Warren shot itself in the foot so many times on Friday night that it figured to take a miracle for the Blue Devils to still be standing at the end of their showdown with visiting Lake Zurich.
A miracle is what Warren’s football team got.
Capitalizing on a shocking Lake Zurich miscue with 1:58 to play, Warren’s Darrius Crump scored from the 1 yard line with 44 seconds left and the Devils (6-2, 4-1) walked off the field with a a truly miraculous 21-17 North Suburban Conference victory.
Lake Zurich (4-4, 2-3) will still be playoff eligible with a win next week over Vernon Hills, but it wouldn’t have come down to needing a Week 9 victory if not for a game-changing unforced error in the final two minutes on Friday in Gurnee.
Up 17-14 and trying to run clock, the shotgun snap from Lake Zurich’s 30 yard line sailed over quarterback Joey Lindstrom’s head and Warren’s Nick Turner recovered on the Bears’ 7.
Three plays got the ball to the 1, and on fourth down, Darrius Crump powered in for the game-winning score.
Lake Zurich’s Ben Klett returned the ensuing kickoff to the Warren 40, and Lake Zurich got to the Devils’ 23 with no timeouts left, but Jose Carraso’s pick ended the game.
Until that wild finish, it looked like Lake Zurich’s night. Warren committed three turnovers and missed two field goals to trail 17-14. Plus, Warren QB Jay Nickell put the ball on the ground on first down after Turner’s fumble recovery in the closing minutes. But Nickell managed to fall on the ball and that set the stage for Crump (33 carries, 228 yards, 2 TDs).
Meanwhile, the Bears played steady, error-free football … until the final two minutes.
“At times, we did some good things, and then we had some mental mistakes that led to big runs for them,” said Lake Zurich coach David Proffitt. “I am proud of the kids progressing this season. We still have a lot of work to do. We’ll find out what we’re made of next week.”
Warren has showed what it’s made of all season — hard-nosed, defense, tough line play, and great running from Crump and VaShaun Wright (10 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD).
Nickell was 6-of-17 passing for 62 yards and a pair of picks against an outstanding Lake Zurich defense.
It was the opportunistic Turner who recovered the wild snap that flipped the script on this night.
“I told coach I was ready to blitz up the middle and make a play,” he said. “It was the best feeling when I saw the ball on the ground.
“Everyone on this team is all in,” he added. “We are ready to play 14 games this season.”
Game 14 would be in the Class 8A state championship game at the University of Illinois.
But getting there will require better play than what the Devils offered up on Friday.
“We were fortunate to get the ball back,” said Crump, who was stopped twice at the 1 before his fourth-down carry struck pay dirt. “I had trust in my linemen,” he said. “No one was going to stop me from getting into the end zone.
“It feels great to win,” he added. “Our defense has made plays all year, and offensively, the line did a great job giving me holes to run through.”
Warren’s first-year coach is Bryan McNulty. Last spring, in his first year as the school’s softball coach, his team came on strong late in the year and wound up winning the state championship.
He’s a believer in getting better as the season goes along and getting better within each game as it unfolds.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games this season,” he said. “Our team doesn’t get flustered in the fourth quarter. We are a seasoned team in close games.”
He’s also got Crump to run the ball and a defense that is relentless. It allowed just 188 yards on Friday.
“Our defense has been opportunistic all season long, and Nick was able to come up with the ball (late),” McNulty said. “That was huge.”
Lake Zurich got its points on 29- and 3-yard runs by Ben Klett (9 carries, 50 yards), and a 21-yard field goal by Jake Kubin. A pick and 43-yard return to the 3 by Jeremy Brown set up Klett’s second TD and a 17-14 lead with 8:37 left.
It almost was the play of the night.