CALUMET CITY | Artie Rogers saw too much of the type of uneven play Friday night that often ails teams in early-season encounters, and Thornton Fractional North's coach saw it in defeat.
Visiting Kenwood Academy built a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, then held on for dear life to post a 30-24 victory over the Meteors at T.F. North High School in the season opener for both teams.
"We made way too many mistakes tonight to have any shot at winning, and that all comes down on me," Rogers said. "I didn't have them ready to play."
Broncos running back Mikhail Naugles rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns, including a one-yard plunge with 10:45 left in the contest to give the Broncos a 30-16 lead.
The Meteors quickly responded with a a three-play drive, set up by a 48-yard kickoff return by Nikita Smith Jr. and capped by an 11-yard touchdown by Marvel Thompson Jr.
The Meteors committed a pair of turnovers the rest of the way -- one in Broncos territory -- and gave up key first downs that prevented the hosts to come from behind for victory.
"I always stress to these guys to finish, and tonight they did," Broncos coach Darnell Jones said. "Our seniors played big tonight, led by guys like Mikhail (Naugles) and Joseph Hill."
The Broncos opened the game with a score, following an onside kick by the Meteors that gave the Broncos the ball near midfield and a roughing the kicker penalty that returned the ball to the Broncos. Kenwood scored on the next play after the penalty with a 30-yard pass from Rhomel Fields to Parrish Martin.
Adonis Barnes finished with 90 yards rushing, while Smith Jr. added 77. The Meteors churned out an even 200 rushing yards in the first half from their double-wing set. They scored on their first possession, moving the ball 78 yards in eight plays, capped by a 10-yard run by Smith Jr. Davion Sylvester ran in the two-point conversion to put the Meteors ahead 8-7.
The dominance the Meteors showed on their first touchdown withered in the second quarter, in part due to untimely penalties. The Meteors drove deep into Broncos territory near the end of the half, but an illegal procedure penalty followed by a short run and three incomplete passes stalled the scoring opportunity at the 22-yard line.
Three plays later, with the Broncos pinned deep in their own end of the field, Naugles broke free on a draw play and followed a line of blockers for a 94-yard touchdown. The extra point snap was errant, but kicker Joseph Hill picked it up and found release man Malik Hester to give the visitors a 15-8 lead at halftime.