Naperville Central's stunning start blunted any chance at another Wheaton Warrenville South fantastic finish.
The Redhawks used a first-quarter blitz and held off a late rally to beat visiting WW South 24-13 in Friday's DuPage Valley Conference football matchup.
Notching its third straight win, Naperville Central (3-2, 3-0) also notched its first win over the Tigers (2-3, 2-1) since 2004. Ben Andreas accounted for all 3 touchdowns -- returning a punt, catching a pass from Jake Kolbe and throwing one to Blake Butler -- as the Redhawks burst to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
A dominant first half featured 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery and a 24-0 halftime lead. WW South settled down in the second half, but there simply wasn't enough time for a rally.
"It's still a game no matter what week, no matter what opponent," said Redhawks sophomore linebacker Bobby McMillan, who snared 2 interceptions. "But to know that we haven't beaten the Tigers in eight years, it was a little bit more going into this game than any game we've played so far."
A pair of three-and-outs to start the game led to the first big play from Andreas: a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown keyed by a big block from Kevin Nowak. After the Redhawks' defense held on fourth-and-8 at their own 21, Kolbe capped a 9-play drive by hitting Andreas with a 38-yard tipped touchdown pass.
Leading 14-0, Luke Roth's fumble recovery set up Naperville Central at the Tigers' 26. On the next play Kolbe handed off to Andreas on a jet sweep, but Andreas pulled up and threw a strike to Butler for a 32-yard touchdown.
After building a 21-0 lead by the end of one quarter, the Redhawks took away any momentum WW South hoped to have coming off last week's last-second win over Naperville North.
Late in the second quarter McMillan returned his first interception 53 yards to WW South's 15. Jeremy Marks nailed a 26-yard field goal as the first half ended to put Naperville Central ahead 24-0 at the break.
"We couldn't have played a worse first half," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch, whose team committed three of its four turnovers in the first half. "It doesn't help the belief system if you can't hold on to the ball and keep giving it back to them."
WW South dominated possession in the second half, but the gap was too wide. The Tigers used 7:32 on the opening drive of the second half to go 68 yards in 17 plays -- only one pass -- and eventually score on Zackary Moberg's 2-yard run.
An 11-play, 4:02 drive followed in the fourth quarter for the Tigers. Quarterback Ryan Graham, who carried the ball 22 times for 106 yards, tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Moore to cut the deficit to 24-13 with 4:37 left.
Following an onside kick recovered by Naperville Central, WW South had the ball for only two more offensive plays. The first was McMillan's second interception, and the second play was a kneel down to end the game.
Kolbe completed 15 of 18 passes for 146 yards including 5 catches for 69 yards by Andreas.
"I'm extremely proud, that was a team effort," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "Offense, defense and special teams, that's a big victory for us."
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