West Aurora coach Nate Eimer tried to explain in simple terms how a 24-minute dogfight turned into a one-sided loss Friday night at Naperville Central.
"We were battling, but at the end of the day you've got to make plays," he said. "Naperville Central made them tonight and we didn't."
The visiting Blackhawks (1-3, 0-2 DuPage Valley Conference) made their share of plays while trailing just 7-0 at the half, but the Redhawks (2-2, 2-0) started the second half with a big kickoff return by Luke Roth and then made one big play after another to win their second straight DVC game going away, this time 42-7.
After tallying only on a 32-yard TD pass from Jake Kolbe to Ben Andreas in the first half, Roth took a short kick to open the third quarter and returned it 52 yards to the West Aurora 17. Four pays later Nick Thomas scored from 5 yards out for the first of his two rushing scores of the night.
Bobby McMillan, who later added a fumble recovery, picked off a pass on the next possession and gave the hosts the ball again at the West Aurora 18.
It didn't take long for Kolbe to connect with tight end Colin Park on a 16-yard score for a 21-0 lead. While the Blackhawks answered with a nice drive that was capped by a 12-yard TD run by Booker Ross, the Redhawks came right back with another score on a sparkling 36-yard diving catch in the end zone by Andreas, giving him two scores and giving Kolbe 3 TD passes for the game.
"Coaches told us at the half that we needed to come out with more fire and intensity," said McMillan, a sophomore linebacker. "The defensive line put on the pressure and I made a play. We worked real hard this week in practice and it paid off real well tonight."
Naperville Central dropped its two nonconference games to open the season, but once the DVC play started up and some weapons rejoined the team, the offense has really clicked.
Thomas ran for 92 yards and two scores on 18 carries, while Kolbe passed for 201 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Seven Redhawks receivers had at least one catch on the night.
"In the second half we had great field position and the defense was fantastic," Thomas said. "We play off our defense and the defense plays off us. West Aurora has a good football team, but we have receivers who can catch and Jake who can throw. I think we have a good offense going."
Naperville Central coach Mike Stine left the field impressed both with West Aurora's play and with his team's solid effort.
"West Aurora is a good football team and at the half it was a dogfight," Stine said. "We just converted some third-and-longs and even a couple fourth downs. We threw the ball, we ran the ball and that kickoff return was big."