Here stood the Cicero-North Syracuse football team, less than six minutes away from knocking off the Auburn Maroons at Holland Stadium for the second year in a row.
When it was done in 2006, it took two days (thanks to a power outage) and overtime to settle the affair, and no one had any clue that the Maroons would go on an improbable run to the state Class AA championship, making the Northstars' win more significant in hindsight.
Now CNS had a chance to ruin the defending state champions' home opener, giving itself a tidal wave of momentum that could last throughout the fall.
Yet when the final whistle sounded, the Northstars were on the wrong end of a 42-35 decision, cursing its own mistakes and wondering if fate was smiling in Auburn's direction -- again.
Twice in the second half, CNS held the lead. Twice, it gave that lead away, and when it attempted to rally at the end, an ill-timed penalty thwarted the deal.
Both running backs set the tone early. Laquan James kick-started his senior season by tearing through Auburn's rebuilt defense on a 64-yard touchdown sprint on his team's first play from scrimmage. Auburn's Ismail Brooks countered by taking Chris Gomez's screen pass and going 32 yards to the end zone to tie it, 7-7.
It quieted down a bit in the second quarter, but CNS pulled in front. Steven Ianzito, in his first varsity start at quarterback after succeeding Greg Larioni, threw 12 yards to Chad Dubiel for the go-ahead TD, and the Northstars took a 14-7 lead to the break.
Just as quickly, Auburn took back the momentum with three touchdowns in the third quarter. Brooks added two more TD's to his total, and Malcolm Bryant entered the picture with a 48-yard run.
Now down 28-14, it was the Northstars' turn to roar. A solid drive near the end of the third quarter culminated in fullback Richie Lickfield's one-yard plunge, cutting Auburn's lead in half, to 28-21.