The last must-win situation faced by Wheaton Warrenville South's football team came in last season's Class 7A state title game.
While Friday's DuPage Valley Conference matchup against visiting Naperville Central didn't have near the same importance, it had a familiar sense of urgency.
The Tigers, like they did 10 months ago in Champaign, came through in the clutch by edging Naperville Central 14-7.
By knocking off the Redhawks (3-2, 2-1), WW South (2-3, 2-1) suddenly finds itself back in the DVC race.
"The world's been telling us that we're not as good as past years, but we know in our hearts that we're good," said Tigers defensive lineman Jack Lipinsky. "Just a couple plays have been keeping us from those wins. We've definitely got the heart for it, and today we brought the execution."
Ryan Graham's 14-yard touchdown pass to Brady Banda opened the Tigers' scoring in the first quarter and then Dan Vitale, who rushed for 181 yards on 20 carries, broke free for an 81-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to make it 14-0.
WW South leaned on its defense throughout the game, limiting Naperville Central's Matt Randolph to 57 rushing yards and sacking quarterback Ian Lewandowski four times.
"They won the battle of the trenches," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "Their defensive front was better than our offensive front today."
Naperville Central moved the ball better in the second half, finally denting the scoreboard on Lewandowski's 5-yard touchdown run right after Vitale scored.
The teams traded four punts before WW South got the ball with 2:13 left in the game and ran out the clock.
"Especially after that last loss against Naperville North, that one really stung inside of us," Vitale said. "We really knew that we needed to come back."
The Tigers, who committed five turnovers in last week's loss, overcame Friday's mistakes. Their one fumble was negated when the defense forced a Naperville Central fumble, a turnover that led to Graham's touchdown pass.
"We needed to prove to ourselves that we could win a game, and we needed to prove to ourselves that we could take on a good opponent and beat them," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch.