Little did Dundee-Crown’s cheerleaders know, they were in for a serious workout Friday night.
Every time the Chargers scored a touchdown during their season opener against Elgin, the cheerleaders would match the number of points scored by their team with the number of push-ups they would do. So when Dundee-Crown jumped out to a 54-0 lead by scoring eight touchdowns in the game’s first 21 minutes, that corresponded to 242 push-ups.
At least the cheerleaders didn’t have their push-up form critiqued too closely by Chargers fans who packed the home team’s stands in Carpentersville. That’s because the fans were too busy reveling in Dundee-Crown’s first victory in three years as the school’s nightmare 26-game losing streak came to an end.
For once this group of Chargers had a chance to feel what it’s like to be on the winning side of a blowout. More importantly, Dundee-Crown’s players had a chance to taste the fruit of their labors as they watched the final seconds expire on their 54-12 victory.
“This is pretty special,” Dundee-Crown senior quarterback Garrett Ryan said after the game. “Last year there was a lot of adversity, but we put in the work during the offseason and it paid off today. Hopefully we can keep that going the rest of the season.”
Things never looked bleaker for Dundee-Crown’s program than they did at the conclusion of the 2011 campaign. A 49-0 defeat against rival Jacobs punctuated the team’s second straight 0-9 finish, and over the final three weeks of the season the Chargers didn’t scored a single point while losing each game by at least 42 points.
However, the physical and mental bruises of another brutal season didn’t stop Dundee-Crown’s players from working toward the future.
“After the Jacobs game everybody started hitting the weight room and everybody got a lot stronger,” senior defensive lineman Ray Griggel said. “We have a lot of guys that are squatting over 400 pounds now.”
The difference was on full display against Elgin as Griggel and his defensive teammates swarmed to the ball and gave the Maroons no room to operate. On offense, Dundee-Crown’s mix of speed and strength at the skill positions took advantage of gaping holes provided by the line.
In fairness, the Chargers were playing an Elgin team that had only 17 players dressed due to eligibility issues. But even if the Maroons had been at full strength, they would have had a hard time avoiding a running clock given how well Dundee-Crown executed its game plan.
Second-year Chargers coach Vito Andriola is no stranger to rebuilding projects, having helped turn programs around as head coach at Grayslake (now Grayslake Central) and as an assistant at Glenbrook South.
“Believe it or not, this is the first time any kid in this building has seen us win on this field,” Andriola said. “I’m glad for our guys because now they get to see what hard work can lead to.”
Prior to Friday night’s win, Dundee-Crown’s most recent victory came against Elgin in a road game in Week 1 of the 2009 season. Now the task is to beat a team not nicknamed the Maroons, which hasn’t happened since a win against Grayslake Central in 2008.
It is almost certain the Chargers won’t have another cakewalk at any point this season like the one they enjoyed Friday. In fact, it’s not impossible to think Dundee-Crown won’t win another game given its challenging schedule the rest of the way.
Along those lines, the underdog tag isn’t going away anytime soon for a Chargers team that has lost 27 straight conference games dating to 2006 in the rugged Fox Valley Valley, which is home to perennial state title contenders Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake South.
Nonetheless, Dundee-Crown’s victory against Elgin and the convincing fashion in which it came is an unequivocal sign things are pointed in the right direction for the Chargers. And at long last, the cloud of a nasty losing streak no longer hangs overhead.
“We weren’t trying to stress [the losing streak] too much, but people were saying things like we were chasing an elusive win this season,” Ryan said. “We just wanted to come out and prove that we’re here to play.”