling in receiver Niko Kasprzycki's outstretched hands in the right corner of the end zone.
The Joliet Catholic crowd, which had been hyped all evening for homecoming, and its desire for a last-second defensive stop, fell silent.
In fact only thing that could be heard, far across the field, was an eruption of cheers from the Benet sideline.
The Redwings escaped with a 20-13 victory Friday night in a seesaw affair that culminated with Gillespie's 50-yard drive in the final 1:13 to beat the Hilltoppers and improve to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
The win also puts Benet within one game of the IHSA playoffs and gets the team back on the winning track after two straight lopsided losses, to Notre Dame and Nazareth.
"It's like that cloud of misery that hangs over you after a loss, and it was two weeks," Benet coach Pat New said. "The skies have opened up here a little bit."
It did, despite a monster night from Joliet Catholic senior running back Keenan Hailey, who rushed 35 times for 212 yards and a 63-yard touchdown on his first touch of the game.
But in the waning moments, Gillespie was just a little bit better.
After the Hilltoppers shanked a punt that put the ball on the 50-yard line with 1:13 to go and the game tied 13-13, Gillespie went to work.
Three straight 9-yard passes -- a pair to senior Jack Cooney and a third to Kasprzycki -- put the ball on the Joliet Catholic 17-yard line with that many ticks on the clock.
Gillespie coolly dropped back and found the 6-foot-6 senior Kasprzycki in the right corner of the end zone, beating one defender in the process.
"We plan definitely to throw to Niko on that side," said Gillespie, who had gotten hurt earlier in the game and was relieved by senior Jack Norgle, who also threw a touchdown pass to Kasprzycki.
"I was just trying to lead him and let him run to the ball."
Across the field Kasprzycki was just as pleased as his quarterback.
"We stay after practice every week and work on our timing, and that last play, he was on the outside of me and I took an inside release," he said. "I didn't think I'd be fast enough, but I stacked him, and it popped right in my hands -- a perfect ball."
Tony Benish's extra point set the final score, but the Redwings weren't quite out of the woods. On the ensuing kickoff Hailey returned the ball the 41, but Cooney erased any chances of a comeback by intercepting Hilltoppers senior quarterback Justin Alvarez as time ran out.
"I love those situations," New said of the final drive. "We had the two timeouts to go, we figure we were going throw the ball every time, take shots, and fortunately it worked out. Our guys executed."
Kasprzycki caught 5 passes for 85 yards. Gillespie was 11-for-15 passing for 196 yards. Cooney added 6 catches for 53 yards.