Huntley’s Cinderella season cut short

The Red Raiders fought valiantly until the end; wrote a new chapter in HHS football history


Z. Emerson

The Red Raiders huddle together during a time-out to come up with a strategy for the remainder of the game.

By Zoe Emerson

The playoffs are an exciting time for players and fans alike, and Huntley High School’s varsity football team is no exception. As the Red Raiders warmed up on the field, preparing to take on Victor J. Andrew High School’s Thunderbolts, the fans were anything but warm. 

As the sun set over the stadium, the temperatures plummeted. As a result, fans bundled up in their thickest coats, with some even bringing blankets as a backup. The stadium was packed to the brim, and the smell of Rosati’s pizza filled the air.

Prior to the game, head coach Mike Naymola expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance throughout the regular season. 

“I don’t know if anyone on our staff would have expected it to go this way. We’ve had a lot of close games go our way,” Naymola said. “I feel like we’ve made our own breaks and capitalized on a lot of opportunities that we’ve had. Players on the team have really stepped up and played well in certain situations.” 

Naymola had high hopes for the game. He acknowledged that the Thunderbolts had a hard-playing team, but emphasized that they are quite similar to the Red Raiders and their playing style. 

“We’re a gritty team, and we try to grind the ball a little bit, and that’s exactly what they do,” Naymola said. “We’re really looking forward to the opportunity.”

The first quarter kicked off, quite literally, with senior Mason Wojtas sending the ball down the field. Morale was high in both players and fans, as the Red Raiders had greatly improved their performance from last season. 

Plays were stopped several times during the quarter due to Huntley’s defense, and junior Jack Coss turned the ball over to Huntley. Later on, in the quarter, junior Haiden Janke scored a touchdown, with Wojtas getting the extra point via a field goal. By the end of the first quarter, the Red Raiders led the game 7-0.

The second quarter of the game resulted in another field goal by Wojtas, resulting in a score of 10-0. Later on, the Thunderbolts got themselves on the scoreboard with a touchdown and a field goal. At halftime, the Red Raiders led 10-7.

The Thunderbolts took the lead in the third quarter with a touchdown and a field goal, changing the score to 14-10. Near the end of the third quarter, a Huntley comeback seemed imminent, as Janke scored another touchdown for Huntley. Another touchdown for fewer points ensued moments later, bringing the score to 21-18 in favor of the Thunderbolts. 

A comeback was not to be, as the Thunderbolts scored yet another touchdown. As hard as the Red Raiders played, they ultimately came up short. The game’s final score was 28-18, with the Thunderbolts moving on to the next round of the playoffs. 

Although the loss was devastating for the Red Raiders, Janke believed that the team had played amazingly throughout the entirety of the season. 

“This team just came together. We built something here,” Janke said. “We came from a 3-6 team to an 8-1 team. Anything we put our minds to, we can do.

Janke praised Naymola for his leadership throughout his first season as head coach. Janke stated that he and Naymola developed a stronger bond ever since his appointment to the coaching position. 

Regarding the hopes for the next season and how it will look for the team, Janke put it simply.

“We’re going to remember this day, then we’re going to come back and win the playoffs.”