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Gahgan's number is up as Grant tops Mundelein
By Patricia Babcock McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/2/2010 9:13 PM

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Changing jerseys didn't change a thing about the way David Gahgan plays.

The Grant senior lineman, who plays both offense and defense, is usually No. 54. But he left that jersey at home on Saturday because his coaches told him prior to the Bulldogs' homecoming game against Mundelein that they would also need his help at tight end and he would need to wear a number that would allow him to be considered an eligible receiver.

He chose No. 84.

But during the course of the game, Gahgan's coaches wanted to make another change. They told him they needed him back on the line, so the equipment bag was summoned.

Gahgan needed to change into yet another jersey, with a number more suitable for a lineman.

"Since my (No. 54) jersey was at home, they gave me another jersey," Gahgan said. "That's when I got No. 66."

No. 66 worked out just as well as No. 84, which was the number Gahgan was wearing when he recovered a Mundelein fumble and picked off a Mundelein pass in the first half.

As No. 66, Gahgan came up with a game-changing play in the final minute of the fourth quarter that helped Grant ice a 21-16 North Suburban Conference crossover victory against the visiting Mustangs.

"(Gahgan) is like our utility infielder," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "He can play anywhere and make big plays."

Gahgan saved his best big play for last.

Mundelein got the ball back at the Grant 48-yard line with 1:04 remaining and could have won the game with a touchdown.

But on the Mustangs' first play of the series, Gahgan and his No. 66 jersey busted through the line and sacked quarterback Gable Leppert for an 8-yard loss.

"I just got off the ball before they did," Gahgan said. "We just came out and dominated them on that last series."

Fired up, the Grant defense surged again two plays later and junior lineman Charles Williams registered a sack of Leppert that all but iced the game for the Bulldogs.

The victory pulls Grant to .500 on the season at 3-3 overall. The Bulldogs have won three of their last four games.

Mundelein, meanwhile, drops to 0-6.

"A win is a win. It was ugly out there sometimes," said Rous, alluding to the fact that the game was scoreless at halftime and each team had multiple turnovers. "But we did more good than bad things.

"I tip my hat to Mundelein. They're a good team. I wouldn't want to play them week in and week out. They had us on the ropes. We just made a few more plays at the end than they did."

Grant and Mundelein traded touchdowns within the first three minutes of the fourth quarter a 53-yard run by Grant's Steven Niewiedzial (game-high 196 rushing yards on 24 carries) and a 95-yard return for a touchdown by Mundelein's L.D. Frison on the ensuing kickoff.

That resulted in a tie game (14-14) with 9:12 left.

But as soon as Grant got the ball back, quarterback Alex Villa, who is filling in for injured starter Leo Minne, popped a 69-yard run for a touchdown to put Grant up 21-14.

"I think both sides showed a lot of resilience," Mundelein coach Bob Stone said. "We scored, they came back and scored. They scored, we scored. We just ran out of time."

After a few futile series by both teams, Grant got the ball back again when Quinn Watters intercepted a Leppert pass with 2:20 left.

But the interception occurred deep in Grant territory, so the offense was forced to start the next series on the 12-yard line.

The Bulldogs were pushed back even further, eventually all the way back to the 1-yard line, after a couple of penalties and a quarterback sack by the Mundelein defense.

But instead of punting out of its own end zone on fourth down, Grant elected to take a safety and hope that its defense could stop Mundelein in the final minute.

"We played the percentages because if they had blocked the punt, it would have been a touchdown (and a tie game again)," Rous said. "We knew that if we stopped them, the clock was going to run out. It worked out."

So did Villa, who rolled up 101 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in his first varsity start.

"I was just anxious to lead us to a win," Villa said. "I was well-prepared by my coaches. Last week, when (Minne) went down (with an ankle injury against Wauconda), I was pretty nervous to step in. But I'm glad I stepped it up and came back out today to lead us to a win."