In practice they call Mike Shelton the "scoop and score guy."
It can't possibly work this well in practice, can it?
Shelton scooped up Zach Kyllonen's blocked field goal and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the game, giving Wheaton Warrenville South a stunning 13-7 win over Glenbard North on Friday night in Carol Stream.
"I just got the nice bounce, picked it up," Shelton said, "and there was no one there in front of me. That's my job the scoop and score guy."
Glenbard North, seeking to beat WW South for the first time since 2003, lined up for a 38-yard field goal with seconds left. It hooked just wide left. But the Panthers seemed to be given new life when WW South was whistled for roughing kicker Trevor Hackett.
WW South burned a second timeout to ice the kicker, building tension to the final play.
Kyllonen burrowed in from the left side, smothering Hackett's kick. It bounced right to the speedy Shelton, who went untouched to the end zone.
"We've only done it once or twice successfully in practice," Shelton said, "where Kyllonen's blocked it and it's gone up in the air. I'm on the far right and he came off the left and blocked it. I got the hop."
Kyllonen said WW South does at least 12 reps blocking field goals every Wednesday practice, giving an assist to coach Matt Sinclair for teaching its nuances.
"Coach tells me to take my flat angle, go to the ball, don't slow down just accelerate through," Kyllonen said. "It's a great play."
It should come as no surprise that WW South and Glenbard North came down to kicks.
In 2004 the Tigers beat Glenbard North 6-3. Three years ago WW South's Nick Immekus booted a 46-yard field goal to edge the Panthers 16-14. WW South itself had one field goal hook wide left in the first half Friday and a second blocked.
"Every time we play up here it's a field goal," WW South coach Ron Muhitch said. "My first year as a head football coach we lost on a blocked punt. The kicking game at Glenbard North on this field, it's disastrous. I knew a field goal was going to win this game."
It was also a critical win for the Tigers (4-3, 4-1 DuPage Valley Conference). Their third straight keeps them a game behind Wheaton North in the DVC race, and all but ensures WW South its ninth straight playoff bid.
"I'll take any win, however we get it," Shelton said.
Defense dominated an at times sloppy, penalty-filled slugfest.
Glenbard North (5-2, 3-2) went ahead 7-0 with 1:48 left in the first quarter, Justin Jackson taking a Brian Murphy screen pass for a 12-yard touchdown to cap an 80-yard drive. WW South answered with a 55-yard drive, Dan Vitale scoring from a yard out.
Vitale, who ran for 53 yards on 16 carries, later left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury and didn't return.
Otherwise the two teams combined for 5 turnovers 4 of them interceptions. Glenbard North's Alex Mendez intercepted a WW South pass in the end zone in the first half, and Nicholas Maxwell stepped in front of a pass with 1:10 left in the game to set up the Panthers' final fateful drive. That was after WW South's Brandon Peterson picked off a pass that at the time had the Tigers poised to take in a go-ahead score.
Glenbard North was also hurt by 100 yards in penalties.
"We were in position to win. We just did not execute on that one play at the end," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "There were many opportunities we had. Our kids have tonight to think about it and then tomorrow we have to get ready for Wheaton North."
Phil Jackson gained 120 yards on 24 carries and Murphy was 13 of 29 for 148 yards for Glenbard North. Thaddeus Armstrong was 12 of 21 for 126 yards for WW South.