Fenton took the field against some of the top Class 3A boys soccer teams in the state heading into the postseason, losing in considerable fashion to undefeated Hinsdale Central and DuPage Valley Conference champion Lake Park in the past two weeks.
Apparently playing against some of the most successful squads prepared the Bison. They came out firing on all cylinders in a 6-1 victory over Glenbard South on Wednesday in a Class 2A Glenbard South regional semifinal.
Fenton (7-10-2) fell behind 1-0 on a set-piece goal from senior Erik Schuchardt.
"We came out flat in the first 10 minutes and they got their goal on a corner kick because we were too lazy to the ball," Fenton coach David Alvarez said. "But once we got that equalizer, the kids got their confidence and said, OK, it's time to play."
Juan Ayala and Alexis Mendoza answered the Raiders with goals as Fenton took a modest 2-1 lead into halftime.
It was just the beginning of a barrage of scoring, though, which would turn the contest into a full-on rout in the final 40 minutes.
"We came back really fast to score that first goal and that got us going," Ayala said. "We just tried to play our game the rest of the match. We felt pretty good ahead 2-1 but were still hungry and wanted to win by more."
Ayala tallied a pair of goals in the second half to produce his first hat trick.
"It felt great to help my team," he said. "This was pretty awesome."
Michael Hriso's goal with 31:18 left extended the Bison lead to 4-1 and all but finished off the Raiders. Goals by David Ortega at 28:20 and Ayala's final goal of the night -- via penalty kick with 22:14 left -- concluded the scoring for a Fenton team that's set to face Wheaton Academy (18-3-1) at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the regional final.
"We played those big 3A teams to let the kids know where they need to be and how to be successful," Alvarez said. "It can't get any tougher than this, we told them, so they've been prepared, and while you want to win as many games as you can and win conference, everyone is ultimately preparing for the state tournament."
The loss proved to be the final game for seven Glenbard South seniors.
"We had a couple bad calls and a ball through the keeper's hands and after that we just gave up," Glenbard South coach Melissa Pero said. "It's unfortunate because they didn't play to the best of their ability, and they know it."
Still, Pero and the Raiders have reason to be excited for 2014 with 15 juniors and underclassmen on this year's roster.
"We've got a lot of younger kids coming up and there was also a huge class of 25 freshmen," Pero said. "And we have another 25 coming in so there's a lot of potential."