ALGONQUIN – There was only one problem for Cary-Grove after running back Zach McQuade raced for a 55-yard, go-ahead touchdown late in regulation.
Jacobs quarterback Bret Mooney still had 1:04 remaining on the clock to work his last-minute magic act ... again.
“That was way more than enough time,” receiver Nick Gierlak said of the Golden Eagles’ final drive. “If we play 48 minutes, anything can happen.”
That was not just lip service. Jacobs truly believes it after its back-to-back amazing finishes.
Mooney led the Eagles 58 yards, firing a 15-yard pass while falling down to Gierlak in the end zone with 2.2 seconds remaining. Jacobs coach Bill Mitz did not hesitate after the score, opting to go for the two-point conversion.
Mooney scrambled to buy himself time and room before lofting a pass to Gierlak for the game-winner in a 36-35 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division game Friday night at Jacobs Athletic Field.
“I just kept moving and saw Bret,” Gierlak said. “It was a perfect throw.”
Jacobs (5-2 overall, 4-0 FVC Valley) takes the lead with two division games remaining. C-G (4-3, 4-1) will need help for a share of the championship.
The Eagles moved to the 15, but had used its last timeout and faced third-and-10. A Trojans defender had tripped Mooney as he was about to throw, but Mooney still drilled the pass to Gierlak.
“Nick made a great play,” said Mooney, who was 16 for 26 for 205 yards and threw two touchdown passes. “On the two-point conversion, I thought I was going to run it in, then I saw him come open. You can’t get used to winning like this. This was awesome for our team.”
Mooney ran for 26 yards, then lateralled to running back Josh Walker last week as the Eagles scored on the final play to beat Crystal Lake South, 26-20. Walker raced the final 30 yards for the touchdown after time had expired in that game.
“[Mooney] is a great athlete making great plays for us,” Mitz said. “I told our kids (before the last possession) we’ll get good field position because they don’t kick deep. Lo and behold, it worked out.”
C-G sacked Mooney five times and picked him off once in the second half, yet the Eagles still were able to rally and take a crucial step toward their first FVC title since sharing the conference championship with Crystal Lake Central in 1979.
“[Mooney’s] an athlete and he’ll make plays,” Trojans linebacker Matt Hughes said. “We’d been playing good defense the whole game, we just needed to play a little better. These are a little nerve-racking, but they’re the best type of games. It was a good atmosphere. You could see the will of everyone out there.”
Fullback Tyler Pennington ran 18 times for 126 yards and McQuade, who missed the first five games of the season with a broken collarbone, ran 10 times for 112 yards.
McQuade took a pitch around the left end and was sprung loose by blocks from Matt Sutherland and Jimmy Freskos on the outside for a 55-yard touchdown with 1:08 to go.
“We stopped them on second down and we just couldn’t wrap [Mooney] up on third down,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. “We made a lot of great plays. It was a great battle between two great teams.”