Dundee-Crown football coach Vito Andriola doled out his highest praise after a 17-14 victory over Huntley when he called it "a program win."
Meanwhile, Huntley coach John Hart and the Red Raiders left Carpentersville frustrated after a third consecutive close defeat, wondering what might have been had it not been for 3 touchdown-nullifying penalties and a pair of missed fourth-quarter field goals that could have tied the game.
Dundee-Crown (4-1, 2-1), which played without two injured offensive linemen and a starting running back, won the turnover battle 1-0 and made the necessary adjustments to outlast Huntley (2-3, 0-2), which gained 342 yards to the Chargers' 143.
"We talk about program wins and that was my first program win here because the program won it," said Andriola, D-C's third-year coach. "Guys stepped in, we moved guys around and the line still did well. It was a tremendous win."
The Red Raiders led 14-10 at halftime, but they went three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter. A short punt gave D-C the ball at the Huntley 47-yard line.
Six plays later on third-and-15, offensive coordinator Mike Steinhaus, who is being inducted the D-C Hall of Fame this weekend as a player, called for a counter play to junior Malik Dunner, a starting defensive back used in spot duty at running back Friday. Dunner burst through the line for a 41-yard touchdown run, and TJ Moss' extra point gave the Chargers a 17-14 lead with 7:44 left in the third quarter.
"We had been running it outside all day and they respected that any time I came into the game, so we just decided to bring it back through the middle," Dunner said. "I guess they didn't expect it because nobody touched me. Everybody did their job and blocked great."
Huntley's next 2 possessions ended in a punt and a turnover on downs at the D-C 28-yard line. The next Huntley drive reached the 4-yard line, but the D-C defense forced a 22-yard field goal attempt, which Donnie Young pushed wide right.
The Huntley defense forced a three-and-out, and the Red Raiders regained possession with 2:59 to play. Aided by a pass interference call and a 16-yard reception by Brandon Altergott, they gained a first down at the D-C 14 with 1:10 to play. However, the D-C defense limited them to just 2 more yards on a short run by Mitchell Kawell (19 carries, 123 yards), an incompletion and a short pass.
Hart called timeout with 5 seconds left before sending Young out for another shot, this time from 27 yards. Again, his kick went wide right, setting off a frenzied celebration on the D-C sideline.
"That right there just proved that we're taking the next step and we're making the playoffs and becoming a better program," D-C linebacker Jordon Linson said.
Huntley rued the mistakes it continues to make in close games.
"We had 3 touchdowns called back. It's a complete separation in games if we don't have those called back, but we did," Hart said. "You just have to keep fighting through it. They had a great scheme, but if you put 3 more touchdowns on top of 14 points, it's a great offensive night. When you get 3 called back it's not a very good night."
Caleb Parson gave the Chargers the early lead with a 26-yard touchdown run, but Huntley knotted the score at 7-7 on Jake Scalises' 27-yard scoring run in the second quarter. The Red Raiders took a 14-7 lead on a 31-yard keeper up the sideline by quarterback Blake Jacobs with 1:52 left in the second quarter.
The Chargers responded with a 28-yard field goal from Moss at the same end of the field where Huntley would later miss twice.
"Obviously, they missed a couple of field goals and that was a break, but we kicked ours," Andriola said.