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Dundee-Crown's Malik Dunner hits the open field during a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown against Grayslake Central on Friday. | John Konstantaras/For Sun-Times Media
For a moment I had to remind myself I was in Carpentersville and not the Twilight Zone.
Dundee-Crown had just reached its fifth win of the season with a rather convincing 30-14 triumph over Grayslake Central on Friday, but instead of a jubilant celebration, the scene was subdued as the team’s coaches and players expressed frustration over what they felt was a lackluster effort in the second half.
We’re talking about Dundee-Crown here, the same school that lost 26 games in a row from 2009-11 and came into this season on a streak of 18 straight losing campaigns. Last week’s victory guaranteed the Chargers will finish with a .500 record or better for the first time since 1994, but it seemed like nobody wanted to revel in the occasion.
“Getting to five wins is good, but we’ve got to play better,” junior standout Malik Dunner said. “We have higher standards and we’re way better than the way we played.”
If anything, Dundee-Crown’s dialed-down reaction to improving its record to 5-1 is a sign of just how far the program has come since Vito Andriola took over as coach in 2011. The Chargers didn’t win a game in Andriola’s first season at the helm, and now they expect to dominate decent opponents such as Grayslake Central for four full quarters.
In all seriousness, Dundee-Crown reaching five wins is a big deal. Keep in mind that none of the players on this year’s team were alive the last time the program accomplished the feat in 1994.
“I’ve been going to Crown games for a while because I’ve got a lot of older brothers and sisters,” senior offensive lineman Trent Hanselmann said. “We haven’t been this good for as long as I can remember. It’s pretty incredible.”
Making the resurgence all the more impressive is the fact the Chargers are doing it without arguably their best player. Running back Cody Lane totaled 1,217 rushing yards last year, but a torn ACL suffered during the summer cost him his senior season and meant his teammates had to pick up the slack.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, Dundee-Crown’s players and coaches deserve a ton of credit for transforming the program into a winner through hard work and discipline. With that said, what happens the rest of the season is of the utmost importance to the Chargers.
Dundee-Crown is playoff-eligible for the first time since 1994, and it needs one more win in its final three regular-season games to clinch a trip to the postseason. The Chargers still are in the hunt for the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title, which is remarkable in its own right given the league’s lofty reputation, and hosting a playoff game is among the team’s biggest goals.
So no, this isn’t the Twilight Zone, it’s just a new era where Dundee-Crown is a legitimate force to be reckoned with on the football field. Plenty of challenges lie ahead for the Chargers, but it’s hard not to root for these guys to make a feel-good story feel even better over the next few weeks.
Now for the rest of my weekly football breakdown:
Most impressive win
St. Charles North thumped Streamwood 55-6 on Friday despite being without star running back Evan Kurtz and starting quarterback Erik Miller, both of whom were nursing injuries. The lopsided outcome is a testament to the North Stars’ depth and offers a reminder they shouldn’t be overlooked despite a middle-of-the-road 3-3 record.
Player of the week
St. Edward’s Davontae Elam is the easy pick after he plowed his way to 228 yards and five touchdowns on 19 carries in a 53-6 win against Chicago Christian on Friday. Elam also earned the distinction in Week 1.
Jacobsen’s Top 5
Here is how I stack up the top teams in the Courier-News coverage area after Week 6:
1. Jacobs (4-2): Golden Eagles host Cary-Grove this Friday in showdown between FVC Valley co-leaders.
2. Dundee-Crown (5-1): Defense getting it done for Chargers, who have allowed more than 14 points only once this season.
3. St. Charles East (4-2): Upstate Eight River title hopes take a hit as Saints stumble at Geneva for first league loss.
4. St. Edward (4-2): Green Wave can become playoff eligible for first time since 2010 with win this week against Wheaton Academy.
5. St. Charles North (3-3): North Stars have a chance to make a statement when they host UEC River leader Batavia this week.