Conant stuns Fremd in final seconds
It was "The Drive" and "The Catch" all rolled into one for Conant Saturday.
Conant quarterback Kevin Polaski orchestrated a 13-play, 87-yard drive in 78 seconds. He then tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Wachal, who made a terrific catch with 3 seconds to play as Conant stunned Fremd 17-14.
The scoring play punctuated the end of game that began Friday evening and was suspended at halftime due to lightning. The teams picked up play early Saturday morning with Fremd leading 7-3.
Conant coach Bryan Stortz, who won a pair of state titles when he was head coach at Lake Zurich, told his Conant team that this was one of the biggest wins in his career.
"I have never seen a team face some of the obstacles that these guys have had to face," Stortz said. "Not just this game. They have come a long way in the last 18 months."
With the win, Conant (5-2, 3-0), which was 1-8 a year ago, took over sole possession of first place in the Mid-Suburban West. There are two weeks remaining in the regular season.
But it didn't look that way for Conant when the Cougars took over at their own 17 with 1:21 to play.
Fremd (3-4, 2-1) had just rallied to take a 14-10 lead on a spectacular 20-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Saxe to Luke Bilek with 1:27 remaining.
Conant, which had 3 timeouts remaining, methodically moved the ball down the field. The Cougars ran all of their plays to the right, with Polaski throwing 4 times to Wachal underneath the Fremd defense.
"We knew we just had to take it one play at a time," said Polaski, who would finish 8-of-11 for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"We knew where our strengths were. Get the ball to Anthony and let him get out of bounds."
The Cougars also mixed in a couple of key runs and found themselves at the 4-yard line. Polaski then connected with Wachal, who positioned himself in the front corner of the end zone, right at the goal line marker.
"We were chipping away and chipping away and finally got in the end zone," said Wachal, who got behind the Fremd defense early in the fourth quarter to catch a 34-yard touchdown pass that put Conant up 10-7.
"I play basketball, so it was just a little box out."
It was a tough loss for Fremd, which had rallied to score a go-ahead touchdown on a 45-yard drive while tailing 10-7.
"It's hard to watch," Said Fremd coach Lou Sponsel, whose team had a 3-game winning streak snapped.
"On the last drive it came down to that they executed their technique and we didn't."
Fremd had a 7-3 lead at the half. It was a halftime that lasted nearly 14 hours because of lightning Friday evening that caused both teams to come back early Saturday morning because of Fremd's homecoming activities later on Saturday.
Turnovers set up both of Friday's scoring plays.
Conant had taken the lead in the second quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Jessica Smeltzer. Fremd pulled ahead 7-3 on a 2-yard run by Bilek.