It took Buffalo Grove coach Jeffrey Vik 13 years with the program before experiencing his first taste of the postseason.
The Bison won their first playoff game since 2002 by defeating Belleville West 17-7 in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Buffalo Grove advances to a second-round game at No. 7 seed East St. Louis, which handily defeated Libertyville in its first-round game Saturday.
Belleville West ends its season at 5-5. The Maroons have made the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons under head coach Cameron Pettus, but have just one postseason victory to show for it.
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Pettus acknowledged his team must put an emphasis on getting through the first round.
“We’ve just got to get over this bar,” Pettus said. “That’s what we’ve got to do as a program and as a staff. We’ve got to continue to not just be happy making the playoffs. We’ve got to continue to win in the playoffs. We’re getting close, and we’re going to continue to get better.”
Tom Trieb put Buffalo Grove on the lead with a touchdown run, then intercepted a third-and-25 pass to set up a 24-yard field goal from Ryan Mueller that gave the Bison a 10-0 lead at halftime.
But West had plenty of opportunities to turn the game in their favor.
The Maroons recovered a Trieb fumble on their own 7-yard line, and quarterback sophomore Jack McCloskey led them 93 yards on the next 10 plays. Kriston Davis capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 10-7.
With 67 yards Saturday, Davis topped the school rushing record with 1,307 yards.
Pettus ordered a squib on the ensuing kickoff, which West recovered on Buffalo Grove’s 30-yard line. But the Maroons couldn’t turn the momentum swing into points. They turned the ball over on downs after four plays.
“I thought momentum was swung right to our side,” Pettus said. “We needed to make a play to capitalize on that, and you’ve got to give them credit.”
It was a stand that might have saved Buffalo Grove’s season.
“That was a huge stop for us,” Vik said. “One thing we talked about all year is responding to adversity, and that was an adverse situation, and they responded. The kids didn’t freak out. The kids weren’t nervous.”
The squib kick wasn’t the only rabbit Pettus attempted to pull out of his hat.
Facing fourth and 3 from the Maroons 16 with fewer than five minutes to play, Pettus made his boldest call of the game.
Belleville West receiver William Lanxon, who caught 14 passes for 121 yards, rolled left before firing a pass down the sideline that was completed and would have been enough for a first down. However, the Maroons were flagged for having an illegal receiver downfield, negating the gain.
Trieb later scored on a 17-yard touchdown run. The junior tailback finished the game with 136 rushing yards, two touchdowns and an interception.