A 14-0 first-quarter deficit would have caused previous Streamwood football teams to crumble.
The Sabres won only 6 games in the last five seasons combined under coach Cal Cummins as the former Freeport coach worked to rejuvenate the program. When those teams fell behind early, they usually lost confidence and fell even further behind.
These Sabres have sharper edges.
Sparked by a an opportunistic defense that picked off 3 Elgin passes and an offense that demonstrated balance between the running game (223 yards) and the passing game (164 yards), Streamwood scored 4 unanswered touchdowns to slingshot past the host Maroons for a 28-14 victory in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division opener for both teams at Memorial Field on Saturday.
"When you coach you always talk about how somebody's going to come out and give you their best shot and you've got to be able to withstand that and fight back," Cummins said. " That's what I liked. Our kids showed a lot of character in fighting back. It would have been easy to go the other route, especially with our history.
"That's what I hope is going to make this group a little bit different. They're going to fight whether they're up or down and they're going to battle back."
The victory improved Streamwood's record to 3-0 for the first time since 1997.
"It's something we haven't experienced in a while and it feels great," said Streamwood senior running back Alex Morrow, who rushed 20 times for 83 yards and a touchdown. "I'm happy. The team's happy. I'm ready for next week."
The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but the Sabres dominated the final two quarters. The Streamwood defense held Elgin to 48 total yards and a lone first down in the second half.
"I really don't have the answers because the first quarter was, I'd say, a lot different than the other three," Elgin coach Dave Bierman said. "I don't know why."
Quarterback Dalton Lundeen and the Sabres opened the second half with a 13-play, 73 yard drive, highlighted by Lundeen's clutch passing. The senior connected with Morrow for an 18-yard pass on third-and-7 to keep the drive alive.
Streamwood later had first-and-goal at the Elgin 5, but 3 penalties left the Sabres with 3rd-and-goal from the 24. No matter, Lundeen spotted Deji Giwa open at the goal line for the go-ahead TD pass with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
"I think the play designs were just perfect today," said Lundeen, who completed 7-of-12 attempts for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns. "We knew their safeties were going to drop a lot, especially on those deep plays. We had a deep play designed perfectly for that. Deji went right over the middle and there was no one near him."
The Sabres gained more breathing room late in the fourth quarter. Junior Austin Mugnai fielded a short punt at the Elgin 30-yard line, cut right and returned it for a touchdown with the help of a seal block by Morrow. Nick McGuiggan's fourth extra point put Streamwood ahead 28-14 with 2:10 left in the game.
"They were preventing the blocked punt so nobody was running downfield," said Mugnai, who also made 2 interceptions on defense. "I knew there would be wide-open space."
The Maroons (1-2, 0-1) dominated the first quarter behind senior running back Dennis Moore and sophomore quarterback Ryan Sitter, who made his first varsity start.
Moore missed last week's game and the last two weeks of practice with an ankle sprain, but he looked healthy in rushing for 43 of his game-high 98 yards on the opening drive, which he capped with a 12-yard scoring run.
Streamwood turned the ball over on downs at the Elgin 35-yard line, and the Maroons marched 65 yards in 4 plays, keyed by Moore's 43-yard run. Sitter rolled left and connected with tight end Mitch Poltersdorf for a 16-yard touchdown pass, which gave Elgin a 14-0 lead with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
"I felt real good in the beginning," said Moore, whose effectiveness was limited in the second half by cramping issues. "We had that spark. We just have to keep it going for four quarters. That's the problem right now as we're trying to rebuild. We know it's not going to be easy, but we have to keep working."
Streamwood got on the board with 3:12 left in the second quarter when Lundeen found receiver Blake Holder on fourth-and-6 from the Elgin 40-yard line.
The sprinter caught the ball 15 yards downfield and used his speed to split the seam for a touchdown.
On Streamwood's next possession, Lundeen threw to Mugnai for 16 yards and to Giwa for 20 more, setting up Morrow's 3-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left in the second quarter. McGuiggan's kick tied the game 14-14.