Wheeling senior quarterback Amani Dennis picked up where he left off last year.
Dennis and the Wildcats got their revenge from a loss to Mundelein to open last season, galloping past the visiting Mustangs 34-20 on Friday evening.
Dennis rushed for a game-high 173 yards and tossed for 160 yards. He finished with 2 rushing TDs and 1 passing.
Dennis and company didn't waste a second on offense. Amani Dennis connected with his brother, sophomore Jalen Dennis, for a 38-yard Hail Mary on the first play of the game. Jalen finished that drive with a 21-yard rush to help Wheeling take an early 6-0 lead.
Although Amani Dennis and the Wildcats were very successful with the ground game, Mundelein's running game was a thorn in the Wildcats' side in the first half.
Mundelein senior running back Richard Hamilton (12 carries, 86 yards, 2 touchdowns) answered with a 24-yard rush of his own early. Hamilton ended up stealing the lead from the Wildcats as Mundelein went up 8-6.
Both teams were successful in attacking the defensive lines on the ground as Wheeling tallied 149 rushing, while Mundelein registered 152. The result of the stellar run game provided five first-half lead changes.
"When I came in three years ago, we liked these group of kids from the get-go," said Wheeling coach Brent Pearlman. "They have a good attitude and I thought they could do something. We have our flashes, but we need more consistency.
"Amani (Dennis) is a tremendous kid with a lot of courage. He will give his body for the team. He makes a lot of things happen and he's a great teammate. I've really enjoyed coaching him."
At halftime, Wheeling gained an 18-14 lead after a rushing touchdown from Amani Dennis and a 21-yard receiving touchdown from junior receive Charlie Zettek. Hamilton provided both first-half touchdowns for Mundelein.
Wheeling never looked back after third quarter. Amani Dennis started the half of with a 35-yard run as he danced and weaved through Mundelein defenders. Wildcats senior running back Zack Lett completed the drive the very next play as he followed blocks and broke tackles in an impressive 42-yard touchdown run.
"The line was fighting," Lett said. "They gave me a great hole and I found it. We got to get way better."
The Wheeling defensive unit looked revitalized in the second half. In the third quarter, the Wildcats only allowed 9 total yards and forced two three-and-outs. Mundelein's time of possession was held to 1:30 for the entire quarter.
Wildcats defensive standouts were senior safety Max Chung (2 interceptions); senior defensive end Evan Brown and senior linebacker Dylan Draka both tallied sacks.
Mundelein got a third touchdown from Robert Hamilton late in the fourth quarter after a 73-yard kick return, but the deficit was too large for a rally.
"We didn't make plays," said Mundelein coach George Kaider. "We dropped several balls. I thought we were physical (on the defensive) line, but (Amani Green) is a phenomenal athlete.
"We have to play more discipline, make tackles in the open field and build the wall (on the defensive line). We have many things to do to get better."
Mundelein will host Highland Park next Friday, while Wheeling will travel to Conant.
"We are coming in more confident as a team," said Amani Dennis. " Once we get Evan (Brown) going on the defense, it sparks the whole team. He brings the energy and everyone feeds off it.
"From here on we have to keep climbing, so we get good results. That's what we want, and that's what we're pushing to get."