Late 2-point stop sends Wheaton North past Glenbard North
The game was on the line and the play was so close that it took some time before Wheaton North could begin to celebrate.
In a battle between a pair of teams that came into play at 4-1 and each appear headed to the postseason, host Glenbard North scored a touchdown with 1:24 left to play to close to within 21-20 of the Class 7A fourth-ranked Falcons.
Behind an offensive line that played great all night long, the Panthers opted to go for two and the win, rather than attempt a game-typing PAT kick. As he had much of the night, Glenbard North running back Sam Palmer ran hard and a second-effort push got him close to the goal line, but the Wheaton North defense had just enough force to hold him short, allowing the Falcons to hang on for a thrilling 21-20 win.
"Their offensive line was grinding all night and Glenbard North is one of the best football teams I have faced in my high school career," said Falcons middle linebacker Freddie Elftmann, who did his best to provide support behind his defensive line on that crucial stop. "We stepped up. Our whole defensive line stepped up and pushed and grinded."
The Falcons' passing attack also came up big on Friday, using big plays for quick strikes against a tough Panthers defense. No offensive play was bigger than Wheaton North's 59-yard touchdown pass from Mark Forcucci to Seth Kortenhoeven on third-and-18 midway through the fourth quarter. The play followed a sack and a delay of game call that had the Falcons (5-1, 3-1) in a hole, but one that a perfect strike from Forcucci dug the winners out of.
"It was a crazy game and a crazy finish," said Kortenhoeven, who finished with four catches for 130 yards including the game-winner. "We were backed up and we needed a big play. Mark threw a perfect ball. It's easy to make plays when you get the ball right where you want it."
Forcucci passed for 189 yards and three scores on just nine attempts, but the win was not secured until the defense stopped Palmer on the late PAT run. Palmer ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns, carrying a heavier load after starting tailback Damarain Elliston got nicked early and had just three carries on the night.
It was the second straight gut-wrenching loss for the Panthers, who also lost 21-20 last week to Batavia.
"This was too similar to last week," Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens said. "I told our kids it was a darn good game. Nevertheless, to lose like that two weeks in a row stings."
Panthers quarterback Justin Bland passed for 197 yards including a 19-yard scoring pass to Joshua Applewhite. Wheaton North tailback Brayton Maske ran for 46 yards before suffering an injury in the third quarter.