CRYSTAL LAKE – For McHenry’s players, everything came down to believing.
Believing in themselves. Believing that previous scores didn’t matter. Believing that they could be the team that stunned the Fox Valley Conference this week, which they were.
Quarterback Andrew Hoffman threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Warriors past Crystal Lake Central, 38-26, Friday in their Fox Valley Conference game at Owen Metcalf Field.
Wide receiver Adam Benton caught six passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns. His last scoring reception, a 36-yarder with 2:36 remaining, all but sealed the win for McHenry (1-2).
Central (3-1) had just jumped into The Associated Press Class 6A rankings at No. 10 after upsetting Prairie Ridge last week, while McHenry was coming off a 53-8 loss to Huntley.
“We preach believing in each other and going out every single day,” Warriors defensive back Kyle Kaempf said. “You can’t look at previous scores. Central beat Prairie Ridge, we got beat by Prairie Ridge pretty bad (42-16 in Week 1). It’s a brand new day and take it to them, no matter what.”
The Warriors followed through on that. Hoffman came out firing, hitting 9 of 13 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
“(Hoffman) played great. He played heady,” Warriors coach Jon Niemic said. “Our offensive line played very, very hard, kept him clean. The kids played really, really well. I’m really proud of them.”
Hoffman gave the nod to the offensive linemen Luke Zunkel, Ryan Koczor, Elijah Nothdorf, Zachary Babincsak and Dylan Hogan.
“We had good practices all week,” said Hoffman, who completed 13 of 20 passes. “We practiced hard. We went after perfection every day. My beautiful O-line gave me all the time in the world. I could almost dance around back there they gave me so much time.”
Central scored first, but McHenry answered right back with Hoffman hitting running back Brody Hallin for a 14-yard touchdown. After the defense held, Kaempf returned a punt 65 yards to put the Warriors ahead for good.
On their next possession, Hoffman hit Benton for a 35-yard score. They connected for another 21-yard touchdown in the final minute of the half.
Central got some momentum when Peyton Falco returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, making it 28-14 at halftime. The Tigers scored right away to start the third quarter, making it 28-20.
“I thought I got their attention at halftime, but it was too little, too late,” Tigers coach Jon McLaughlin said. “We just never really got into synch like we were last week.
“We told the kids during the week they’re a very good 0-2 football team. We said, ‘Don’t overlook them.’ Their kids came out and challenged us.”
Central threatened again on its next possession when quarterback Colton Madura hit tight end Connor Bartesch for a 29-yard gain to McHenry’s 3. But on third-and-goal, linebacker Paul Zunkel sacked Madura at the 17 and the Tigers did not score.
“Our defensive line played great all game,” Kaempf said. “The second half, the defense showed up when we needed it the most, that’s for sure.”
McHenry added a 33-yard field goal by Gracie Gasmann, then Central’s Jake Coss returned the kickoff 52 yards to McHenry’s 28 and Madura hit Bartesch for a touchdown.
The Warriors then ate up almost 6 minutes and Hoffman found Benton down the middle and he broke free for a 36-yard touchdown.
Bartesch caught five passes for 143 yards and one touchdown.
“This is a very good senior class that we have,” Niemic said. “They’re very, very underrated. We have a lot of good teams in the Fox Valley. They proved they can play together and play mistake-free football.”
McHenry 38, Crystal Lake Central 26
McHenry 14 14 0 10 – 38
CL Central 7 7 6 6 – 26
CLC-Madura 1 run (Coss kick), 5:50.
M–Hallin 14 pass from Hoffman (Gasmann kick), 2:55.
M–Kaempf 65 punt return (Gasmann kick), 0:10.
M–Benton 35 pass from Hoffman (Gasmann kick), 5:38.
M–Benton 21pass from Hoffman (Gasmann kick), 0:31.
CLC–Falco 85 kickoff return (Coss kick), 0:16.
CLC–Fleming 6 pass from Madura (kick failed), 10:24.
M–FG Gasmann 33, 8:32.
CLC–Bartesch 28 pass from Madura (pass failed), 8:13.
M–Benton 36 pass from Hoffman (Gasmann kick), 2:39.
RUSHING–McHenry: Hallin 17-66, Gureczny 12-33, Lucas 3-21, Benton 2-1, Hoffman 3-minus 3, Team 3-minus 3. Totals: 40-115. CL Central: Coss 7-87, Blitek 4-24, Madura 7-minus 4. Totals: 19-107.
PASSING–McHenry: Hoffman 13-20-0-256. CL Central: Madura 10-23-1-227.
RECEIVING–McHenry: Benton 6-165, Gallimore 3-52, Hallin 3-38, Smiesko 1-1. CL Central: Bartesch 5-143, Fleming 3-37, Boos 2-44, Carnrite 1-3.
TOTAL TEAM YARDS–McHenry 371, CL Central 334.