Herrin High School is not the easiest place for visiting football teams.
The Waterloo Bulldogs found that out Friday night when they fell behind 21-0 early against the state's ninth-ranked Class 4A team.
But being down three touchdowns on the road did not bother Waterloo, which quickly regrouped and fought back to deliver a 28-27 victory on two late touchdown passes and a a pair of blocked kicks.
"It didn't look good at that point, but we knew that if we could eliminate our mistakes and let our conditioning take over, it would be a difference-maker in the second half," Waterloo coach Dan Rose said. "We had two fumbles that gave them a short field, which pretty much led to their first 14 points. Herrin is a very, very good team."
Still trailing 27-14 with 4:51 remaining, Waterloo got a pair of touchdown passes from new quarterback Aaron Laskowski to escape with a win. Laskowski tossed a 72-yarder to running back Rick Wiegand with 2:37 to play then hooked up on a 25-yarder to Kerstan Panzau.
Ryan Aycock's extra points proved to be the difference in the game as Waterloo had earlier blocked the potential game-tying extra point. He also recovered his own onside kick in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs also blocked a late field-goal try by Josh Haynes, whose 42-yarder found its way into the path of Waterloo's Zack George.
Waterloo showed a bit more offensive firepower than in past years, perhaps because of its new spread approach that still features the basics of its traditional wing-T attack.
"It was a lot of fun," Rose said. "It was a good time to be able to do something like that It felt really good not only to come from behind, but to do it through the air. It was kind of fun to do something different."
And with a new quarterback.
Laskowski, a transfer from Chaminade in St. Louis, completed 14-of-24 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for Waterloo's first TD early in the third quarter.
"The thing that stands out is when things were going right and when things weren't going right, he never had a panic," Rose said. "He was always calm, did what he was supposed to do and followed the game plan."
It was a breakout game by Wiegand, who had seven catches for 168 yards and a TD along with 85 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also had a big game on defense at safety with eight tackles.
Other Waterloo defensive players with big nights were defensive end Sam Dodd (11 solo tackles and six assists) and Panzau at safety. Panzau blocked the fourth quarter extra-point try that would have tied the game.
Herrin fullback Brent Milner had 162 yards and three TDs on 17 carries, including a 90-yard TD run. Herrin's Chase Merrill added 93 yards rushing, but the Herrin defense couldn't stop Waterloo enough in the fourth quarter.
Herrin was coming off an 8-3 season that included a loss to Althoff in the 4A playoffs.