With a football playoff appearance in the balance, host Wauconda and Antioch were in a do or die situation Friday night in their North Suburban Conference Prairie Division battle.
The Sequoits stayed relatively close and trailed 20-6 at halftime. But Wauconda's all-around effort was too much for Antioch to handle as the Bulldogs rolled to a 33-6 victory to become eligible for the 5A playoffs with one game left in the regular season next Friday against Libertyville.
Senior quarterback Austin Swenson was a huge factor in the Bulldogs' victory. He finished 12-for-16 passing for 235 yards and 3 TDs as Wauconda improved to 5-3 overall and 3-3 in the division.
The Bulldogs also got a workmanlike effort from senior running back David Starkey, who rushed for 89 yards on 21 carries while scoring 2 TDs.
Swenson looked mainly to the receiving trio of Austin Piekarski (2 TDs), Chris Kass (1 TD), and Alex Schwickrath to do most of the damage against the Antioch defense. The Sequoits' playoff hopes officially ended with the loss as they fell to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the division.
"We have so many weapons and they catch the ball great," said Swenson, who had 190 yards passing in the first half alone. "This team is just a special group of guys, I love playing with them, and I just want to keep it going."
The Bulldogs' first TD was a 21-yard pass from Swenson to Kass over the middle as Kass made a spectacular diving catch to give Wauconda a 6-0 lead just 4:52 into the game.
Wauconda also scored on its second possession with a 29-yard run by Starkey proceeding Starkey's 3-yard TD run to cap a 55-yard drive for a 13-0 advantage late in the first quarter.
Antioch did respond sharply to that score as sophomore quarterback Alan Taylor engineered a 6-play, 44-yard scoring drive with senior running back Cody Gwinn scoring on an 11-yard TD run to cut the gap to 13-6 with 11:29 remaining in the second quarter. Gwinn led the Sequoits' offensive attack with 56 yards on 16 rushes while Taylor had 46 yards on 12 attempts. Junior Andrew Pelote also gave Antioch a spark with 47 yards on 10 runs.
But overall the Wauconda offense was not to be denied as Swenson lofted a 73-yard TD pass to Piekarski breaking down the left sideline to make the score 20-6 3:35 before halftime.
The Bulldogs kept the pressure on with Piekarski catching a 20-yard TD pass on a third-and-12 play aided by a defensive breakdown to boost the lead to 27-6 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
"We're very young, we're very green, and we play like it, but our sophomore quarterback (Taylor) played a good game," said Antioch coach Brian Glashagel. "Wauconda did a good job, they're very balanced, and they can run the ball. We were just mismatched out on the edge and we didn't get much of a pass rush."
Starkey closed out the scoring with a 4-yard TD run with 10:26 to play to put the finishing touches on a solid victory headed into their big showdown against visiting Libertyville next Friday.
"There were a couple of mistakes we made, but our kids played great as a team," said Wauconda coach Dave Mills, whose team could still make the playoffs even with a loss next week. "Defensively they did a tremendous job, they all did their assignments, and it gives you a great chance to win."
Pat Kane had 53 yards on 8 carries while teammate Garrett Keeton added 40 yards on 8 attempts for Wauconda's strong ground game. The Bulldogs proved they were dangerous both through the air and on the ground Friday night.
"Austin (Swenson) has been very efficient all year long and he is right around 2,000 yards (passing) with a game to go," said Mills. "We're just excited about our chances and we just try to get better every week."