I haven't heard about many other area scores from Friday night but I don't need to, Huntley's 31-28 overtime win over Prairie Ridge was the best game of the night. Huntley came into the night as the underdog despite being undefeated. Prairie Ridge came in at 3-0 in the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division, the same as Huntley, but the Wolves played better against like opponents. Huntley erased a 28-7 third quater deficit and scored 24 unanswered points to pull off the overtime win. There's only so much space we have in the paper so here's a detailed description of what was without a doubt, the game of the week....
After the first half, it looked like Prairie Ridge was in fact the better team - a much better team. The Wolves dominated every facet of the game en route to a 21-7 halftime lead. And after Justin Henderson opened up the second half with an 85-yard kick return for a touchdown to make it 28-7, it looked like this was well on its way to being a blowout.
"We were really angry about (the kick return)," said senior Jordan Neukirch. "Offensively we just came right back and never gave up."
The Wolves held Neukirch to 49 yards rushing in the first half and allowed him to tally only 17 in the second half for a total of 66 yards on 19 carries. This is the same guy who averaged 9.9 yards per carry heading into the game. The Wolves seemed to drive the ball at will in the first half. After turning the ball over on downs on its first possession Prairie Ridge scored late in the first quarter on an option to Todd Budy, who scampered 14 yards for the touchdown. Huntley went three-and-out on the ensuing drive and the Wolves struck again on an 11-play 62-yard drive on their very next possession. The drive was set up by 27-yard pass from quarterback Bryan Bradshaw to receiver Toby MacDonald on a third-and-14 from the Wolves own 34-yard line and ended with a Kevin Keener 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 14-0 with 8:59 to play in the first half.
Huntley finally showed some life on its next possession as it went on a 12-play 68-yard drive to make it 14-7.
But Prairie Ridge got the ball right back and needed only three plays to make it 21-7. On another third-and-long, Bradshaw found his favorite target, MacDonald, down the left hash for a 61-yard TD pass with 2:39 left in the half. Bradshaw found the speedy MacDonald four times in the first half for 102 yards.
The second half started with the 85-yard Prairie Ridge TD return to make it 28-7, and that's about the time I started wondering how bad the game would get. But then Huntley got on track in a big way and completely dominated the final two quarters and the overtime for the win.
Only two plays after the Wolves' kick return, junior running back Brett Kleckner broke free for an 81-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 28-14. Kleckner more than made up for Neukirch's sub-par day on the ground. The Wolves keyed in on the Illinois State bound senior standout and that allowed Kleckner to have a big day. Kleckner rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the second half after rushing for only eight yards on seven carries in the first half.
After Huntley's defense forced the Wolves to punt, the Red Raiders got the ball back at their own 49-yard line and marched 51 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-21 with 3:58 left in the third quarter. Kleckner picked up his second touchdown of the game on that drive on a two yard plunge off the right guard.
Huntley had another huge defensive stand the very next possession. The Wolves had third-and-goal at the one-yard line but the defense prevented running back Bob Maxey from turning the corner and stopped him for a three yard loss. Prairie Ridge decided to go for the 21-yard field goal in hopes of making it a two possession, 10-point game but Craig Greenwald's kick sailed left, giving Huntley the momentum once again. Huntley went three-and-out on its ensuing possession but the defense held again and the offense got the ball back again at its own 13-yard line with 7:45 left in the game. The Red Raiders managed to get it to midfield before a fourth-and-14 pass fell incomplete over the middle, giving the ball and seemingly the game to the Wolves with 3:17 left to play.
Prairie Ridge was on the move and decided to go for it on 4th-and-three from the Huntley 31-yard line instead of a pooch kick. Huntley's defense rose to the occasion again and stopped Bradshaw at the line of scrimmage on a QB keeper to the right side.
Huntley got the ball back at its own 32-yard line with only 1:18 left and no timeouts. Remember how Neukirch was held in check on the ground? Well the senior came up huge on Huntley's final drive in regulation. Neukirch took a lateral pass from quarterback Brandon Luczak and threw it 31 yards down field to Tor Larkin on a flea flicker, setting up 1st-and-goal at the eight 8-yard line with just 13 seconds left. After that, you had the feeling Huntley just might pull it off. After a spike to kill the clock, Luczak found Neukirch in the front left corner of the end zone for the touchdown on a pass that Neukirch somehow caught after the ball was tipped by the cornerback who was covering Neukirch.
"What a couple of plays by Jordan," said Huntley coach Steve Graves. "Both throwing and catching the ball down there. They knew we were going to him and I'd kick myself in the butt if he didn't have something to do with the end of it."
Then there was the all important extra point, which Larkin successfully put through the uprights to tie the game with only 6.9 seconds left in the game.
Prairie Ridge won the coin flip for overtime and decided to start off with the ball. In high school football each team gets the ball at the opponents' 10-yard line and has four downs to score. The Wolves fumbled a pitch on the first play and Huntley recovered, giving it 1st-and-goal at the 10. Three consecutive rushing plays gave the Red Raiders 4th-and-goal and the 1-yard line and Larkin connected on an 18-yard field goal to complete the improbable comeback.
With the win, Huntley proved many doubters wrong and set the stage for an undefeated regular season and an outright FVC Fox Division title with a win next week at Johnsburg.