GURNEE – In hindsight, it was worth the wait.
Friday’s North Suburban Conference football tilt between Lake Forest and Warren was literally two seasons in the making. But now no one, after a frenetic barn burner that saw Warren pull out an 18-14 victory in the final seconds, is regretting having to show patience to watch it.
Just like last year, the Scouts and the Blue Devils are the top two teams in the NSC.
But last season, due to a COVID-abbreviated spring schedule, a Warren and Lake Forest game wasn’t even scheduled. The season was only six games and not every North Suburban Conference game happened.
When both teams finished with identical 6-0 records and were forced to share the league title without getting a shot to settle the score on the field, feathers were a bit, shall we say, ruffled.
All last season, all offseason, and all this season, the Fall of 2021 game between these two teams was circled on many calendars.
“Every single person playing on this field had been waiting for this game,” Warren running back Maurice Edwards said. “We put on a show.”
Both teams did, and that was pretty much expected.
Warren and Lake Forest were both 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the league heading into the game. They boast the No. 1 offense and defense and the No. 2 offense and defense in the North Suburban Conference, respectively, and no other team is close to their numbers.
So, not surprisingly, it took the full 48 minutes to settle this long awaited grudge match, with Edwards, who will be playing at Vanderbilt next year, plowing in for a 1-yard touchdown run with 36 seconds to play for what was ultimately the game-winner.
Lake Forest, aided by some Warren penalties, took a touchback at their own 20 on the ensuing kickoff and marched all the way down into the red zone in mere seconds and had three shots at the end zone. But none connected and the giddy Blue Devils erupted from the sidelines, celebrating on their own field as North Suburban Conference champions for the fourth straight year.
“I thought my head was going to explode,” Edwards said of the adrenaline he felt when he scored his go-ahead touchdown. “And then it goes to the wire like that. It was crazy.”
Edwards was Warren’s main offensive option, as he has been all season, rushing for 212 yards on 30 carries. That brings his season total to 1,387 yards.
Lake Forest had its own workhorse in Jahari Scott, who rolled up 144 rushing yards on 16 carries. He scored Lake Forest’s first touchdown on a 70-yard run. Lake Forest’s other touchdown also came on a long run: a 68-yarder by quarterback Leo Scheidler.
Scheidler’s touchdown gave Lake Forest a 14-6 lead at halftime. Warren had scored its only first-half touchdown on a 93-yard return of a blocked field goal by Christain Eubanks.
Warren cut its deficit to 2 points (14-12) when quarterback Aidan Lucero took in a keeper from 1-yard out with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter.
The rest of the roller coaster final quarter was filled with everything from big plays to huge penalties.
“Lake Forest came out and competed and our kids came out and competed really hard, too,” Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. “I’m just really excited about how our kids overcame adversity. They haven’t been down much this year and they came back and did a great job.”