Even the Christian Liberty Academy cheerleaders were cautiously hopeful Saturday afternoon in Arlington Heights.
"It's my last game," said senior Kenia Romero, "so I'd like to remember that we went out with a win."
Chances are that a lot of the CLA players, coaches and fans will remember this one for a long time.
In a wild Northeastern Athletic Conference contest, the Chargers defeated visiting CICS Longwood 43-28 to win their first game of the season and gain their first-ever conference victory in a home game since entering the league four years ago.
"Our seniors have been working so hard all season," said CLA sophomore fullback Frank Pavlik, "so our focus today was to send them off with a well deserved win."
One of the upperclassmen, running back Marcus Silva, led the charge with 156 yards on 23 carries.
"It was our last game, so we came out and gave it all we had," added another of the seniors, Dan Glad, who had 2 touchdown receptions. "It was a disappointing season and we know we could have done better, but we came out strong today."
The Chargers (1-8, 1-8) roared to a 27-12 second-quarter lead on the strength of 3 touchdown passes by junior quarterback Gabe Grob -- to Glad (18 yards), Shawn Andersen (25 yards), Glad again (16 yards), and a 36-yard scoring run by Andersen.
Andersen put the icing on the first-half cake when he gave the Chargers a 30-12 lead by connecting on a 27-yard field goal, the first ever 3-pointer by CLA.
"We set a lot of school records today," said CLA coach Jim Calkins.
The Chargers extended the lead as they scored twice in the second half on runs by Silva of 6 and 2 yards, but CICS made a game of it late when Olando White ran back a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, then scored on an 18-yard scramble from his quarterback position.
Then the CLA defense, led by Andersen, stiffened to deny the Panthers a chance at a late rally.
Andersen was all over the field for the Panthers on both sides of the ball, rushing for 70 yards, catching 3 passes for 53 yards, and making numerous tackles and grabbing an interception from his defensive back position.
"Shawn's been tremendous all year," Calkins said of the senior.
Junior Brendan Brosnan had two INT's for the Chargers, while quarterback Grob finished 8-of-17 for 125 yards.
"We knew they (CICS) were a blitzing team and they liked to rush the 'A' gaps," said Calkins. "Our plan was to get over the top of that and sometimes run around it, and I think we did that today."
The Chargers say goodbye to seniors such as Glad, Anderson, Silva, Emilo Mondragon, Juan Pagan, Adam Palmer and JD Dulinsky.
"We lost a lot of close games," said Calkins. "It's disappointing when you set goals at the beginning of the season and you don't acheive those goals."
"But our guys played their hearts out and we're losing a group of outstanding seniors."