Ramirez kicks Glenbard North past Warren in final minute
His hands were sweaty and his nerves kept him from looking up at the football that he just booted, but Glenbard North junior kicker Juan Ramirez knew his 43-yard field goal in the final minute of Saturday night's game was good once he heard the home crowd erupt.
The Panthers kicker, who earlier in this Class 8A playoff second-round contest had a field-goal attempt blocked by Warren, nailed the personal-best 43-yard kick to break a tie with 24.5 seconds left. The 10-7 victory sends the 8-3 Panthers into the state quarterfinals next week against Lockport.
"When they made the block, I still had faith that if I can't make this one I'll make the next one," said Ramirez, who cleared the crossbar with plenty of distance on his memorable kick. "I was nervous, but it came down to looking at everything you work for and thinking about the team and how hard they work."
Both teams worked hard and both defenses shined. Glenbard North managed its only touchdown on a 1-yard touchdown run by Sam Palmer in the second quarter. The score stayed 7-0 for much of the night until Warren (9-2) finally broke through on the Panthers defense to draw even at 7-7 with 2:34 left to play.
The Blue Devils used a 49-yard pass from Aidan Lucera to Jailen Duffie to set up Maurice Edwards' 1-yard run that knotted the score at 7-7. Edwards, a tough runner headed to Vanderbilt, managed 67 yards on 21 carries against the Glenbard North defense.
Warren even then forced a quick punt and got the ball back with a chance to win, but the relentless Panthers defense got a huge play that led to the winning field goal. Linebacker Colin Gudella and lineman Max Eick combined on a strip sack, and the Panthers recovered the fumble with 1:36 left to play.
On the next play quarterback Justin Bland slipped but managed to stay on his feet and toss a 12-yard pass to Shea Gaffney that put the ball at the Blue Devils 35. Bland connected with Gaffney again for 12 more yards, but a false start placed the ball at the 26-yard line. That's when Ramirez trotted out to attempt the long kick into a breeze.
"I was nervous, my hands were sweating, but at the end of the day I try to look at it like a regular field goal. I felt good (when I struck the ball), but I didn't lift my head up until I heard the crowd roar."
Warren coach Bryan McNulty could only tip his hat to a Panthers team that seemed to make just enough big plays.
"That's one of those things that literally when it's their night things were just going their way," he said. "They just made plays. I don't want to take anything from that team. They're hard-nosed and they deserve to go to the quarterfinals."
McNulty will miss the likes of Edwards and several other talented seniors from a program that was second in the state in 2019 and then dealt with the COVID-19-shortened season last spring.
"We've got some great players that we're just going to miss," he said. "We're going to miss these seniors."