Holding onto a four-point lead in the Class 7A state championship game, Glenbard West needed a fourth-down stop to end a furious Lincoln-Way East rally.
Enter Hayden Carlson, a junior defensive back for the Hilltoppers.
Lincoln-Way quarterback Tom Fuessel couldn't find anyone open in the end zone, so he scrambled to his right and made a dash for the go-ahead score. Carlson dove in to spin Fuessel into the air and stop him short of the goal line.
The big hit helped Glenbard hold on for the 10-8 score in the state championship.
Nicknamed the "Hitters," Glenbard West's defensive mentality was showcased best by Carlson on that hit, one of his 14 team-leading tackles.
Has he ever hit anyone harder? "Probably not," Carlson said after the game. He said the blow messed up his shoulder pretty good and that he didn't even bother watching the replay. He was shaken up, but not as much as Fuessel, who needed to be helped off the field.
"I gotta make this play or we could lose the state championship," Carlson said about what was going through his mind on that play. "Coach just told me before the play to be a payer. I dropped back in coverage and when I saw him scrambling and I had to come up and make the play."
Carlson had 14 total tackles, 10 of which were solo, as well as a tackle for a loss and a pass breakup. The 6-foot, 180-pound junior defensive back led the game in tackles and helped his defense hold Lincoln-Way East—which was averaging about 31 points per game—to just eight points and 197 total yards.
"We had just enough offense today and our defense played outstanding against probably the best player in Illinois," Glenbard coach Chad Hetlet said of Fuessel. "We knew when he dropped back to pass, that's when he's most dangerous in scrambling so we had to keep him in front of us."
And that's exactly what Carlson did.