Who wants to make the playoffs out of the Mid-Suburban East?
Count Prospect in as it kept its hopes alive by rallying Friday night for an 18-13 homecoming win over a Rolling Meadows team equally in need of a playoff-clinching victory.
"Words can't describe the feeling," said Prospect (4-4, 3-1) quarterback Sam Frasco after he scored the game-winning TD from 1 yard with 43 seconds left, capping a near-climactic 89-yard drive.
The key word was near.
Meadows (5-3, 2-2) quarterback Jack Milas somehow rallied his team to the Prospect 20 with 3.2 seconds left, mostly on passes to sure-handed Artie Checchin (9 catches, 144 yards, 1 TD). But with Prospect bringing the same heat it delivered all night, Milas' pass on the run on the final play sailed over Checchin and Co. in the end zone as Prospect's student body stormed the field in celebration.
"We have a lot of faith in the defense," said Frasco after it delivered the final stand. But it was the offense he was pumped about after a prior drive stalled on a missed field goal after reaching the Meadows' 1.
"We were shocked," after not scoring there, he said. As was the case all night long, they got there on his legs (29 carries, 131 yards) and those of tailback Sam Mazukelli (29 for 132). But Meadows' David Sobkowicz, Raul Alba-Cortez and Bobby Rundlett turned them away.
Prospect played inspired, not only in the wake of its own must-win situation but in the limelight of celebrations of its terrific 1960 team in attendance and the 2001 state-championship team, also there.
"We have a team here that pretty much put Prospect on the map," coach Mike Sebestyen said of the 10th-anniversary state title team. His kids played hard "as a testament" to that legacy.
From the get-go. The Knights opened with a 64-yard, 10-play scoring drive on their first possession, all on the ground, Frasco scoring from the 2. He practically stole a score in the second quarter with a fourth-down, beautifully tossed 28-yard TD pass to 6-foot-4 Devin O'Hara.
Meadows, which could barely get the ball back from Prospect's ground-control offense (351 yards rushing), did manage quick-strike scores on Garrett Peterson's 49-yard dart up the middle in the second quarter and Milas' lengthy toss to Checchin, in stride, for a 70-yard score and 13-12 halftime lead.
"We matched their physicality," Checchin said. But, "Missed assignments (and) not executing," proved to be the difference, despite his big night.
Now a virtually must-win situation faces the Mustangs in the regular-season finale.
"We have everything left," in the tank, that is, to bring to the field next week in the season finale against Hersey. "It's going to be senior night. We'll be at our best.
"Credit my teammates," he said of the near-miss effort in defeat. "They did everything they were supposed to. I love those guys."
Head coach Matt Mishler, ever proud of his guys, saw 2 turnovers, both lost fumbles, as crucial, one costing a score inside Prospect's 10 and the other leading to a long Prospect possession that ate a lot of time.
"We can't afford to have any turnovers and we can't afford to have the ball taken away," he said. And eying next week, "I don't want to rely on points," to make the playoffs. He'd rather register a win.
Prospect has to at Buffalo Grove.
"We're fighting for our lives and [we] know it," said Sebestyen. "This was a playoff game."
"We've just got to keep this rolling," said Frasco.