Huntley and Cary-Grove both faced some major soul-searching moments in Friday night's sweltering Fox Valley Conference football showdown.
Electrifying Eric Mooney and Huntley scored on all five of its first-half possessions to build a 23-point lead. But Cary-Grove, with top rushers Max Skol and Danny Daigle knocked out by injuries, battled back to cut the deficit to 3 points just two plays into the fourth quarter.
Now it was the host Red Raiders' turn to respond. They did as Mooney engineered another touchdown drive to cap a 41-32 victory before an overflow crowd.
"We knew we needed to score again and put the game away," Mooney said after piling up 390 total yards and 5 touchdowns. "We had a good drive by the O-line, Melvin (Aninagyei-Bonsu) ran hard and we got the job done."
Huntley (4-1, 4-1) showcased its big-play ability once again as it gained 410 of its 506 total yards in the first half behind the line of Tommy Ryan, Benjamin Dworski, Cade Golembeck, Justin Precour and Joe Wilson. Mooney (22 carries, 194 yards) raced 80 yards around left end to the end zone on the game's second play.
Mooney (6-for-14, 196 yards passing) found junior Michael Boland for touchdowns of 46 and 72 yards to make it 21-6 with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
"We were just being aggressive, Mooney made some great throws and I did the rest," Boland said.
"When they've got everybody in the box trying to stop Melvin and Eric it opens up the back end," said Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak. "If teams want to go one-on-one with them Eric can get them the ball."
Aninagyei-Bonsu (9 carries, 117 yards) had a 72-yard scoring run. Mooney's 1-yard run after he hit Matthew Gelander for 48 yards gave Huntley a 35-12 lead 2:56 before intermission.
"It was amazing," Boland said. "It shows what we actually can do as an offense."
But Cary (3-2, 3-2) showed what it can do with its vaunted triple option. The second touchdown pass from Quinn Priester to Benjamin Ferrell (5 catches, 111 yards) on the final play of the first half capped a 75-yard drive and cut the deficit to 35-19.
Cary started the second half without Skol (knee) and Daigle (shoulder). Skol had a 4-yard touchdown run and 43 yards on 12 carries and Daigle had 58 yards on 5 carries. But Priester (22 carries, 84 yards), who was playing both ways, Max Buss (17 carries, 86 yards) and Michael Boyd (6 carries, 60 yards) kept the offense moving.
A 28-yard touchdown run by Boyd, a Blake Skol interception on a bobbled pass and a 1-yard touchdown run by Boyd cut the deficit to 35-32 with 11:23 to play.
"Our kids competed so hard," said Cary coach Brad Seaburg. "What I talked to them about is how we put ourselves in a situation where we had to compete like that to get the game close.
"I'm proud of the way they competed but disappointed in the results of the first half."
Huntley converted two third downs to start the next drive and Davis Pasco responded to a dropped pass with a juggling catch for 16 yards on third-and-7. Mooney's 13-yard touchdown run provided some breathing room with 7:36 left.
"We had been going on them all game," Mooney said of the confidence he had on the decisive drive. "Even on the possession we didn't score (in the third quarter) we were driving down the field."
Cary drove to the Huntley 25 but Justin Allen and Zach Kucz got a fourth-down sack of Priester with 2:24 to play.
"I was kind of getting really nervous," Boland said of Cary getting within 3 points. "But I think we trust our defense and our O-line made some good blocks to finish off the game."