Huntley coach John Hart was challenged prior to the season to leave Indiana as a two-time state champion and turn a 2-7 Red Raider team in a rugged Fox Valley Conference3 Valley Division into thinking they were winners.
The 0-2 hole wasn't good with state champion Prairie Ridge, perennial powerhouse Crystal Lake South, an improved Jacobs squad and Cary-Grove on the schedule.
But after a resounding 41-0 win over McHenry Friday night to finish 6-3 overall and 5-1 for second place in the FVC Valley, the avenues of success Huntley could venture down could make a GPS blow up in smoke.
"If you could paint a way for a 6-3 team to be 6-3 it would be almost perfect to hear," Hart said. "I hate to always go back to our failures, but even the Cary-Grove game, I think our kids felt like getting in the ring with the champions, that we could throw those punches and be OK."
Detours had Huntley finish in second place, with wins over South, Jacobs and PR. Go down 6th street, where the Raiders stopped for nothing with their sixth win in 7 tries.
And the defensive route of late -- or in Friday night's case the balanced route -- had the Warriors (3-6, 1-5) finish with minus-22 total yards and 3 first downs. Huntley forced 6 sacks, 3 from linebacker Brandon Mabry, while the offense was as slick as quarterback Kam Sallee.
Sallee was 10-for-12 for 172 yards with 4 passing touchdowns and 1 interception, along with 4 carries for 95-yards. All first half touchdowns, 2 were to Jake Lackovic while 1 went Bryce Beschorner and Mitchell Kawell each. Of the 5 scoring drives in the first half, the longest any drive went was 2:40 with a maximum of 8 plays.
"This is a great way to end our regular season and start our playoff season, I know we're going to go far in this," Sallee said. "Our line has improved so much, I have so much time to throw. They gave me so much time as I wanted to back there tonight and the past couple weeks, our offense has worked very well."
That offense should be very-well displayed in Class 8A, where Huntley is projected. And Hart welcomes it.
"I'm almost certain we'll be 8A and to be honest, regardless we're going to be 8A from now on," Hart said. "I mean our school is growing. We're trying to think like an 8A team, act like an 8A team and play like one."
Sallee's 58-yard run after coming out in shotgun on the Raiders' first drive set up shop at the McHenry 4. Two plays later Ethan Connor (11 carries, 63 yards) scored from a yard out for a 7-0 lead with 8:23 in the first quarter.
Sallee connected with Lackovic (3 catches, 52 yards) for a 14-yard score 4 minutes later, then with Kawell from 4-yards to make 21-0 early in the second quarter. He then lofted a pass to Lackovic again for a 31-yard score with 7:11 remaining to make it 27-0.
Area-leading receiver Beschorner (5 catches, 105 yards) hauled a 26-yard diving grab in the left end zone with 2:20 left for a 34-0 lead. Jake Scalise (13 carries, 63 yards) added an 8-yard run with 6:56 left in the third quarter, ensuing a running clock.
"That's the Kam Sallee I told everyone that's here," Hart said. "He's a truly a great athlete and man, when he's on all cylinders, he's really really special."
The Raider defense has allowed 55 rushing yards in the last two weeks. Woodstock's 77 and McHenry's minus-22 is a far cry from 166 average they've given up.
"Ever since the (Cary-Grove game), we let up a lot of points against them," Mabry said. "We felt we had to step it up because we weren't doing our job, got to give the offense more time to score.