BUFFALO GROVE — Relentlessness is the mantra the Buffalo Grove football team has been trying to build all season, and it did that against Hersey Thursday.
Defensive tackle Alex Horvat personified the Bison’s refusal to yield after a stumble, recovering a fumble in the third overtime to secure Buffalo Grove’s 26-19 win over Hersey in a Mid-Suburban East game at Grant Blaney Stadium.
“Our kids are really resilient,” coach Mike DiMatteo said. “We may not be the best athletes, but we’re the toughest. We work on [team building] when we come in on Saturday mornings. This is what we’ve been trying to build.”
Horvat got the message.
“If you beat us on a play, we’re going to beat you on the next play and on the play after that,” Horvat said. “Then we’re going to punch you in the mouth.”
After the Bison took a 10-0 lead late in the first half, Hersey chipped away until it tied the game at 10-10 midway through the fourth quarter. When a Huskies field goal attempt fell short with four seconds left, the game went to overtime.
The teams traded field goals and then touchdowns in the first two overtimes before Buffalo Grove quarterback John Maddox put his team ahead when he evaded tacklers, reversed fields and reached the end zone from the 5-yard line.
Then it was Horvat’s turn on Hersey’s first play in the third overtime.
“It was a toss and [Buffalo Grove defensive lineman] Brandon [McKinney] jarred it loose,” Horvat said. “I got after the ball and fell on it.”
Maddox, who carried the ball 22 times for 150 yards and two overtime TDs, displayed resilience in a different form. Taking over the quarterback role two weeks ago when starting signal caller Trey Cervantes broke his arm, he became a fast learner with some help.
“I was running up the middle and they had me bottled up. … The coach told me to go outside and it was wide open,” Maddox said, referring to his TD runs.
Buffalo Grove (4-2, 2-0) took the lead before the game was two minutes old when it forced Hersey to go three-and-out on its first possession and Mike Kleczynski returned the punt for 78 yards to cross the goal line.
It looked like Kleczynski was going to have a game-winning, 82-yard kickoff return right after Hersey (3-3, 1-1) tied the contest, but a Buffalo Grove holding penalty nullified the play and forced the Bison to start from the 12.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Kleczynski said. “You just have to get them on the next play.”
More came from Dan Levato who kicked two field goals, including one in overtime to go with 63 rushing yards on 11 carries.
It came down to toughness all evening, and the team will build on that Saturday morning.
“We all lift in the weight room,” Horvat said. “We’re trying to be a family together.”