The sledgehammer Huntley brought to Prairie Ridge was a perfect symbol for what took place in Friday night's Fox Valley Conference Valley Division football opener in Crystal Lake.
The Red Raiders didn't let two losses to start the season stop them from pounding and pounding away at the Wolves. Big pass plays, tough running and a punishing and opportunistic defense gradually chipped apart and dismantled the defending Class 6A state champions.
And when it was over, Huntley displayed what it is capable of in its reconstruction project under first-year coach John Hart with a stunning 30-7 victory.
"These guys can play championship football," said Hart, who won a pair of titles in Indiana during a success-filled 28-year career.
"This feels really good," said Huntley senior wide receiver Bryce Beschorner after catching 6 passes for 119 yards and a 30-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead just 4:24 into the game. "It has the potential to be a program-changing win for us."
Especially since Huntley (1-2, 1-0) was on the receiving end of a 43-2 pounding a year ago by the Wolves (2-1, 0-1). But it was clearly different from the beginning this time.
Kameron Sallee threw for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns, rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown and hit a 20-yard field goal to finish the scoring with 3:13 left in the third quarter. Jake Scalise rushed for 125 yards on 26 carries as the Red Raiders finished with 402 total yards behind linemen Joe Tanke, Brandon Kavanaugh, Darren Erath, Jason Wright and Issac Jimenez.
"This is one of the best feelings I've ever felt," Sallee said. "(The sledgehammer) signifies unity and how we'll play together. It signifies how we're not going to back down.
"We felt really confident, especially with the way the defense played today. I'm proud of them."
Prairie Ridge had scored 100 points in its first two games but was held to 138 total yards and its fewest points since a 14-7 loss to Rockford Boylan in the 2010 6A semifinals. Only 66 yards came from its vaunted option rushing attack in 34 carries and two of four lost fumbles led to Huntley touchdowns.
"We came out every single series thinking the score was 0-0," said junior defensive back Mike Andrews, who recovered a pair of first-half fumbles and combined with Damario Hughes to stuff Prairie Ridge on fourth-and-inches at the 18 in the first quarter. "We never wanted to stop fighting no matter what the score was."
It was in Huntley's favor after just 2:20 when Sallee hit Jake Lackovic for a 56-yard touchdown. Beschorner made a diving grab in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-10 from the Prairie Ridge 30 just 2:02 later.
"We knew if we attacked them with our scheme, we knew we could beat them," Beschorner said.
A 51-yard interception return by Matt Perhats set up Oliver Kremer's 21-yard pass to Ross Carpenter to cut Huntley's lead in half with 6:50 still to go before intermission. But the underdogs never wavered.
Scalise scored on a 1-yard run 7:54 after halftime and Hughes' second forced fumble and Josh Sepsey's recovery set up Sallee's 36-yard run for a 27-7 lead. The defense took care of the rest as Tanner Bergquist and Brandon Dranka stuffed another fourth-and-1 run near midfield, Justin Gedaly had a fourth-down sack and Bergquist hammered Kremer for a sack and fumble recovery by Jeremy Behnke.
"Our main goal was for our D-line to get in and mess everything up and it worked," Andrews said of Bergquist, Dranka, Josh Fish and Hayden Reich. "The best thing is every time we were on the field we fought."