For 47 minutes and 56 seconds, Huntley's defense stood taller than it had all season.
It held a potent No. 7 seed Fenwick to 177 yards of total offense, recovered a fumble on the first play of the game and forced 9 punts for 320 yards.
But as good as it was, it wasn't quite enough to advance to Round 2, as the final 4 seconds were a repeat of how the Red Raiders' season opened at Crystal Lake Central.
This time it was Friars' kicker Zach Laszkiewicz, with the wind at his back, booting a 24-yard field as time expired to give Fenwick a 10-9 win over the No. 10 seed Red Raiders (6-4), in a heartbreaking Class 7A first round matchup at Morton West High School Saturday night in Berwyn.
Fenwick (8-2 will play at No. 2 Rockford Boylan in the second round next weekend. Boylan beat Jacobs 28-10 Saturday afternoon. The Red Raiders finish 6-4, a vast turnaround nonetheless from a 2-7 season that was 4 seconds away from a home game against the defending Class 7A champions.
"We felt we had a great chance in the second round game if we could get past the first one," first-year Huntley coach John Hart said. "You never know when you get into the playoffs. We lost the wind, that really swung it back to them. We didn't field that one punt and it really swung the field position to them. It's a game sometimes of inches."
Inches told the story, especially on the faces of the Red Raiders, including quarterback Kam Sallee (6 for 20, 110 yards, 72 yards rushing), who did everything he could offensively for the Raiders to have a home game next week.
"Just to see how far we came back and me not even having last season and being a part of this team is the highlight of my life," an emotional Sallee said. "I'll remember this forever."
Huntley punted 7 times for 272 yards, was held to 195 total yards and lost 2 fumbles. But more importantly, the Raiders let Fenwick dominate field position, especially after a costly mistake when Huntley had a chance to add to a 9-7 lead on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Sallee connected with receiver Beschorner near the Friar 25 but Beschorner had the ball knocked away at the Friar 10, foiling a golden opportunity with 8:35 left in the third.
"Thier defense was playing so good the entire game," Sallee said. "Our defense played a heck of a game. The offense needed to come back and we didn't come back."
With the lack offense and Sallee punting to Fenwick at its own 45 with 3:08 to go, Huntley could only hope for one more stand after the offense couldn't get going.
But Friars' running back Robert Spillane, who rushed 28 times for 95 yards, probably put his best string of runs together in those last minutes. With runs of 10, 5, 4 and 11 yards, Fenwick set up shop at the Red Raider 6 with 24 seconds remaining. Spillane was stuffed on first and second-and-goal and Friars' coach Gene Nudo called timeout with 4 ticks on the clock, setting up the game-winning boot.
"I'm always prepared. Both offenses were struggling," Laszkiewicz said. " I was in the mindset this game was coming down to me."
Huntley scored on a 4-yard run by Jake Scalise 4 plays after Josh Fish recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage at the Friar 18. Sallee's extra point went wide and Huntley led 6-0. Fenwick took the lead in the second quarter on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Gino Calvalieri (11 for 22, 89 yards) to Pat Hart but Huntley responded on the final play of the half when Sallee booted a 24-yard field goal for a 9-7 lead. But injuries would also catch up to the Red Raiders.
"We had so many darn players hurt, it really hurt us," Hart said. (Mark) Skoniecczny banged up his ankle in pregame. We lost Jake on the first drive and Ethan (Connor) was already out so we're down to nothing but fullbacks at running backs. That really hurt us as far as being able to run the football."