BRADLEY | Maybe Thornton Fractional North got a little worn out facing a bigger school. Having to make the drive to Bradley twice in two nights didn't help either.
The Meteors nearly pulled off the upset Saturday night, but they'll have to take solace in knowing they look like a different team than last year.
After leading in the second half, T.F. North fell 26-20 to Bradley-Bourbonnais in a game suspended Friday night due to lightning.
"We had our chance," said T.F. North coach Artie Rogers. "We got tired. It was a long night last night -- I'm not making excuses. ... We got a lot of guys going both ways."
T.F. North went 1-8 last season, a disappointing mark after consecutive playoff appearances. But the Meteors showed a lot of life Saturday night.
They took a 14-6 lead in the third quarter, and when Bradley-Bourbonnais finally got going offensively and took a 26-14 lead in the fourth quarter, the Meteors (0-1) responded with a quick touchdown.
Bradley-Bourbonnais (1-0) could only exhale after T.F. North turned the ball over on downs with about 2 minutes to play. And that was after the host Boilermakers missed a 23-yard field goal to give T.F. North hope.
"We knew they were gonna be a good football team," said Bradley-Bourbonnais coach Mike Kohl. "They got a lot of seniors coming back, and they got a lot of experience. They came in here and they played a great football game."
T.F. North quarterback Aaron Dunigan Jr. threw the ball well enough to give the Meteors a chance, especially when he connected deep. He finished 12-22 for 176 yards, including two completions of more than 40 yards.
In the third quarter, his screen pass to Myles Barbee on fourth down ended with a 15-yard touchdown, and the two-point conversion put the Meteors up 14-6 and stunned the hosts. He also connected with Raymond Powell for a 43-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter, helping to set up Anthony Watkins' 1-yard score to cut the visitors' deficit to 26-20 with 6:01 left to play
"We put a lot on him, and he does a good job," Rogers said of his quarterback. "It's tough playing quarterback, but it's easy to sit in the stands and say, 'This guy's open, this guy's open.' When you got six, seven guys chasing you, it's tough."
Bradley-Bourbonnais' offense picked up in the the third quarter after the hosts fell behind. L.J. Harris, who often lined up in the Wildcat formation, made a leaping 15-yard grab for a touchdown, then ran in the two-point conversion tie it at 14 late in the third quarter.
Bradley-Bourbonnais quarterback Gionte Mason snuck in from 2 yards out to make it 20-14 in favor of the hosts with 8:55 left in the game, and then Boilermakers running back Jarod Ware shot off a 41-yard touchdown run to make it a two-score game.
T.F. North's defense stood tall for much of the first half, as Bradley-Bourbonnais didn't get a first down in the first half after the 5:26 point of the first quarter -- the point the game resumed at after Friday's delay.
But maybe fatigue set in in the second half, as the Meteors were noticeably outnumbered by the hosts.
Nikia Smith finished with three receptions for 52 yards for T.F. North, including a 41-yard grab that set up Barbee's score.
"We made plenty of mistakes, and we made plenty of good plays," Rogers said. "We just gotta fix it."