Deligio has game of life as Huntley gets emotional win over Crystal Lake South
Huntley's football players lifted up quarterback Sam Deligio every day during the toughest week of his life.
Deligio gladly repaid his teammates by playing the game of his life on Friday, only a few days after his mother Terri died from a long bout with brain cancer.
Deligio ran 16 times for 204 yards and 2 second-half touchdowns, leading the Red Raiders to a 27-19 victory over Crystal Lake South at an emotionally charged Red Raider Stadium.
Huntley (8-1, 8-1 Fox Valley Conference) finishes as tri-champions with Jacobs and Prairie Ridge.
"It's been probably the longest week of my life," Deligio said. "We said this team is a family. I was here every day of the week, regardless of what was going on in my home life. I was here every day because these guys got me. They got me today, and I got them today."
Huntley coach Mike Naymola lauded Deligio for his resilience.
"It was difficult. Sam showed such resolve and grit in dealing with what he dealt with last Sunday, coming to practice every day this week," Naymola said. "To be able to lock out the distractions and play the way he played, with maybe had the best running game of his life, we love him. We're there for him.
"He's got the team's back and we have his back. Just unbelievable grit and resolve. I'm super-proud of him. The guys rallied behind him all week. To stay focused and get your team to an 8-1 record and a share of the conference championship is super-special."
Huntley tied with Prairie Ridge for the FVC title in 2019.
The Raiders trailed South 19-14 at halftime, but drove 90 yards in 14 plays to take the lead on the first possession of the second half. Deligio ran it in on fourth-and-2 from the Gators' 25, knelt in the end zone for a moment, then trotted to the sideline as the student section chanted: "Sammy D! Sammy D!"
South gained 295 total yards in the first half, but between the Raiders' defensive adjustments and ball-control offense, they kept South to 24 offensive plays in the second half.
"The defense made a couple adjustments and made some key plays," Naymola said. "You have to keep a team like that off the field as much as possible. Defensively, we tightened some things up, started pressuing the quarterback a little bit more and offensively we were able to stay on the field and capitalize on some drives."
The Gators stopped Huntley at their 6 in the fourth quarter and drove to the Raiders' 30, but defensive end Boston Bower forced a fumble as quarterback Caden Casimino was running and linebacker Dashaun Manning recovered it.
Huntley drove to the 25 and South coach Rob Fontana, trailing 20-19, opted to let the Raiders score. Deligio ran it in and Mason Wojtas' point-after made it 27-19.
"They really iced us by pounding the ball and running a lot of clock off," Fontana said. "They limited what we could do. Our best bet at the end was to let them get into the end zone and get the ball back for us."
Huntley linebacker Justin Jacobsen thought the offense and defense played complementary football in the second half.
"The offense drove and took up all the time," Jacobsen said. "The defense knew what we had to do when it was our turn. We came out and shined. It went both ways. Both offense and defense made those asjustments at halftime. We knew what to do to seal the game."
After the final touchdown, Naymola grabbed Deligio and hugged him for several seconds. After taking the last snap in victory formation, Deligio got several pats on the helmet from South players and officials, all aware of the situation.
"Football is my getaway," Deligio said. "When I'm on the field, that's all I think about. When I come off the field, I'm thinking about my mom watching down on me and it made me super-happy."