Once they were Patriots.
Thirty-two former members of the Naperville Patriots Youth Football program will be represented Friday when Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley square off at North Central College.
Neuqua has 20 out of the Patriots' system, Waubonsie 12.
"Our kids grew up with their kids, their kids grew up with our kids," Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said. "Basically, it's for bragging rights in District 204."
There's precedent for why Neuqua is 6-0 for the first time and Waubonsie unbeaten for the first time since its 1992 state semifinal squad and are ranked Nos. 6 and 7, respectively, in Class 8A. The Patriots have won four United Youth Football League national championships.
Warriors running back Austin Guido is among the game's seniors who will be in his fourth "War of 204" contest, with last year's varsity contest going into overtime as well as the freshman game in 2009.
"At one point in that game there were 17 Patriots on the field, which was really cool," said Guido, whose football history with some of these players dates to the first grade. He felt sad former Patriots teammate and Neuqua running back Danny Dudek will miss this game with an ACL tear suffered before the season, as will another former Patriot, Wildcats receiver Jeff Evak.
"I know it's going to be tough for Danny to watch from the sideline. I feel for him," Guido said.
Several of these players weren't even supposed to be at Waubonsie in the first place, which is why Murphy really appreciates Metea Valley right now.
"This year I do, for sure," he said.
When the district boundaries shifted, encroaching south of Montgomery Road, Waubonsie gained a dozen football-playing freshmen who would have enrolled at Neuqua Valley had the boundaries remained the same.
Social media is buzzing, and Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said a coaching challenge will be to get players to stay tuned to X's and O's and reduce distractions.
"The team that comes out and stays focused is the team that will prevail," Ellinghaus said.
DuPage Valley Conference coaches have taken to calling them "those guys." They do so with the utmost respect.
Naperville North's offensive line not only has become a dominant force in the conference, it's been the Huskies' ticket toward a possible playoff berth.
"When you get some continuity up front everyone feels comfortable," said Huskies coach Sean Drendel. "For the last few weeks we've had continuity."
Four offensive linemen -- left tackle Mike Langman, center Dan Patton, right guard Ben Obriecht and right tackle Colin Goebel -- have been set since the start of the season. James DiGiovanni started the season's first three games at linebacker but shifted to left guard in the Week 4 matchup with Wheaton Warrenville South.
In the last three games the Huskies have rolled up nearly 1,100 rushing yards, including a 480-yard effort in last week's win over Glenbard East. Of the team's 1,887 total rushing yards, quarterback Johnny Brown and running backs DeSean Brown, Kendall Veluvolu and Sharad Crosby each have at least 300 rushing yards.
"We like to play the hot hand," Drendel said. "If someone gets hot during a game, we'll stay with him."
The way Naperville North's line has been performing, everyone's taken a turn enjoying the hot hand.
"Those guys" will need to keep getting the job done as the Huskies (3-3, 2-2) try to become playoff eligible with a pair of wins in their final three games against West Aurora, Naperville Central and Glenbard North.
"If we feel like we have an advantage," Drendel said, "we're going to take advantage of those guys."
On Knights turf:
Immaculate Conception is getting close to securing funding for a new drainage system and an artificial surface for Plunkett Field.
On Saturday, athletic director Tom Schergen and Knights football coach Bill Krefft said the capital campaign received a major boost just the night before by a donor who pledged $250,000 toward the $1.9 million project. That leaves $260,000 still to be raised. Should fundraising goals be met, groundbreaking is slated for next May, according to the school website.
The price tag is several hundred thousand dollars more than recent field renovations at area schools because the Plunkett plan also incorporates resurfacing most of the IC baseball field that shares the 25-acre property along West Avenue in Elmhurst. The diamond's infield will remain grass.
Wheaton North certainly didn't like the beginning of its game against West Aurora as the Blackhawks quickly marched downfield for a 7-0 lead. The disappointment steadily eased, however, as Wheaton North (6-0, 4-0 DVC) scored the next 41 points.
West Aurora then surged late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown, two successful onside kicks and a pair of additional touchdowns off the recoveries. Wheaton North still came away with a 41-28 victory, but the mood was less than celebratory.
"They walked off the field looking like they'd just lost," said Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski. "We need to focus on what we did well and move forward."
Moving forward means facing the meat of the Falcons' conference schedule against Naperville Central, Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South.
"We know the toughest three teams on the schedule are probably ahead of us," Wardynski said. "If we play like we did Friday night we'll be in trouble."
Addison Trail coach Paul Parpet knew his team would endure some growing pains this season with a mass of sophomores brought up to the varsity team. Matt Gontarek faced the biggest challenge stepping in at quarterback.
When Gontarek went down with injury a few weeks ago, Parpet moved defensive back John Taylor to quarterback. Then during last week's win over Morton, Taylor was hurt while playing defense.
After running back Pat Gorniak finished the game behind center, the Blazers will turn to a fourth quarterback this weekend: sophomore Chris Lacni.
The timing couldn't be worse for the Blazers (2-4, 1-3 West Suburban Gold), who face Glenbard West (6-0) Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
"We've had to change our offensive philosophy three times," Parpet said. "We're trying to put pieces together. That's all we can do."
There's good news on the horizon. Parpet expects Gontarek and Taylor to return for the Blazers' District 88 showdown against rival Willowbrook.
"Our injuries have been adding up all season," Parpet said. "But we should be close to 100 percent against Willowbrook."
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