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Grant posts wild win over Wauconda
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/17/2011 11:34 AM

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Someone on the Grant coaching staff deserves some sort of "genius of the week award."

Grant decided to mix things up offensively before facing Wauconda, switching junior Kyle Whitman to fullback and moving sophomore Jonathon Wells to the wing.

All Whitman did was run for an astonishing 342 yards on 25 carries. He also set up Alex Villa's 10-yard touchdown with seven seconds left that gave visiting Grant a 44-41 victory in a contest that was as dramatic as it was high-scoring. Grant trailed 34-14 at halftime.

"I'd love to take credit for that. That was (assistant) coach (Jim) Cramer," said Grant head coach Kurt Rous. "We made that switch on Monday. We knew Kyle's a tough kid and we just needed to get him the ball a little more. He's a heck of an athlete. He also stepped in on defense for the first time this season."

Wauconda quarterback Branden Rowe was equally amazing. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 351 yards and 4 touchdowns, while running for his team's other two scores.

Rowe was nearly in perfect sync with top receivers Austin Piekarski (6 catches, 153 yards) and Jake Ziolkowski (7 for 113 yards).

Rowe's 22-yard touchdown pass to Ziolkowski sent Wauconda ahead 41-28 with 9:41 left. But Grant went 60 yards in just two plays and Whitman scored on a 33-yard run just 26 seconds later to pull within 5 points with a 2-point conversion.

Grant turned the ball over on downs at its own 26 with 2:37 remaining, but got another chance when Quinton Quarles' pass rush forced an intentional grounding call.

So Grant took over at its own 42-yard line with 1:25 left, but its first play went for a 1-yard loss. After a motion penalty, the visitors were back to the 36-yard line with just 30 seconds on the clock.

Fortunately for Grant, Whitman had more left in the tank. He ran right for 20 yards, left for 32, then up the middle for a short gain. Grant reached the 10-yard line and used its last time out with 13 seconds left.

The visiting Bulldogs decided to stick with the run. Villa kept it on the option and hit the right corner of the end zone with a touchdown that sent one sideline into jubilation and the other into shocking disbelief.

"We practice it all the time, two-minute drill," Whitman said calmly. "The line played amazing. Give all the credit to the line. It all started at halftime. The seniors did a great job leading the team, telling us we had to pick it up."

Wauconda jumped to a quick 13-0 lead when Rowe connected with Piekarski for a 51-yard pass. Whitman had touchdown runs of 37 and 51 yards to give Grant a brief lead.

But Rowe couldn't be stopped. He found Ziolkowski for a touchdown, ran for another, then hit Blake Wisniewski for a 5-yard score with 44 seconds left before halftime to make it 34-14. Grant scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter to get back into it.

It was quite a change offensively for Wauconda from last week's 17-14 loss to Round Lake.

"Homecoming week, Saturday afternoon game they just weren't focused and ready to play last week," coach Dave Mills said. "This week, they worked very, very hard and played well enough to win a game.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't run enough time off the clock; had a chance to make some tackles and we didn't do it. We had a chance to put more points on the board and missed a couple of assignments."