CARPENTERSVILLE – Looking to run out the clock Friday night, Dundee-Crown coach Mike Steinhaus put the game in quarterback Josh Raby’s hands against Crystal Lake South.
“We’ve got players that we trust that can make plays in those situations,” Steinhaus said.
Facing third-and-7 and leading by two with 1:20 left, Raby took the snap and rolled to his right before finding wide receiver Jack Michalski for a 10-yard gain.
The first down brought a loud roar from Dundee-Crown’s homecoming crowd and sealed a critical 22-20 Fox Valley Conference win for the Chargers.
After losing three straight, the win put D-C (3-3, 2-3) firmly back into postseason contention. The Chargers haven’t made the playoffs since 2013, which also is the last season in which they won more than two games.
“I’m happy for the kids,” Steinhaus said. “It’s tough at Dundee-Crown, and I don’t think people really understand that unless you’re here. It’s nice to have the kids feel this type of winning atmosphere.
“We talked about wanting to play meaningful football at this time. We haven’t done that in a lot of years. … This experience is really what it’s all about for these kids.”
The Chargers trailed, 20-10, entering the fourth quarter and managed only one first down against South’s defense in the third quarter.
Then, finally, running back Ricky Ibarra broke free down the left sideline for a 72-yard gain to set up Ryan Lascano’s 4-yard touchdown run that cut South’s lead to 20-17 with 10:38 left.
D-C’s defense, which allowed 156 points during the three-game skid, then pushed South’s offense into a three-and-out. Forced to punt, the snap sailed over Ian Gorken’s head and into the end zone, where he fell on the football for a D-C safety.
Ibarra, who finished with 141 yards rushing and 70 more through the air, then took a screen pass 30 yards to set up Christian Alamillo’s go-ahead 21-yard field goal with 4:18 left.
The Chargers had opened the scoring with a 70-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Raby to Alex Lopez early in the second quarter. Ibarra said the game plan was to get D-C’s weapons in space against South’s defense.
“[South] was playing off, and we felt like we had a lot of room,” Ibarra said. “Our linemen were great setting up blocks tonight. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
A week after dominating Huntley, 48-7, South couldn’t get out of its own way. The Gators (3-3, 3-2) had three drives end with fumbles, including one in the red zone during the first quarter and the last coming on South’s final possession.
The Gators also dropped two touchdowns in the second half when going for it on fourth-and-goal.
“Dundee-Crown came in with a good game plan and took a lot of clock away from us,” South coach Rob Fontana said. “They made plays when they needed to, and we didn’t execute.”
South running back Zach Borgert turned in another big game, rushing for 187 yards and two TDs on 31 carries. Gorken completed 6 of 11 passes for 113 yards, including a 46-yard TD pass to Michael Helm (five catches, 95 yards).
D-C’s Raby finished 14 of 23 for 192 yards, and Lopez had two receptions for 77 yards.