Benet Academy coach Pat New heard the talk coming into Saturday's nonconference game at South Elgin.
Coming off a 1-8 campaign in 2011, the Redwings opened the season last week with a 62-0 victory over Chicago Washington, but it wasn't enough to convince doubters Benet was a much-improved team.
"A lot of people wrote us off because we beat a Chicago public school," New said. "(South Elgin) we know is a darn good team. They beat Downers Grove South, so we really wanted this game badly."
The Redwings gave the rest of the East Suburban Catholic Conference something to chew on, winning the turnover battle 4-0 en route to a 35-21 road win. They jumped to a 13-0 second-quarter lead and never trailed.
The victory lifts Benet to 2-0, matching its start in 2010, when the Redwings won 5 games and qualified for the state playoffs. South Elgin slipped to 1-1.
"Two wins is nice, but we're looking forward to next week and getting ready for St. Pat's and, hopefully, getting win No. 3," said senior Jack Toner, who snared the last of Benet's 3 interceptions. "We've got to win 5 to make the playoffs. Hopefully, we'll get more than that."
The Storm already trailed 7-0 midway through the first quarter when they lost starting tailback Jeff Broger to a hamstring strain while he was playing defense. Able to rush for only 34 yards as a team against Benet's defense, junior quarterback Rob Cuda was forced to put the ball in the air 52 times, completing 26 passes for 240 yards.
His ubiquitous target was Joe Crivolio. The 6-foot-3 senior made 14 receptions for 159 yards and scored all 3 South Elgin touchdowns. Though Benet's zone defense allowed Crivolio room to maneuver, the Redwings quickly closed in after the catch to limit his yardage.
"I was able to find some open holes for a little bit, but I was gang-tackled right away," Crivolio said. "I couldn't do a lot with moving the ball up the field, just catching it."
Leading 13-7 at halftime, Benet widened its advantage to 27-7 in the third quarter by capitalizing on a pair of interceptions deep in South Elgin territory. Junior Colin Geier made the first pick on a tipped pass at the South Elgin 30-yard line and returned it to the 22. The Redwings cashed in 6 plays later when junior Porter Ontko barreled into the end zone on 4th-and-2 from just outside the 2-yard line.
Benet junior punter John Duvic later pinned the Storm at their own 2-yard line. On 2nd-and-6 from his own 6-yard line, Cuda recovered a dropped shotgun snap and raced away from pressure. He tried to push the ball to a receiver as he was being pulled down from behind, but Toner sniffed it out and intercepted the ball at the South Elgin 6-yard line, his first pick this season and the sixth of his varsity career.
"Those hurt, but it's going to happen," South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said of Cuda's 3 interceptions in his second varsity start. "It's a product of when you get down you have to throw the ball. If you're not running the ball, you have to throw it, and the odds go up of something happening."
Benet needed only 2 plays to capitalize. Senior Jack Crain powered in from the 1-yard line to put the Redwings ahead by 20 points with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
South Elgin would score twice more on Cuda-to-Crivolio connections, but the Redwings stayed out of reach, thanks to a 60-yard scoring burst by Ontko, helped by Toner's downfield block.
Ontko gained 121 of Benet's 195 rushing yards and scored 4 touchdowns, while junior Nick McTarnaghan rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries. Benet scored 43 points all last season but has already amassed 95 points in two outings.
"I think our team definitely underestimated them," Crivolio said.
Future opponents won't take Benet lightly.
"We kind of wanted to prove ourselves and I thought we did that today," Ontko said.