Wheaton Warrenville South won 14 straight football games to claim the 1992-93 Class 5A state title.
Clearly that club's toughest game on the playoff trail came against another unbeaten club from Lake Forest High School in the state quarterfinals. And that special team almost made a fatal mistake in the second half. They put the ball up in the air.
Lake Forest's option quarterback Josh Lerner recalled what happened next.
"It was a critical third down and our defense needed to get off the field,'' Lerner said. "We were all cheering on our defense from the sideline, trying to will them to get us the ball back. Wheaton ran a roll-out pass and the wide receiver made a double move. As the ball was thrown, I started to walk to the bench to get my helmet because I already knew the outcome."
A psychic quarterback? Not quite. Lerner knew his free safety, Ben Moss, was back there to defend the pass.
"Moss, as he had done all year, made the pick,'' Lerner said. "I never saw the catch, but I'll never forget the roar when he did."
Moss ran track and played basketball for the Scouts. But in football, it was like he was playing center field out there. He would stand around and take away opposing team's passes. In both his junior and seasons on the varsity, he picked off 19 passes which to this day places him 16th in state history.
"He was an outstanding receiver,'' said former Lake Forest football coach Tommy Myers. "But I told him I needed you to intecept passes. You are a free man out there. He was a 6-foot-3, 210-pound player who could intercept passes. He was a really solid athlete."
All those picks in just two years; it's a wonder how Moss could keep them all straight.
"I had a few games with two picks, but can't remember which ones they were,'' Moss said. "I never did take a pick to the house. I had a 50-yard return against Zion-Benton but got tripped up by the last guy."
Moss didn't arrive in Lake Forest until the sixth grade. He was born in Houston and moved to Pennslyvania and traveled as far as Seattle before he came this way. After playing football at Southern Methodist, he's gone home to Texas. He's a partner in a private equity firm in Austin.
"I married a Baton Rouge, Louisiana girl (Courtney),'' Moss said. "We have our hands full with two daughters, McCullough (2 years old) and Charlotte (less than a year old). In those rare moments of free time, I'm looking for a way to hit the golf course."
Like many of his teammates from these special years of football at Lake Forest, Moss recalled the fun that came with success.
"They were a blast,'' he said. "We made it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs both junior and senior years. My junior year (fall 1992), we knew we had something special when we beat Libertyville 41-0 to go 5-0 for the season."
Moss also recalled his interception in the final game against Wheaton Warrenville South, but was quick to credit his teammates.
"Our starting cornerbacks, Kevan Comstock and Ryan Lusk, were two
tremendous athletes,'' Moss said. "I never had to worry about those guys missing a coverage assignment so it freed me up to be more aggressive. The Wheaton Warrenville South interception was a memorable one because of the excitement that came with two unbeaten 11-0 teams playing in the quarterfinals."
Moss also noted how tough his teammates were in those days. He shared a story of cornerback Lusk when they were junior high teammates.
"While walking home from Deer Path Middle School one Friday after school, Ryan
Lusk got hit by an oncoming car on Deerpath,'' Moss said. "The car took out his legs and he broke the windshield with his head. He shook the glass out of his hair, walked home, and started at quarterback that night."
Lerner knew his team depended on this special defensive player. Lerner would coach at Lake Forest for 11 years.
"Teams couldn't throw the ball deep on us,'' Lerner said. "Any ball that hung in the air was intercepted, no questions asked. Ben had great instincts and he broke on the ball before it was thrown. He was also fast and could cover a lot of ground. Ben had great timing and when the ball was in the air, he would attack it and make the catch before the ball even had a chance to get down to the wide receiver."
"To this day he's still one of the best high school free safeties that I have ever seen,'' Lerner added.