Hampshire drops 2nd straight thriller to end its season
On his 30th and final carry of the night, Griffin Buehler clearly saved his best for last.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior took a handoff from quarterback George Dimopoulos, scraped off left tackle, and with a push-the-pile effort from his offensive linemen, scored the game-winning touchdown as Central outlasted Hampshire, 27-24, in a Fox Valley Conference thriller Friday night at Metcalf Field.
The victory propels the Tigers (5-4, 5-4) into the playoffs while the loss ends Hampshire's season at 2-7, 2-7.
In the overtime, Central's defense - as it had most of the night - rose to the occasion, sending the Whip-Purs backward on first down thanks to a tackle-for-loss by James Fier. After an incomplete pass and another loss of yardage, Hampshire got a 40-yard field goal from Charles Terriquez, whose kick hit the crossbar and bounced over.
Central then took over and gave the ball to Buehler for three yards followed by a two-yard gain by Dimopoulos before Buehler barged off left tackle for the game-winner.
"It was fight or flight. Everybody executed on all levels," said Buehler, who finished with 162 yards on the ground. "Our seniors would've done anything to win this game. I just knew if I got the ball, there was no way I wasn't getting in."
Central, which played without starting quarterback Jason Penza (out with a separated shoulder), rushed for 216 yards on the night and Buehler was quick to credit his offensive line of Charles Weichman, Tommy McNeil, Nicholas Kozlowski, Nolan Nabielec, and Bryan Nagel.
"This game was a microcosm of our season," Central coach Dirk Stanger said. "We just fought so hard. The kids worked their butts off and it's great to see them get this win. It feels really great, with all the ups and downs we've had, to make it in (to the playoffs)."
Dimopoulos (8-for-20, 116 yards) threw touchdown passes of 5 yards to Casen Noennig and 21 yards to Thomas Hammond. Fier made one of the game's outstanding plays when he blocked a punt and then scooped-and-scored the recovery that gave CLC a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
But Hampshire responded on the very next play when Luke Lacke (8-for-18, 144 yards) found Titan Lloyd Gonzalez for a 66-yard scoring strike. Earlier, running back Cole Klawikowski (29 carries, 89 yards) threw a 29-yard halfback option pass to Ari Fivelson. The Whip-Purs then tied the game midway through the third period on Klawikowski's 3-yard run.
Central's defense then stiffened in the extra period, limiting Hampshire to Terriquez's field goal.
"We just focused on what we could do. It was tough being down our own quarterback, and we knew it would be a struggle," said defensive end Ben Kolodziej, who had several tackles for loss and a key quarterback sack. "We just had the mentality of picking each other up and playing as one."
Hampshire coach Shane Haak, who watched his team drop its second consecutive overtime contest, had nothing but praise for his team's effort.