CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The only time Wheaton Warrenville South senior Mack Tracey had ever cried after a football game was following a loss.
But there on the field of Memorial Stadium after Wheaton Warrenville South's 31-24 double-overtime victory over Glenbard West in the Class 7A state championship in Champaign on Saturday, Tracey finally experienced what it was like to cry following a win.
"I'm balling my eyes out from being happy," Tracey said. "I don't know. This is just a testament of how far we've come. This is one of the most special moments I'll ever experience in my life. These are my best friends. These are the people I play with. These are the people I hang with. I'm speechless right now."
Tracey's tears could have easily have followed a loss as well. Wheaton Warrenville South (13-1) was on the brink of defeat a number of times in Saturday's game.
The Tigers first escaped it when Glenbard West (13-1) missed a 28-yard field goal with the game tied at 17 with 1:21 remaining in the game. Later, after Glenbard West went ahead 24-17 in the first overtime, Wheaton Warrenville South faced a first-and-goal all the way back on the 25-yard line because of a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the Hilltoppers' extra point. One play later, the Tigers were moved up 15 yards thanks to a late-hit call. In the second overtime, the Tigers were up against a fourth-and-1 when Matt Rogers plunged into the end zone for what would be the game-winning score.
"We were just calm, collected, kept our cool," Rogers said. "We just listened to the plays and executed and got the ball in the end zone. We just wanted to grind it down their throat. It's our style of play -- hard-nosed football."
Wheaton Warrenville South senior Nick Immekus wasn't so calm as the game got tenser and tenser.
"I was getting nervous," Immekus said. "I was losing my head. … Unbelievable, unbelievable, words can't describe it. They definitely picked the two best teams to play for the 7A state championship."
Both teams were ranked among the area's top teams all season and were favorites to reach the state championship. Both had relied heavily on their defenses throughout the season, and Saturday was no different. Neither offense could get anything going against their opponent's defense.
Glenbard West's defense held Wheaton Warrenville South junior quarterback Reilly O'Toole in check all night. O'Toole was often on the run due to Glenbard West's pressure. He was sacked three times and finished 10-for-21 for 129 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. One of the interceptions was returned for a 40-yard touchdown by Hilltoppers linebacker Connor Loftus.
The Hilltoppers had just as much trouble. Quarterback Tyler Warden completed 9-of-25 passes for 110 yards and one interception. Adam Burrello led Glenbard West with 72 yards rushing, nearly half of which came on a 34-yard run.
"Our defense played out of their heads, out of their heads," Immekus said.
Mike Laning had a game-high 13 tackles for Glenbard West. Wheaton Warrenville South's Thomas LaBelle and Michael Heaton each had 12 tackles.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.