LANSING | One of the more-evenly first-round matchups came down to the final play Friday night.
Thornton's Jason Towns ended the game as he intercepted a Saleem Sanford pass with 11.2 seconds left to seal a 23-21 win over host T.F. South.
The Wildcats (8-2) will host Downers Grove North in a second-round playoff game.
“I read the play and I knew it was coming, so I just put myself in position to make the play,” Towns said. “I had to make the play because they were looking to score and they would have won the game.”
It was Towns' second pick as he had a touchdown-saving pick in the end zone in the first quarter. Thornton coach Bill Mosel said his diminutive safety came up big.
“All year, Jason, he has made the plays whether a pick or a tackle,” Mosel said. “He's got about 10 interceptions, 12 now. He exemplifies what a Thornton football player is about.”
His twin, Jamal Towns, did the damage on offense as he carried 27 times for 157 yards. He had some key runs to keep drives alive.
"My line did a great job of opening some big holes and I hit them (the holes)," Jamal Towns said. "We knew we had to move the ball because we knew we had to keep the ball from them. They (South) are a very good team.
"We never doubted ourselves, even when they took the lead."
South's final drive came after forcing the Wildcats to punt and the Rebels (7-3) got the ball back with 46.6 seconds left, trailing 23-21. A penalty appeared to stall the drive, but officials actually gave the Rebels five downs.
The game-winner was scored by quarterback JoWahn Brown with 6 minutes left as the Wildcats went 64 yards in nine plays. Brown scored on a 4-yard run.
The Rebels took their first lead, 21-17 when Peyton Padjen scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with 8:46 left.
Thornton scored twice off of South turnovers. The first one was when South fumbled on a punt return and Thornton recovered on the Rebels' 34-yard line. Brown scored the first of his two touchdowns with 46 seconds left in the first.
Jason Towns' first interception, set up the second score. Brown hit Jauan Wesley for a 8-yard score with 4:22 left in the second quarter.
South came back as Padjen hit Joe Young for a 23-yard score with 56.4 seconds left in the second quarter, but Thornton stormed back and Saul Ramirez's 27-yard field goal at the end of the half made it 17-7.
Young, who rushed for 105 yards, applauded his team's aggressive offensive effort.
“We fought back and we moved the ball,” he said. “The line did a nice job and my job was to hit the holes.”