Zion-Benton scored on the final play of the first half and on the first play from scrimmage in the second half to break open a close game and roll to a 34-14 North Suburban Lake Division victory over visiting Mundelein on Friday night.
Chance Lindsey scored both touchdowns for the Mustangs (1-4, 0-3), running for a 15-yard score in the first quarter and returning an interception 23 yards for another tally in the second quarter. But Mundelein, which pounded out 160 yards rushing in the first half and trailed only 15-14, was no match after intermission for the faster Zee-Bees (1-4, 1-2), who celebrated homecoming with their first win of the season.
Junior running back Tristan Wright ran for TDs of 75 and 35 yards for Zion-Benton, while junior quarterback Doug Gates threw 2 touchdown passes and ran for another score.
"I have no explanation for our second half tonight," said Mundelein coach George Kaider. "We came out and ran the ball very well and knocked them off the line like we thought we'd be able to, but then we couldn't do anything in the second half. We have to do a better job of coaching and a better job of playing."
The Mustangs did have answers for the Zee-Bees in the first half. After the home team took a 6-0 lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Gates to Trenton Curry with 8:23 to play in the first quarter, Mundelein came back on its next possession with a nine-play, 85-yard drive capped by a 15-yard TD run by Lindsey. John Marcos' first of two extra points gave Mundelein a 7-6 advantage.
Zion-Benton regained the lead, 12-7, later in the first quarter when Gates found Dillon Appenzellar with a 28-yard scoring strike on a crossing pattern in the end zone. But the Mustangs gained a 14-12 lead early in the second stanza when Lindsey picked off a Gates pass and scampered 23 yards for his second TD.
It looked like Mundelein would be able to take that lead into halftime because the Zee-Bees were on their own 19-yard line with two minutes to play. But Gates ran and passed his team to the Mustangs' 14-yard line with a few seconds remaining before sophomore Deryk Ruple nailed a 31-yard field goal as time expired.
If that field goal didn't take the wind out of the Mustangs' sails, the first play from scrimmage in the second half certainly did, as Wright raced 75 yards for a touchdown and a 22-14 Zion-Benton lead. Later, Gates (2 yards) and Wright (35 yards) ran for TDs while the defense was keeping Mundelein off the board.
"Once we got the two-minute offense going and kicked the field goal to end the first half, we really found our groove," said Zion-Benton coach Robert Strickland. "That was a turning point and we came out with great confidence for the second half. And, of course, that first play from scrimmage in the second half was huge."
Kaider was not happy with his team's second-half performance, nor with his opponents' penalties.
"We're disappointed in the way we played. We dropped a touchdown pass and then we stop our own momentum with an interception," Kaider said. "They had a lot of penalties tonight and a lot of personal fouls, and that's poor football."