By Neel Thakkar
The conditions were poor: the field was muddy, the ball was wet and fingers were slippery. If the Bears were playing, the game plan would have been simple: three yards and a cloud of dust (or in this case, mud).
Both Prospect (7-2 overall, 3-2 in the MSL East) and Rolling Meadows (7-2, 5-0) took a different approach Friday night in Mount Prospect, with Meadows, who won the game 46-38, taking to the air more often than not (42 pass attempts to 28 rushes), and the Knights passing more than usual as well (24 passes to 34 carries).
Both teams were hardly perfect, with interceptions (two, both thrown by Meadows), fumbles (two of which led to turnovers, both by Prospect), a number of turnovers on downs, a fake punt gone awry by Prospect and a botched extra point attempt by Meadows, after which they stuck to two-point conversions. Still, the game, a shootout, proved to be a nail-biter, with the score tied at 30 going into the fourth quarter.
From there, however, the Mustangs’ quarterback, senior Jimmy Garoppolo (28 out of 42 passing for 336 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) took the upper hand in his duel against the Knights’ senior Miles Osei, who threw for 264 yards on 18 out of 24 passing with three touchdowns.
Garoppolo engineered a decisive three-minute-58-second drive from his own 33-yard-line to put Meadows up 38-30 after the two-point conversion with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter.
The Knights had a chance to respond on the following possession, beginning with favorable field position at their own 40-yard-line. However, they quickly became entangled in penalties – three in under two minutes – and narrowly missed turning the ball over after the ball was nearly intercepted on a pass to senior John Coen. With 7:12 remaining in the game, Prospect turned the ball over on downs, giving the Mustangs the ball back at their own 40.
Again, Garoppolo marched his team into the end zone,putting Meadows up 46-30 with 2:31 remaining and handing it the MSL East division championship outright.
“Mentally, we did not play smart on defense at times,” Prospect coach Brent Pearlman said of the loss. “With the type of defense we’re playing right now we shouldn’t have even turned the ball over even once.”
In games like this, Osei said, “the more disciplined team usually prevails.”
To ensure success in the playoffs, the Knights will have to take those words to heart.
For more photos from the Rolling Meadows game, see our photo album here.
Additionally, playoff t-shirts will be on sale for $7 starting Monday during all lunch hours.