Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing words can't even begin to describe the way St. Charles North's football lost Friday night's nonconference game to Plainfield Central.
Clinging to a 21-20 lead, the North Stars (0-2) were forced to punt from their own 8-yard line with 5.2 seconds remaining after taking 3 successive kneel-downs and a delay of game penalty.
With punter Shawn Collins standing in the middle of the end zone, hard-charging Wildcats lineman Bryce Douglas broke through the line and blocked the kick, and teammate Mike Farr pounced on the loose ball as the buzzer sounded, giving the visiting Wildcats (2-0) an improbable 26-21 victory.
"I just gave it my all," said the 6-2, 290-pound Douglas who coincidentally served as the Wildcats' punter. "I got that block and we took it to the end zone and won that game."
It certainly wasn't what Collins envisioned as he took the field for what was supposed to be a punt that would knock off the remaining time left on the clock and even the North Stars' record.
"All I was thinking about was just getting it off and trying to let it roll for five seconds," said Collins, whose deflection of a fourth-down pass from Wildcats quarterback Tim Blake fell into the arms of senior teammate Corbin Burke for an interception with 45.7 seconds left.
"You know they're going to bring pressure and I was trying to get rid of quick," Collins added. "I just wanted to catch it and get rid of it."
Burke's interception was ruled as a touchback, and the North Stars had the ball at their own 20. Three kneel-downs later, they were forced to punt on the game's final play.
"We contemplated do we run on first down are we going to eat up enough time that way?" said North Stars coach Mark Gould. "You look back and think if we had run on first down, maybe we would've eaten up those five seconds. I don't know. It's one that we'll be losing sleep over, I'm sure."
Despite being out-gained 358-155 through 3 quarters, the North Stars found themselves tied at 14-all, thanks in part to senior linebacker Brent Battle's late first-quarter strip of Jordan Ellingwood (20 carries, 133 yards) and 88-yard TD return.
Plainfield Central took its first lead of the night with 6:42 remaining on Gino Giarratano's 4-yard touchdown run. But the point-after kick was no good, giving the North Stars another chance, trailing 20-14.
Nearly three minutes later, St. Charles North went back on top, 21-20, after Collin Peterson's 2-yard TD toss to Oshay Hodges and Michael Schroeder's PAT kick with 3:19 remaining.
Peterson's 53-yard pass completion to Ben Kaplan helped set up the scoring pass to Hodges.
"That's about all we had in the second half," said Gould. "We really didn't do too much (offensively) in the second half."
The wacky finish capped a night that saw three Wildcat tailbacks Ellingwood, Giarratano (13 carries, 143 yards), and Tyler Erdman (12 carries, 102 yards) all surpass the 100-yard mark.
"That's the weirdest game I've ever been involved with," said Wildcats coach John Jackson. "In 38 years of playing and coaching, I've never seen anything like that."