Hinsdale Central comeback stuns York
Sean Allison waved his arms to the side and gave an Hinsdale Central offensive lineman a bear hug.
As the air was let out of the balloon at a silenced Clarence D. East Field at York, only Allison and the Red Devils were left to celebrate a moment that seemed meant for the home team for much of the night.
Allison's 4-yard touchdown run -- set up by a critical Joe Boggs interception return -- was the capper on Hinsdale Central's stunning fourth-quarter comeback Friday. The Red Devils scored three touchdowns to rally from 16 points down and hand York its first loss 27-23 in a matchup of West Suburban Silver leaders.
Stunning yes, but not to Allison.
Adversity like a late deficit is nothing to a group that almost lost its program to a referendum, lost a head coach and lost a fall season just in the last three years.
"We're used to it, it's nothing new," said Allison, a senior linebacker who is also getting time on offense this season. "We flipped the page in the second half got it done. Adversity is like the back of our hand."
The Red Devils' defense shut out York (6-1, 4-1) after its first drive of the second half, and rose to the occasion with the game's biggest play late.
With York facing a third-and-5 at its 41 nursing a 23-20 lead and 2:30 left, Boggs stepped in front of a pass from quarterback Matt Vezza on an in route.
He rumbled all the way to the 4-yard line, and two plays later Allison took in the score for Hinsdale Central's first lead since the second quarter.
"Everyone was doing their keys, I saw Allison call the in route and I'm right there looking at him, turn my head, go to hit the guy and the ball came right to me and I just took off," Boggs said. "It was crazy. We knew we weren't out of it, two-possession game, we were coming back."
It was a tough turn of events for an otherwise marvelous performance by Vezza in the clutch. He kept plays alive with his feet to complete a number of big third-down throws in York's three scoring drives.
Vezza, 15 for 31 for 249 yards, earlier completed a 39-yard pass to Kal Harris on third-and-18 to set up his 28-yard TD to Kelly Watson for a 9-7 lead with 8:02 left in the second quarter. He completed a 26-yarder to Jack Wagner on third down that led to his 8-yard TD pass to Anthony Menolascino for a 16-7 halftime lead, and found Charlie Specht for 62 yards on third down that led to Vezza's 2-yard TD that made it 23-7.
"We were obviously trying to milk as much clock as possible there at the end and we just kind of hit a lull and that probably got us out of rhythm," York coach Mike Fitzgerald said. "We have to do a better job in that situation taking care of the football and that starts with me."
Hinsdale Central (6-1, 4-0) scored on its opening drive of the game, a Nicholas Fahy 1-yard TD run but was shut out over the next two quarters by a York defense that had allowed just 34 points coming in. The Red Devils missed a 32-yard field goal at the end of the half and were stuffed on fourth down inside the 10 late in the third quarter.
But they came alive late, closing to within 23-13 on Thomas Skokna's 1-yard TD run with 9:23 left, Allison converting a key fourth down on the drive. York went three-and-out, and Hinsdale Central went 82 yards in 12 plays, Billy Cernugel's 20-yard TD pass to Carter Contreras making it 23-20 with 4:03 left.
Cernugel, 7 for 9 on the drive with two third-down conversions, was 16 for 25 for 212 yards for the game. Contreras caught seven passes for 109 yards and Skokna six for 82.
"That is one (heck) of a football team that we beat. They had shut everybody out, and their defense is incredible," Red Devils coach Brian Griffin said. "We kept telling our kids to keep believing in each other, next guy up. It's not just one kid."
It was a crushing loss for York, coming off its first win over Glenbard West since 2007 and off to its best start since 2010, and playing in front of a packed house.
"I thought we had control of the tempo of the game and then we just hit a lull and they're a good football team," Fitzgerald said. "Sometimes a loss can be the best thing for you. It invigorates you."