Round Lake's football players, who have been beat up more than Anthony Burton's tattered game jersey, did something they usually don't do last Saturday.
After getting pounded the night before by Grayslake North, which completed a Grayslake sweep, after Grayslake Central had put up 40-plus points on them as well Opening Night, the Panthers put their pads back on and hit the field.
"We practiced, instead of watching film," coach John Coursey said. "We came out and had an unbelievably great practice."
On Saturday, Round Lake's football players did something they usually don't do.
They won a game.
"It's fantastic," said a smiling Burton, the senior quarterback/linebacker/kicker/punter, who was fantastic in Round Lake's 17-14 win over Wauconda, which had its homecoming spoiled.
Burton's 20-yard field goal with 31 seconds left snapped a 14-14 tie, allowing the Panthers to snap their 26-game losing streak in North Suburban Prairie Division play. Round Lake (1-2, 1-0), which had lost nine in a row overall, had not won a division contest since defeating Antioch 13-7 in Week 7 of the 2006 season.
"We played hard," Coursey said. "We play hard all the time. We practice to win. We play to win. It finally paid off.
"As much as we've gotten beat up, we come back every Monday, ready to go."
After his go-ahead field goal, Burton wasn't ready to go crazy. As his teammates celebrated, several of them jumping high in the air, Burton just hustled off the field.
"You got to remain calm," Burton said. "The game wasn't over yet. We still had to pull out the 'W.' "
With 28 seconds on the clock, Wauconda (1-2, 0-1) started at its own 31. The Bulldogs reached the Round Lake 20, thanks in part to a pass-interference penalty and an 11-yard scramble by quarterback Branden Rowe. On second-and-10, Wauconda sent out its field-goal unit in an attempt to force overtime.
But the kick from 37 yards out was wide left and short as time expired, and for the first time since it shut out Chicago Sullivan 42-0 in Week 2 last season, Round Lake could celebrate a victory.
"Credit Round Lake," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "They hung around, hung around, hung around. They made their field goal when they had to. We missed two of ours."
Burton rushed for 121 yards, 57 coming on a TD run that opened the scoring in the second quarter. He also had 2 tackles for loss and punted six times.
"Yeah, I'm exhausted, but it's all right," Burton said. "We had great practices all week. I had people staying after, working on catching and throwing. People were working on our onside kickoff. We had about half the team staying after practice. That hasn't happened in a long time."
Coursey is a fan of Burton, a senior who's athletic and strong, both physically and mentally.
"He's a good kid," Coursey said. "He's a high-energy guy. I'm really hard on him, but he's the kind of kid who can take it. Usually you don't want to get on your quarterback like that, but he takes it well. He's coachable."
Wauconda led 14-7 at halftime, as Rowe (14 of 18, 230 yards) connected seven times with wide receiver Jake Ziolkowski, who had TD grabs of 14 and 46 yards. Ziolkowski finished with 9 catches for 184 yards.
"(No.) 80 is fantastic," Coursey said of Ziolkowski. "We tried to double him up in the second half because he's that good. We couldn't cover him. We tried to play man coverage with him, with two deep behind him, and we couldn't do it."
Wauconda couldn't hang on to the football in the second half, fumbling it away four times. Round Lake's Antonio Farley and Anthony Youngberg teamed up to sack Rowe, and Youngberg recovered at the Wauconda 40 with nine minutes left in the fourth.
Daniel Vega (11 carries, 26 yards; 6 catches, 40 yards) scored eight plays later from the 2 with 6:15 to go.
Round Lake couldn't do anything after Mark Gorski recovered a Bulldogs fumble at the home team's 44. But after Jorge Venegas (2 sacks) jarred the ball loose from Rowe and Youngberg recovered his second fumble, the Panthers took possession at the Wauconda 17.
Burton's 19-yard screen to the hard-running Vega on third-and-16 from the 23 set up Burton's field goal, which came from the right hash mark.
"That was a tough kick," Coursey said.
Late in the third, Wauconda had a receiver run a wrong route and tip the ball away from an open Ziolkowski in the end zone. On the next play, the Bulldogs missed a 23-yard field goal wide right.
"When you have those opportunities and you shoot yourself in the foot," Mills said, "you're not going to win games."
It was a rough homecoming for Wauconda. A longtime booster passed away during the week and was honored with a moment of silence before kickoff. Mills said one of his players learned Saturday that one of his grandparents died.
Then during the opening quarter, Bulldogs nose tackle John Kaimakis dislocated his shoulder and was carted off on a stretcher. Kaimakis had injured his other shoulder Opening Night and did not play last week against Stillman Valley. Kaimakis was scheduled for surgery.
"I hate Saturday homecomings," Mills said. "I always have."