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It doesn't matter whether Naperville Central and Naperville North are dueling for DuPage Valley Conference supremacy or desperate to remain in playoff contention.
Their games always turn out to be classics.
Naperville North reclaimed the Wes Spencer Trophy 26-23 Friday night before a raucous crowd at North Central College's Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium — but only after driving 99 yards for the go-ahead score and stopping Naperville Central inside the 10-yard line as time expired.
Huskies defensive back Dan Schertz's assertive open-field tackle dropped Redhawks wide receiver Ben Andreas at Naperville North's 6 with seconds to go.
Naperville Central, which had no timeouts, rushed to the line of scrimmage to get another snap to no avail.
Several Redhawks dropped to the Field Turf in tears while dozens of Huskies exulted nearby.
Senior left tackle Mike Langman rushed up to Schertz to celebrate, though initially he wasn't certain why.
"Was that you?" Langman yelled as he hugged Schertz. "I love you! Whoo!"
Naperville North (5-3, 4-2) all but assured its customary spot in the playoffs while Naperville Central (3-5, 3-3) will miss the postseason for just the third time since 1992.
The Redhawks, who reached the Class 8A semifinals last season, pulled out all the stops to avoid their fate. They waited until this game to unveil the Wildcat package they'd been practicing all season.
Wide receiver Jimmy Nashert lined up in the shotgun and rushed three times on Naperville Central's opening drive. He capped the march with a 2-yard touchdown.
Two drives later, Nashert caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from usual quarterback Jake Kolbe to seize a 14-0 lead with 8:12 left in the first half. Not bad for an offense that could have confidence issues after consecutive shutouts against Wheaton North and Glenbard North.
"Jimmy got a concussion earlier in the year and missed a couple games, so we couldn't run it," said Naperville Central coach Mike Stine. "That's what we wanted to do. Mix things up and run the ball."
Meanwhile, the Redhawks defense did everything possible to prevent Naperville North from running the ball.
"They had 8-9 guys in the box and were forcing us to throw the football," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel.
Quarterback Johnny Brown's arm got the Huskies into position where Brown's feet could take over.
He produced a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs to cut Naperville Central's lead to 17-13 at the half.
Naperville North running back Desean Brown added a 1-yard touchdown score to give the Huskies a 19-17 edge with 4:26 left in the third.
Naperville Central had little going offensively at that juncture, but Naperville North lost fumbles on consecutive possessions to enable the Redhawks to regain the lead on Nashert's 2-yard run at the end of the third quarter.
When Blake Butler's punt pinned the Huskies within inches of their own goal line with 10:44 to go, things looked bleak.
But 25 snaps and 10 minutes later, Desean Brown circled around right tackle Colin Goebel for the game-winning 5-yard touchdown run.
The Huskies were helped by a roughing-the-punter penalty, but they also converted two other fourth downs along the way to glory.
"The offensive line just told coach, 'Run this play, we're going to block it, we're going to score,'" Desean Brown said. "They were thanking me. I was like, 'You guys did the blocking. It wasn't even me.'"