Glenbard East beats Glenbard South in final seconds
Glenbard East led Glenbard South for just 12.2 seconds in Friday night's Upstate Eight Conference football game. They were the right 12.2 seconds.
Senior Armoni Gilford's 2-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep to the right side of the field gave the Rams their first lead of the game and, moments later, a thrilling 22-19 comeback victory.
The winning touchdown came on fourth and goal. It was a do-or-die play, and Gilford knew it.
"I gotta score it," Gilford said. "I ran as fast as I can, did what I had to do, and I put it in there."
"We pulled the rabbit out of the hat at the end of the game, right?" Rams coach John Walters asked rhetorically. "Hat's off to (the Raiders). They played a great game. They always play us tough. I don't know if it's a District 87 thing, I don't know if it's Glenbard-Glenbard.
"No matter who's where, no matter what the standings or rankings are, what the records are, those guys play us tough. So hat's off to the kids and coaches. They played a great game, man."
The postgame huddle was more subdued at the other end of the field.
"I said that the effort was there, without a doubt," Raiders coach Ryan Crissey said. "The issue was the execution in the second half. We made more mistakes. We made more mistakes which led to more scoring opportunities for East, and (the Rams) just battled.
"They came out and won the field possession game and they had the advantage with having the short field for most of the second half. And that led to some obvious scoring opportunities for them."
Combined with Bartlett's victory against South Elgin, the win lifted the Rams (7-1, 7-1) into a three-way tie for the conference lead with one game to play. The Rams are the defending UEC champions and play at home in Week 9 against Larkin.
"Really happy for our kids and proud of our program that we get an opportunity to do this back to back and Glenbard East. That's a big deal," Walters said.
Glenbard South (5-3, 5-3), the league's fourth-place team, got great momentum when sophomore Trevor Burnett, starting at running back for the injured Kylen Henderson, ran 70 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage. The Raiders led 13-0 at halftime after junior receiver Cade Hardtke caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nick Plaso.
The Rams started to turn the momentum by scoring on a 50-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, Christopher Whitehead scoring on a 3-yard run.
Glenbard South countered with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Yazan Blan with 10:04 to play in the fourth quarter, but Daniel Schager's 56-yard kickoff return set up a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Connor Cerkas two plays later. With 9:41 to play, the Raiders led 19-14.
The Raiders led almost all game in large part because they recovered 4 of 5 Rams fumbles in addition to 2 interceptions.
"It killed us, man," Walters said of the 6 turnovers. "And to be honest with you, this has kind of been our M.O. this year. ... I think we had three turnovers inside the 20, and that's not going to win you a lot of games. Fortunately, our guys came back in the second half, battled and found a way to win. And that's what the game's about, man. Showed a little character and heart."