LEMONT | If the next seven days at Crete-Monee are anything like the 48 minutes the Warriors experienced on the field Saturday night in Lemont, the coaching staff may need oxygen.
The unbeaten Warriors are headed to the Class 6A championship game for the first time thanks to their 28-27 victory over the Indians before 5,000 amazed spectators.
The Indians (11-2) led 24-14 on Christos Giatras' 4-yard touchdown run with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
The roaring home crowd turned silent after a succession of big plays culminated as DeShaun Smith pulled Crete-Monee (13-0) within a point on a 4-yard touchdown run, and quarterback Marcus Terrell dashed in for the two-point conversion with 3:13 left in regulation play.
After the plucky Warriors' defense held Lemont to its third three-and-out in a dozen series, Crete-Monee ran out the last two minutes.
To LaQuon Treadwell, it seemed a longer wait.
"Four years!" Treadwell said after high-fiving every fan on the visiting sideline. "Four years! I knew we had a good junior class coming in, and the juniors wanted it as bad as the seniors. I knew we'd fight all year."
Treadwell's fingerprints were all over the outcome in the toughest fight of the season. Nine receptions, a rushing touchdown that pulled the Warriors within 24-20, a sack, and two extra points were the major items, but there was also that missed point-after kick that set up the final drama, and coach Jerry Verde's decision to go for two points.
"We had that set up the entire week for them in that situation," Verde said. "Marcus made a great decision. That's a play we ran multiple times."
But never with Terrell actually running, he always passed. This time, the Indians had everyone covered, and the middle opened up. Terrell's dive at the goal line got him in by inches.
Of such small margins are trips to championship games made.
Terrell threw for 335 yards, his 32-of-42 reading including a dozen receptions by Lance Lenoir, Treadwell's unsung partner at receiver. Eight of his catches were in the first half.
"We were trying to get eyes off Treadwell," Verde said.
Treadwell's nine catches were worth 149 yards. While he took a 46-yard reception to the end zone in the first half, five of his receptions were in the second half, including a 37-yard catch that would have been a touchdown, but for a holding penalty called against him as he was headed to the end zone. That put the ball on the Lemont 32-yard line and an Indians penalty and four plays later, Smith was in for the score that set up the conversion to take the lead.
Crete-Monee plays Cary-Grove (13-0), a 42-21 winner over Lake Forest, Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
"Think we'd be here in six years?" Verde said, marveling as the short time the program has gotten to the final step.