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For the second straight game, Hinsdale Central faced a do-or-die situation.
A week after Oak Park-River Forest converted a two-point conversion to upset the Red Devils 42-41 in overtime, the Red Devils' fortunes hinged on stopping a two-point conversion after Downers North’s Brandon Salter scored on an 89-yard punt return with 42 seconds to play.
The host Trojans opted to go for two.
On the decisive play, Hinsdale Central’s Brett Goss shed a blocker and led a host of tacklers who stopped Salter to cement the 21-20 victory in the 78th annual battle for the Old Oaken Bucket at Carstens Field in Downers Grove.
“A week ago we couldn’t stop two points to win. I thought, well, we’ll see if we’ve grown in a week, and we did,” Hinsdale Central coach Rich Tarka said. “It wasn’t fun to give up that touchdown at the end, but ultimately our defense stepped up and shut them down in the second half, so I’m proud of the way they played.”
The dramatic ending was nothing new to the rivalry that dates to 1935. This was the sixth one-point game in the series, which Hinsdale Central leads 43-32-3. The Red Devils (6-2, 3-2 West Suburban Silver) have won the last six meetings, which is the third longest streak in the series history.
“It’s a cool tradition,” Hinsdale Central quarterback Brian Owens said. “Especially your senior year, you don’t want to lose the rivalry game when there’s something on the line, so we’re happy with the win.”
Owens completed 18 of 27 passes for 247 yards and three second-quarter touchdowns. With Downers North leading 7-0, Owens went to work, tossing a 13-yard scoring strike to John Claussen on the first play of the second quarter.
He added a 54-yard TD pass to Chase Hamilton and a 16-yarder to Claussen on the next two drives.
Owens was upset by the two interceptions he threw, the first of which came in the Downers North end zone with 1:30 left in the half when the Red Devils looked like they would extend the lead to 28-14.
“I made a horrible mistake at the end,” Owens said. “That can’t happen and it won’t happen again. I can’t force the ball.”
Hinsdale Central’s Joe Herr caught 10 passes for a career-high 111 yards. Hamilton had 75 receiving yards and running back Ben Stefani added 107 yards rushing on 24 carries.
Downers North quarterback Dave Edwards scored on runs of two and three yards but threw three interceptions for the Trojans. Kyle Leto had 112 yards rushing and Salter gained 72 yards. He also added an interception.