Lisle rallies to win in OT, clinch first league title since 1981
Jay McGrath and his Lisle teammates had to throw out the script Friday night, but they still came up with a storybook ending.
McGrath fired three touchdown passes to Jakub Kowal, including two in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, and then kicked the game-winning 22-yard field goal to lift the host Lions to a dramatic 24-21 overtime victory over Reed-Custer.
Lisle, which came from 14 points down, clinched the Interstate Eight Small championship and a playoff berth. It is the first league title for the Lions (6-0, 4-0) since 1981.
"Nothing feels better than this right now," McGrath said. "It's going to feel good going back to the high school in 30-some years and seeing 2018 up there."
Just how special was the victory?
"I told the boys I've been coaching for some 40 years and there are two games that stand out in my mind," Lisle coach Paul Parpet Sr. said. "This game tonight was probably my favorite game because of what we overcame. Not only because of what we overcame but what we did and how we did it."
The Lions won despite trailing for until the final three minutes. Reed-Custer (2-4, 0-3) accumulated 100 more yards than Lisle and ran 86 offensive plays, compared to 37 for the Lions.
McGrath's 11-yard touchdown pass to Kowal with 11 seconds left in the first half pulled Lisle within 14-7. But the Comets went up 21-7 on Nick Mitchell's 8-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Reed-Custer missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt on its next possession and that opened the door.
McGrath, who completed 9 of 23 passes for 195 yards, was intercepted twice but kept firing. He found Kowal for a 59-yard scoring strike on a broken play with 4:35 remaining and hit the 6-foot-5 senior again for 23 yards on the game-tying play at the 2:51 mark.
"I don't think any of our big plays were drawn up that way," McGrath said. "Today was the most fun game I've played in.
"I can't give enough credit to our line. It's probably the best protection I've had all year."
After the defense held the Comets to start the overtime, the Lions gave the ball to Michael Walker three straight plays and he took the ball to the 1, setting up the field goal try.
An illegal procedure call pushed the ball back 5 yards, but McGrath made the field goal, his first of the season.
"I told the O-line that this is my biggest blocking play that we've had all night," McGrath said. "They did a great job."
As did Kowal, a converted soccer player whom McGrath recruited to play football for the first time this season. He had 105 yards receiving on 4 catches, the last 2 of which came after he was briefly knocked out of the game by a big hit.
"It was a hard hit but you've got to finish the game," Kowal said. "I can't believe it still. It's crazy."
Kowal never lost confidence despite the deficit.
"It's a long game," Kowal said. "We were confident in ourselves. With our record, we've got something to protect, so we had to show up. We executed well."