Controversial conversion clinches double-OT victory for Hinsdale Central

4 minute read

By Phil English

Special to the Tribune

6:50 p.m. CDT, October 3, 2009

Two years ago when he was a sophomore, Hinsdale Central quarterback John Whitelaw used Oak Park's stadium for his coming out party in a 20-point victory.

The return to the scene of the crime Saturday ended in escape.

The No. 6 Red Devils topped Oak Park 46-45 in double-overtime in a West Suburban Silver thriller decided on a controversial ruling on the game's last play.

Hinsdale (4-2, 2-1) fell behind 45-38 when Oak Park's Tony Stapleton (24 carries, 82 yards) plowed in from the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal to start the second overtime. Three plays later, the Red Devils closed to within one, 45-44, when Jake Knowles scored on third-and-goal from the 1.

The Red Devils opted to go for the two-point conversion and the victory. Whitelaw faked a fullback dive into the Oak Park line and drove to the goal line. As the teams piled up, the ball popped out of the scrum and into the end zone, where Hinsdale junior left tackle Scott McDowell recovered it.

Hinsdale Central players celebrated on their way to the sideline, while Oak Park players and fans called for an illegal forward fumble. After nearly two minutes of discussion, officials raised their arms to signal the conversion was good.

"That was one of those moments where you have to have your head on straight and get that ball," McDowell said. "I was standing over the pile and saw the ball come out. I didn't hear the whistle so I jumped on it. I suppose the refs could have blown the whistle earlier, but I think they made the right decision."

"We ran that play earlier and had good success with it," said Whitelaw, who was 8-for-15 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown and rushed 16 times for 141 yards and two scores. "We came to the strong side of the line and they stuck me up good. As I reached out, the ball popped loose. Thank God (McDowell) was there. I was just hoping my knee wasn't down when I fumbled. I didn't feel like I was down."

The story on the other field was different.

"I tackled Whitelaw about 2 yards from the line, took him down, knees down and everything," said Oak Park junior linebacker Joe Donlan, who had two sacks. "I thought he had the ball, so I thought the game was over. Then I turned around and saw them go crazy. I knew the only thing that could have happened was a fumble in the end zone."

The Huskies (2-4, 1-3) led by as many as 11 in the first half, thanks to senior quarterback Jack Rogalla, who was 9-for-13 for 118 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the first 24 minutes.

Hinsdale lead until the third quarter, when Zach Alleman scored on a 12-yard run with 7:11 left to make it 24-21. A bad snap through the end zone deep in Hinsdale territory handed Oak Park a safety and closed the gap to 24-23 early in the fourth.

Whitelaw seemed to put the game away with a 72-yard scoring scamper with 3:30 remaining. But the Huskies, who had been held to negative yardage in the second half, knotted the game with a seven-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rogalla to Zach Draus with 1:02 remaining. Rogalla then hit Gabe Woullard with the two-point conversion pass to tie the score 31-31.

Player of the game: Scott McDowell, Hinsdale Central, recovered fumble in end zone on his team's two-point conversion attempt, allowing the Red Devils to escape with the double overtime victory.

Key performers: Hinsdale Central -- John Whitelaw, 8-for-15, 114 yards, TD, 2 INTs; 16 rushes, 141 yards, 2 TDs; John Skokna, 4 rushes, 54 yards; 2 receptions, 53 yards, TD. Oak Park -- Jack Rogalla, 12-for-20, 179 yards, TD; Tony Stapleton, 24 rushes, 82 yards.

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune,0,4927785.story

RED DEVILS / Oak Park-River Forest NEWS