Wheaton Academy exchanged blows with Fenton for nearly three hours Friday night, and neither team stopped fighting until the very end.
But it was the Warriors who came away with a much-needed 53-32 win to keep their playoff hopes alive Friday in Bensenville.
"We did what we needed to do and came out here and secured a win," Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton said. "It was ugly, it was sloppy, it was long -- it took a long time -- and not necessarily the way we want to walk off the field, but it's a win. We've got a lot of guys who are banged up this time of year and we had some guys step in we weren't expecting to and did well."
The Warriors looked as if they'd run away with the game, taking a 26-7 lead at halftime, thanks largely to running back Cristan Carstens. The junior accounted for three of his team's four first-half scores, starting with a 42-yard score to get his team on the scoreboard at 7-7 late in the first quarter. He also punched the ball in from the 3- and 9-yard lines in the second.
Fenton answered with a 3-yard rushing score of its own from quarterback Kyle Cacioppo to cut the Warriors' lead in half at 26-13.
Cacioppo finished 23 for 32 for 218 yards and 3 passing touchdowns. He hit Carlos Mercado in the end zone twice in the fourth quarter for 8- and 6-yard scores, respectively.
"We made some mistakes that were critical; you can't make those mistakes against good football teams," Fenton coach Matt Lynch said. "But here's the positive: We kept fighting and we kept playing hard. I'm proud of our kids for that."
The two teams exchanged scores as three scores came in a three-and-a-half minute span. Wheaton Academy scored first off a 41-yard pass from Ben Thorson to Noah Jones. Just over a minute later, Fenton running back Dylan Butts scored his second touchdown of the game, a 9-yard scramble into the end zone.
Wheaton Academy wasted no time to leap further ahead when Kent Harmon exploded for 63 yards on the first play of the possession to take a 40-19 lead.
Thorson and Jones connected again late in the fourth for a 35-yard touchdown. Wheaton Academy's Johnny Sullivan took the ball 32 yards into the end zone for the final score of the game.
"I thought Noah Jones had a big game. It's not unexpected, we use him a lot in our passing game, but he shook off some bad stuff early to come back and have a good game, Thornton said. "Cristian Carstens is such a tough kid, he's been making plays for us all year, so we're really impressed with him and really the entire effort of our (offensive) line has been really consistent all year. They showed up when they needed to tonight."