There was not much happening for the better part of the first half for the Fenton offense Friday night as the Bison met host Grayslake Central in season-opening high school football.
The Rams held a 3-0 lead on Kevin Dunk's 23-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but Fenton got rolling at the end of the second quarter in what had been a real defensive struggle.
The opportunistic Bison wound up scoring 12 points in the final 15.4 seconds of the second quarter, and they carried that momentum into the second half en route to posting an impressive 27-9 nonconference victory over Grayslake Central (0-1).
Senior running back Kyle McPherson (163 yards on 18 carries) proved to be the difference for Fenton as his 33-yard run on first down finally got the Bison offense going in the right direction late in the first half.
McPherson wound up scoring on a 1-yard TD run off right tackle with 15.4 seconds left in the second quarter before the extra-point kick failed, making the score 6-3.
But the Rams made a crucial mistake on the ensuing kickoff as they let the floating kickoff bounce on the field turf where an alert Josh Casey was on the spot to recover the ball at the Grayslake Central 30 with a 5-yard face-mask penalty tacked onto the end of the huge play.
Then on first down, Fenton quarterback Willie Wassmann (6-for-9, 118 yards) lofted a high TD pass to Casey in the left corner of the end zone to give the Bison a 12-3 lead over the shocked Rams just 14.7 seconds before halftime.
Fenton's ball-control running game kept Grayslake Central at bay in the second half as the Bison put together a couple of time-consuming drives in the third quarter despite not having any points to show for it with the score remaining 12-3 heading into the fourth quarter.
A 44-yard pass from Wassmann to Cody Quarles took the ball down to the Rams 23-yard line before McPherson eventually scored his second TD on another 1-yard run with 6:36 to play. A 2-point conversion pass from Wassmann to Quarles made the score 20-3 at that juncture.
McPherson had much more running room in the second half when he compiled 121 of his 163 total yards rushing.
"We fixed our mistakes (at halftime) and in the second half we just got it going," said McPherson, whose team had 333 yards of offense overall. "Our line coming together is going to be the difference and I couldn't have done any of that without my line."
After another Grayslake Central drive stalled midway through the fourth quarter, a bad snap on a punt by Dunk really benefited the Bison as the 18-yard loss gave Fenton the ball at the Central 11-yard-line.
On the next play, 230-pound running back Matt Lucas (31 yards on 7 rushes) powered his way through the heart of the Rams' defense on his way to an 11-yard TD run and a 27-3 advantage following Griffin Idelman's extra-point boot with 5:12 to play.
"We're definitely a run-first type of offense and we showed flashes of what our potential is tonight," said Fenton coach Mark Kos, whose team is aiming for a third straight trip to the IHSA playoffs this season. "We've got a bunch of good athletes, and the willingness to learn and work is there. We as coaches have the utmost confidence in Willie and he leads that huddle like you would want your quarterback to do."
The Rams did put together a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter as running back DeJuan Ali's 35-yard on first down got his squad fired up.
Junior quarterback Luke Shepherd (7-for-15, 67 yards) capped the 63-yard scoring drive with a 17-yard TD pass to junior teammate Noah Comerford to make the score 27-9 with just 40.7 seconds remaining.
Shepherd was under heavy pressure from the Fenton defensive line all game long as the Central offense was held to just 33 yards on the ground due to taking so many plays with negative yardage. Ali wound up with 40 yards on 3 attempts while teammate Cameron Schwartz was held to 11 yards on 6 carries.
"I give a lot of credit to them (Fenton), they definitely did a great job running the ball and running the clock," said first-year Grayslake Central coach Jason Schaal. "We have a lot of positives we can grow with and I think Cameron and DeJuan were running well.
"The defense didn't play bad, but they were on the field a long time. We're young and we're trying to find a way to get the ball to our track guys (Schwartz and Ali)."
Central's Seth Graf recovered a dropped punt on the Fenton 35 late in the first quarter, but the Rams could not cash in on the miscue.
Junior Colin Pogue intercepted a pass deep in his own territory early in the third quarter to prevent Central from falling behind even further after a 60-yard run by McPherson had taken the ball down to the 20-yard-line two plays earlier.