Dundee-Crown football coach Vito Andriola said people laughed when he told them his team had a chance to compete at a playoff-caliber level this season.
No one's laughing now.
A week after the young, improving Chargers ended the school's 26-game losing streak, they stamped themselves as a legitimate playoff contender by defeating 2011 playoff qualifier Streamwood 27-7 at Millennium Field Friday for their second straight win.
The game was scoreless heading to the third quarter, thanks to a first half that included 5 combined turnovers. The Chargers pulled away in the second half by out-rushing the Sabres 208 yards to 1 yard. D-C junior running back Cody Lane finished with 157 yards and a touchdown, and the Charger defense came up with 4 turnovers to stifle the Streamwood offense.
The victory gives Dundee-Crown (2-0) its first winning streak since the Chargers won 3 consecutive games during the 2008 season.
"It's a great win for the program and it's a great win for the community," said Andriola, who was serenaded late in the game with a chant of 'We love Vito," by the D-C student section "It legitimizes some of the stuff we do. Now we have to go to work for next week."
Lane turned the tide at the start of the third quarter with a 60-yard burst through a big hole off right tackle. He was pulled down at the Streamwood 11-yard line by sprinter Blake Holder, but Lane would score on an 11-yard run 2 plays later to put the Chargers up 7-0.
"We just came out with more momentum in the second half," Lane said. "We talked each other up and our line blocked beautifully."
D-C got took the ball back 2 plays later when Sam Franckowiak intercepted Streamwood quarterback Jordan McFeggan for the second time in the game. The Chargers converted the turnover into points on 3rd-and-7 from the Streamwood 40-yard line. Junior quarterback Garrett Ryan lofted a pass to TJ Moss, who had gotten free behind the secondary and scored untouched. The ensuing point-after attempt was blocked, but D-C had a 13-0 lead with 9:25 left in the third quarter.
Needing to change the momentum, Streamwood coach Cal Cummins opted to play junior Mason Polich at quarterback. The move paid immediate dividends as Polich connected with his sophomore brother, Noah Polich, on a slant pattern that went for a 76-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 13-7
After the teams traded possessions, D-C took control with 11:17 left in the fourth quarter and sustained one of its best drives in years. The Chargers marched 67 yards in 13 plays, culminating in a 5-yard touchdown by senior JT Beasley on a jet sweep with 2:52 to play.
The D-C defense stopped the Sabres' next drive on downs at midfield, and Beasley iced the victory by spinning out of a tackle and racing 37 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 59 seconds to play.
"Coach just told us to come out in the second half and keep running the ball hard," Beasley said. "And that's what we did. We played pretty good. It feels great. It's just the greatest feeling."
Cummins said Streamwood paid for its mistakes in the first half, when the Sabres fumbled the ball away twice and threw a pick. One of those fumbles occurred in the first quarter on a 4th-and-1 play from the D-C 2-yard line.
"I think our opportunities were lost early in the game," Cummins said. "We had an opportunity to take control of the ballgame and we didn't make plays when we had to. I think it's that simple. If we make plays, it's probably a different ballgame. Then the momentum swings our way.
"But in a situation with a program that's been struggling, the longer you leave them in (the game), the more excited they get and confidence builds."
The Streamwood fumble at the goal line was caused by D-C junior middle linebacker Tim Shanmier, a wrestler, and recovered by linebacker Cordero Parson.
"I just felt like I was on a wrestling mat," Shanmier said. "I got low on him, then I just saw the ball and we were all going for it. I've never seen our defense this good. We played like a playoff team."