Buffalo Grove nips Hersey to tie for MSL East title
The similarities were striking heading in to the final game of the regular season.
Both Hersey and Buffalo Grove came into Friday night's contest at Grant Blaney Stadium with 7-1 overall records, 3-1 in the Mid-Suburban East; each team had suffered their only loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion to Prospect; and both squads knew that there was a possibility to share the division championship if the Knights lost.
Not to mention a probable higher seeding in the upcoming playoffs.
And with all that at stake, it was the host Bison -- and especially their defense, led by senior Johnny Perot -- that came up with a huge effort.
BG forced 5 turnovers in the second half to defeat the Huskies 21-20, and the Bison did wind up sharing the MSL East title as Rolling Meadows defeated Prospect Friday.
"Our team is just so gritty," said Bison coach Jeff Vlk, "and our defense is relentless. They practice like that too, and then they come out and play the way they practice."
Hersey took a lead into the third quarter when 2 Bison defensive touchdowns turned the tide.
"Turnovers is the name of the game," said Hersey coach Joe Pardun. "We know that and we talk about it every day. That helped us in the first half and hurt us in the second half, but that's football."
Hersey scored 2 touchdowns in the final 33 seconds of the second quarter to take a 14-8 lead into halftime, the second score coming on a 22-yard TD pass from Jimmy Makuh to Dylan Carlquist after a Huskies fumble recovery.
And during the intermission, Vlk talked to his team about staying the course.
"Anytime BG plays Hersey, you've got to ride the wave," said Vlk. "There's ups and downs all game. I talked to the guys about coming out in the second half and controlling the ball as best we could, and try to create some turnovers too. That's what we did."
Hersey moved the ball in the third quarter and drove to the Bison 3-yard line, poised to add to their lead.
Then the Huskies fumbled the ball, and BG senior Dominick Marrazzo scooped it up and ran untouched 97 yards for a score.
And on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Bison linebacker George Shiakallis intercepted a Makuh pass and returned it for another score to give BG a 21-14 advantage.
"We got an all-around effort tonight from a lot of guys who play on both sides of the football," said Vlk, "and those guys made some of the biggest plays of the game."
Hersey scored in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Makuh to bring the Huskies to within 1 point, but BG stopped the Huskies on a 2-point conversion attempt to hold on to the lead.
The Huskies twice more took the ball into BG territory but 2 more INT's and a lost fumble killed the Hersey chances.
Michael Cervantes, BG's quarterback, got the final interception from his defensive back position with a minute left in the game to seal the win.
"Any time you play Hersey, a cross-town rival, it's something the guys really take seriously," said Vlk. "We were in the playoffs but a lot was up for grabs as far as seeding, and our kids really stepped up."
QB Makuh finished with 343 yards through the air for the Huskies.
"We've done a great job (regarding not turning over the ball) all season," said Pardun. "It's what we teach and what we preach, but tonight those turnovers were game changers."