For a game that moved slowly for a half and practically overflowed with mistakes, Libertyville and Barrington managed to produce a classic ending.
Libertyville faced fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, trailing by 3 in overtime. Quarterback Hutch Herchenbach headed straight up the middle on a sneak and the decisive play turned into a rugby scrum.
Cross the goal line and Libertyville wins. Keep him out and Barrington wins barring a penalty, of course, which was always a strong possibility in this one.
Herchenbach didn't make it by much, but he made it, giving the host Wildcats an emotional 23-20 victory in their special camouflage jerseys.
"That one goes to the offensive line, that push," Herchenbach said. "I knew we'd get it. One yard, they can't stop us."
Libertyville tackle Brandon Stanfel didn't share his quarterback's confidence.
"I didn't even think we got in, to be honest with you," Stanfel said. "Crazy way to end the game. I got behind the quarterback and just pushed him."
Both teams had similar possessions in overtime. They went nowhere on first and second down, then completed a big pass on third down. Barrington's completion brought the ball to the 3-yard line, so coach Joe Sanchez sent kicker Daniel Kubiak for a chip-shot field goal that put the Broncos up by 3.
Herchenbach completed just 3 passes, but hit Justin Guarnaccio when it counted inside the 1-yard line.
"I felt confident the way we were moving the ball on the ground that we could get in from 6 inches out," said Wildcats coach Randy Kuceyeski, who is undergoing treatment for oral cancer. "Penalties hurt both teams and helped both teams. We needed a win in this program and we're going to cherish this one for a while."
Barrington tied the score with a near miracle. With no time outs remaining and 17 seconds on the clock, Broncos quarterback Mark Bennett tossed the ball deep into the corner of the end zone from the 22-yard line, where senior Dylan Zyzda somehow made a sliding catch while staying in bounds.
The extra point tied the score with 10 seconds remaining in regulation and capped a hectic 80-yard drive with Bennett completing 7 of 8 passes.
Libertyville grabbed the upper hand with 1:56 left when Joey Salata ran in from 4 yards out to break a 10-10 tie.
This drive began with the game's only turnover. Bennett hit Lee Conforti for a 12-yard gain inside Libertyville's 20-yard line. But the ball was jarred loose and recovered by the Wildcats Sam Styler, who thought it was Stephen Skul who made the big hit.
Four plays later, 5-foot-7 junior running back Brian Swift (11 carries, 127 yards) broke loose down the right side for a 44-yard gain, setting up Salata's go-ahead touchdown.
Barrington's Chase Murdock was brilliant on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 210 yards on 26 carries and made several big plays from the linebacker spot.
Murdock's 85-yard sprint was the first touchdown of the night at the 6:26 mark of the third quarter and gave the Broncos a 10-3 lead. Swift answered with a 53-yard run to set up Salata's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 10-10 late in the third quarter.
Barrington finished with 12 penalties for 104 yards, including a roughing the center call on a field goal that kept a Libertyville touchdown drive alive.
"I'm proud of our effort," Sanchez said. "When we were down 17-10, it would have been easy for us to cave in. If we're going to get that kind of effort every night and we clean up our side of the mistakes that came with tonight, we have a chance to be a good football team."