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Upstart programs square off

(Don Lansu - For Shaw Media)
Huntley running back Ethan Connor picks up short yardage before being brought down by Kaneland defenders Gary Koehring (right) and John Pruett on Aug. 31 in Huntley. Huntley hosts Dundee-Crown on Friday.

HUNTLEY – None of the seven previous football meetings between Dundee-Crown and Huntley produced much of a buzz.

In most seasons since 2003, when Huntley entered the Fox Valley Conference, the two schools have been unexceptional in football.

Things will be vastly different when Dundee-Crown visits Huntley at 7:15 p.m. today at Harmony Road Campus Stadium in an FVC Valley Division game.

D-C (3-1 overall, 1-1 Valley) is off to one of its best starts in 20 years. Huntley (2-2, 2-0) leads the division by one-half game after knocking off last year’s co-champions, Prairie Ridge and Crystal Lake South, in the past two weeks.

“It’s going to be two programs that are changing a little bit,” D-C coach Vito Andriola said. “This is a really big game for both teams. It’s going to be really cool for both of them since they haven’t been in this position in a long time. I love games like this.”

D-C beat Prairie Ridge, 35-21, last week for the first time in school history. Huntley’s 20-19 victory over Crystal Lake South also marked the first time the Red Raiders had won in that series.

Huntley lost its opener to Crystal Lake Central, 27-26, on a last-minute drive, then fell to powerful Kaneland, 52-35, in the second game. Still, first-year Raiders coach John Hart feels the turnaround started in the second half against Kaneland.

“Our biggest area of concern was our defense,” Hart said. “The last 10 quarters, the defense has played great football. They found out that playing more aggressive is kind of their thing. When they play aggressive and fast and hard, it come so much easier. The difference is night and day.”

Hart said the coaches told the players not to be as concerned with assignments, but just to get after their opponents. Since then, the Raiders have allowed 26 points combined to Prairie Ridge and South.

“We’re not carefree, but we have more freedom to be aggressive,” defensive end Tanner Bergquist said. “If you mess up a little, that’s OK. It’s done pretty well; we’ll probably keep doing the same thing. We have to hit [D-C] head-on and take them the best we can.”

On offense, Huntley quarterback Kameron Sallee has a pair of tall receivers in 6-foot-3 Bryce Beschorner and 6-4 Jake Lackovic. The Raiders may get a boost this week from running back Ethan Connor, who missed most of the past three games with a sprained ankle. Jake Scalise played well in Connor’s absence and has 251 yards rushing.

Hart thinks the defense will get a strong test from D-C’s wing-T attack, led by running backs Cody Lane (650 yards, 12 touchdowns) and J.T. Beasley (336 yards, six touchdowns).

“Kaneland’s as good an offense as you’re going to see, but D-C may be right behind them,” Hart said. “They have a great fullback [Lane], and their quarterback [Garrett Ryan] doesn’t make many mistakes. They do a terrific job of moving [Beasley] around. It makes for a real challenge.”

D-C began the season with a 54-12 win against Elgin that ended a 26-game losing streak. The Chargers have shown each week since they are a different team than in the past.

“We’re a lot more confident coming into this week,” Ryan said. “We’re just more comfortable with formations and plays than last year. We’re a lot smoother and know what we’re doing and execute the plays better. Huntley’s a good team, but if we do what we’re capable of, we’ll have a good game.”

Andriola turned around Grayslake’s program 10 years ago and later joined former McHenry coach Mike Noll at Glenbrook South, where Noll has had great success.

“To me, this is what I’ve always done,” Andriola said. “This is what I wanted to come here and do, and get to the playoffs. For [the players], it’s never happened. This is all good.”

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