After East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett saw his quarterback, Dominic Nelson, run for a 10-yard touchdown on fourth-and-3 to pull the Flyers within a point of host Providence, he didn't hesitate to call for a two-point conversion with a minute left.
The gamble paid off when Nelson completed a pass to Jeff Thomas in the end zone, lifting East St. Louis to a 27-26 victory in a Class 6A quarterfinal at Bishop Kaffer Stadium in New Lenox.
"Well, we're away from home," Sunkett said of his decision. "We were going to win it or lose it on that play. I would have taken criticism if we hadn't made it, but that's part of being a head coach."
The call was fine with Nelson.
"We had to go for the win," said Nelson, who lead his team on a 14-play, 80-yard final drive. "We couldn't give them another opportunity to beat us. We had to take it when we had the chance, and that was our chance to win."
Providence (7-5) scored on four of its five possessions in the first half to take a 16-12 lead. Austin Regan kicked field goals of 29, 35 and 31 yards, and Justin Hunniford threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Austin Garwood.
East St. Louis (9-3) scored two first-half touchdowns on Greg Taylor's runs of 3 and 11 yards. The Flyers tried two kickers on point-after attempts, but both attempts sailed wide.
Taylor uncorked a 62-yard scoring run to open the second half. This time, East St. Louis made the extra point on Julio Chavez's kick to go up 19-16.
Providence counted with a seven play, 54-yard drive that was capped by Hunniford's 19-yard TD pass to Miles Boykin to go ahead 23-19 with 9:44 left in the third quarter.
A 23-yard field goal by Regan gave Providence a 26-19 lead with 7:09 left.
"It makes it a little worse losing at the end like that, and I give them all kinds of credit," Providence coach Mark Coglianese said. "East St. Louis played very well. They made plays when they had to, and that's what it kind of came down to.
"That last drive we had them a few times on third or fourth down, (but) they've got some playmakers."
Player of the game: Dominic Nelson, East St. Louis, 15-for-22, 138 yards; 10-yard TD run.
Key performers: East St. Louis — Greg Taylor, 26 carries, 182 yards, 3 TDs; Jeff Thomas, 10 catches, 71 yards, 2-point conversion catch. Providence — Regan Austin, 4 FGs, 2 PATs, 14 points; Justin Hunniford, 23-for-32, 220 yards, 2 TDs; Miles Boykin, 8 catches, 105 yards, 1 TD; Dominic Lagone, 18 carries, 129 yards.
Next: 6A semifinal, East St. Louis vs. Richards/Lincoln-Way North.Copyright © 2015, RedEye