Kam Sallee and Jason Wright knew the Huntley football program was headed in the right direction when John Hart took over in mid-April.
On a cold and crisp mid-October Friday night, the Red Raiders showed that direction is a path to the postseason after they scored the first 35 points of the Fox Valley Conference crossover and plowed past host Woodstock 49-21 at Larry Dale Field.
Sallee threw 3 touchdown passes as Huntley (5-3) rolled up 509 yards of total offense and became playoff eligible with its fifth win. Since it will finish with more than 40 playoff points it will be playing beyond the regular season for just the fourth time in its history and first since 2009.
"As soon as coach Hart came to the program," Sallee said of the two-time state title winner in Indiana, "I knew we'd be going to the playoffs and I knew we'd go far this year. Our line showed a tremendous effort tonight."
Wright and Joe Tanke at tackle, Brandon Kavanaugh and Joe Kostalek at guard, Darren Erath at center and Marcus Wright at tight end paved the way for 417 rushing yards on 58 carries. Ethan Connor had 23 carries for 154 yards and touchdown runs of 2 and 11 yards, Jake Scalise (12 carries, 100 yards) started the outburst with a 4-yard touchdown run and Sallee ran for 87 yards on 7 carries.
"It feels great," said Wright, a two-year starter who helped Huntley rebound from an 0-2 start and just 6 combined wins the last two seasons. "I never expected us to do this, but I expected when coach Hart came in that we were going to do great. He brought in the mentality of we can do this."
It showed as Huntley bounced back from last week's 41-14 loss to unbeaten Cary-Grove by scoring on five straight first-half possessions. Sallee (7-for-16, 92 yards) threw touchdown passes of 8 and 13 yards to Bryce Beschorner (3 catches, 39 yards) and John Walker snagged a deflected pass in the end zone from 4 yards.
"Those five possessions were special for us," Hart said of a 15-minute outburst fueled by four three-and-outs.
"We were getting a great push off the ball and we knew what was going to happen," Wright said.
"Our line, it was the best they played this year," Sallee said. "When they play well we all play well."
Woodstock (3-5) did score twice in the last 2:22 of the first half on a 97-yard kickoff return by Jordan Sumner and a 3-yard run by Nick Rogers. But Huntley allowed only 225 total yards as Josh Sepsey and Mike Andrews combined to break up 5 passes, Jordan Kabb and Jeremy Behnke each had a sack and a tackle for loss and Andrews, Sepsey, Justin Gedaly and Brandon Dranka had stops for losses.
Junior backup quarterback Blake Jacobs finished the scoring for the Red Raiders with a 6-yard touchdown run with 5:06 left. And now they know they aren't finished after next week.
"It's exciting and I'm proud of them," Hart said. "They've done everything possible we could have asked to this point."