Victory had long been secured.
But Vernon Hills fans were acting as if it was hanging dangerously in the balance in the waning seconds of Friday's homecoming game against visiting Antioch.
They were screaming. They were stomping. They were hootin' and hollerin', trying to rally their team, and more specifically the defense.
Antioch had frantically driven the ball nearly 70 yards down to the 1-yard line and still had three chances to punch in a score with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Play one....strike one.
More screaming and stomping by the Vernon Hills fans.
Play two...strike two.
More hootin' and hollerin'.
Play three...strike three.
It was a spectacular series of goal-line stands by the Cougars' defense. And it was their second-string defense, no less.
The stops not only sealed victory, they sealed a 34-0 victory, which keeps Vernon Hills' amazing streak of shutouts alive.
That's why Vernon Hills fans were cheering so hard and so passionately when victory was already in the bag. They wanted the Cougars to get that fifth shutout.
That's now five shutouts in five games for 5-0 Vernon Hills, which has out-scored its opponents 242-0 so far this season.
"I hope it doesn't ever get any closer than that," Vernon Hills defensive back MJ Crowley said of the near-surrender of the shutout streak. A second-stringer, Crowley came up with one of the huge goal-line stops when he busted through the line on second down and dropped Antioch running back Vinnie Holm for a loss.
"We just have a lot of intensity out there on defense," Crowley said. "We don't want anyone to beat us on any play. We've got a lot of heart on 'D.' We're just not going to let anyone get into the end zone. I thought (the coaches) might put our starters back in, but they let us stay in and we did what we needed to do. It was fun."
Beating Antioch was an added bonus for the giddy Cougars, who were up 20-0 by halftime.
Entering the game, Vernon Hills and Antioch were the only undefeated teams left in the North Suburban Prairie Division. Now, the Cougars (3-0 Prairie) are in the driver's seat in the race for the division crown. It would be their second straight championship.
Antioch, meanwhile, drops to 4-1 overall, 2-1 in the Prairie and into second place.
"We got our butts kicked," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "They're just really, really good. This is probably the worst defeat we've had since I've been here (four years)."
Not only did the Vernon Hills defense get the shutout, it completely shut down an Antioch offense that has been averaging 42.3 points per game and running over defenses with an explosive rushing game.
Against the Vernon Hills defense, Antioch managed just 110 rushing yards.
"We had a lot of mental mistakes," said Antioch quarterback Tom Sears, who completed five passes to quickly move the Sequoits down the field on that last possession. "We didn't play to our fullest, and for most of the game, when we really need to, we couldn't move the ball on them."
The Vernon Hills offense couldn't relate. It dominated Antioch just like the defense did.
The Cougars rolled up 321 total yards and were sparked by the running of 5-foot-7 spark plug Marcus Bradford. Bradford had 7 carries for 120 yards and 2 long touchdown runs of 57 and 36 yards.
"Our defense puts us in good situations and we just try to capitalize off that," Bradford said. "There were some great kick-out blocks tonight. I just tried to find the holes and sprint to the end zone."
DaVaris Daniels, who is rated the No. 1 receiver in the nation by various recruiting services, also found the end zone twice. He scored on a 10-yard run and on a 20-yard pass thrown by quarterback Chris Argianas.
Brian Palmer (16 carries, 71 yards) rounded out Vernon Hills' scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Meanwhile, Evan Spencer, the Cougars' other highly touted receiver and an Ohio State recruit, didn't score but did make some spectacular plays on the night.
"Something we talk about is 'Choose your poison,'" Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken said. "If you try to take Daniels and Spencer out, which is what I think they tried to do tonight, then you've got to deal with Bradford and Palmer."