ELK GROVE VILLAGE – One miraculous minute of football by St. Charles North Saturday afternoon at Haskell Stadium was not enough to offset 48-plus minutes with too many mistakes.
Elk Grove ruined the season opener for the North Stars and new coach Rob Pomazak by pulling out a 23-22 victory after North scored two touchdowns in the final 46 seconds of regulation to tie the game at 16. On a day when North had so many penalties and turnovers that players and coaches alike had trouble keeping track of them all, a botched extra-point attempt in overtime decided the outcome.
“We just didn’t play well enough to win the game,” Pomazak said. “That’s a team we should beat, but I think we had over 17 penalties … maybe more. It’s hard to win a football game that way.”
The plethora of penalties also was on the mind of senior linebacker Reece Conroyd after the loss.
“A lot of mistakes today,” he said. “We didn’t really lose this game in the overtime. We had over 20 penalties and over 100 yards in penalty yards. You can’t have that in a first game. Four or five turnovers – you can’t have that. That’s a recipe for a loss.”
For the record, North was penalized 15 times for 145 yards, although there were also several other penalties that were declined by the Grenadiers. The North Stars also were guilty of five turnovers on interceptions thrown by senior quarterback Erik Miller.
Miller, however, came up big in the clutch, hitting Garrett Johnson for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter and throwing a 17-yard scoring pass to Nate Newbill on third down in overtime to give the North Stars a 22-16 lead. But North never got the ensuing extra-point try off the ground.
“It was a bad snap on the PAT and we weren’t able to get a ‘fire’ call off,” Pomazak said. “We need to be in that situation and be able to execute appropriately. I think the moment might have got too big for us and we weren’t able to execute. And then on the back end on defense there was an opportunity for us to make a nice stop and for our defense to stay strong and overcome that lack of PAT.”
Instead, Elk Grove senior QB Adam O’Malley tied the game with a 4-yard pass to Matthew Wary and Travon Royal booted the point after to finally end a game that the Grenadiers had dominated for more than three quarters.
“I feel like we beat them for almost the whole game and then we nearly gave it back to them,” Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. “In my opinion, there should be a zero up there for St. Charles North.”
The North Stars, held to just 45 yards of offense in the first half, trailed 16-0 and looked lifeless until Conroyd forced O’Malley to fumble the ball at the Elk Grove 47 with 2:47 left in the game.
“I knew they were going to run the read-option because they were trying to run the clock out,” Conroyd said. “I was expecting the quarterback to pull it. He likes to pull it. I just went for right under his chin and hit him hard enough for him to lose the ball and reach over and recover it. That’s what we needed. We needed something like that or else we were going to be dead.”
Miller capped the following short scoring drive with a 4-yard run and Evan Kurtz (17 rushes, 71 yards) bulled his way into the end zone on the conversion to cut the deficit to 16-8 with 46 seconds left.
North senior Cameron Mackenzie came out of the scrum with the football on the ensuing onside kick, setting the stage for Miller’s scoring toss over the middle to the 6-5 Johnson, who went high to snag the ball and beat double coverage. Kurtz lunged into the end zone on the two-point conversion, sending the North sidelines into joyous delirium that was short-lived.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t play our best football,” said Pomazak, who was the defensive coordinator at Elk Grove before replacing Mark Gould at North. “I would rather lose by 10 and play a great game than lose by one in overtime and play a halfway-decent game.”
ELK GROVE 23, ST. CHARLES NORTH 22 OT
SCN 0 0 0 16 6 - 22
Elk Grove 7 3 6 0 7 - 23
HOW THEY SCORED
EG - Bishoff 7 pass from O’Malley (Royal kick), 3:53
EG - Royal 22 FG, 7:32
EG - O’Malley 16 run (kick failed), 3:35
SCN - Miller 4 run (Kurtz run), :46
SCN - Johnson 31 pass from Miller (Kurtz run), :03
SCN - Newbill 17 pass from Miller (kick failed)
EG - Wary 4 pass from O’Malley (Royal kick)
RUSHING - St. Charles North: Miller 18-41, Kurtz 17-71, Didier 1-4. Totals: 36-116. Elk Grove: Royal 13-51, Wary 1-4, O’Malley 16-36. Totals: 30-91.
PASSING - St. Charles North: Miller 12-27-5-113, Didier 0-2-0-0. Elk Grove: O’Malley 17-30-1-182.
RECEIVING - St. Charles North: Edlund 2-5, LeGare 1-5, Johnson 6-62, Donlevy 1-6, Newbill 2-35. Elk Grove: Bishoff 5-67, Pass 2-48, Wary 5-27, Royal 3-31, Lahtinen 2-9.