Maine South ends Huntley's season
It was a memorable season for the Huntley Red Raiders -- a 55-14 blowout loss at the hands of the Maine South Hawks in the first round of the 8A playoffs doesn't change that.
In the last week of the season, Huntley beat Fox Valley Conference foe Dundee-Crown High School 55-12 to nab a playoff berth for the fourth straight season and for the seventh time in 10 seasons. They snapped FVC rival Prairie Ridge's 30-game winning streak in a dramatic one-touchdown win in week three of the season. They finished the season with a 6-3 record and in second place in the FVC.
"Our coaches and our players have such a special relationship," Huntley head coach Matt Zimolzak said. "We spend a lot of time with these guys and we love every single one of them. I'm going to miss these seniors and I'm going to miss these days that we get to spend out here with them and every coach feels that way."
Thirty-seven athletes played their last football game in a Red Raider uniform tonight.
"They are just a special group of seniors," Zimolzak said. "You can say that every year, but these guys are just going to fight for one another. It's a group of seniors who the underclassmen can learn a lot from and I think our future is going to be based on what the underclassmen know from the seniors."
From the get-go Friday night, things weren't going the Red Raiders' way. Early in the first quarter, a pass from senior quarterback Christopher Raffin rocketed off the chest of a receiver, ricocheted up, and landed softly in the hands of senior Hawk cornerback Jimmy Nuzzo who returned the ball 65 yards to the Huntley 3-yard line. Three plays later, junior quarterback Cole Dow punched it in for a touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
Maine South tallied 34 points in the first half as senior running back Daniel Wolf rumbled for 83 yards and Dow added 46 yards as the Red Raiders repeatedly couldn't get the Hawks offense off the field on third down. By the end of the game, Dow had distributed three touchdown passes through the air and seven different Hawks had their moment in the end zone.
The one highlight for the Red Raiders was a kickoff that sophomore Ryder Havens scampered back 99 yards for a touchdown with eight minutes left in the second quarter. The play brought the score to 20-7 and the Red Raiders had a big play they hoped would swing momentum in their favor.
"We're in this, we just need to play disciplined football and make little adjustments that we thought were good for the team," Zimolzak said about his message at halftime with his team down by 27 points. "Just put ourselves in better positions to make plays. We never felt like we were out of it. We can put points on the board."
The only other points for the Red Raiders came in the form of a Raffin to senior wide receiver Joey Precour connection late in the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders finished the game with no plays in the running game that went for over 10 yards and managed just 11 completions for 128 yards.
"It comes down to execution," Zimolzak said. "We just didn't execute, there's a big play here and there and (we didn't make those plays) and it put us in a bad position. We needed to be a more disciplined team today and give Maine South all the credit in the world. They are a good team, they are well coached, and they have pretty good talent. But it really came down to assignment football and we didn't do our assignments."