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Chalk up last season as an all-or-nothing dilemma for Naperville Central's football team.
A 4-5 record left the Redhawks out of the playoff picture, but it also brought a dose of realism. Given the tremendous competition Naperville Central faced, one more victory also could have produced a deep postseason run.
"If we got in last year we felt like we could have made a run," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "Yeah, it was disappointing not to make it, but we're not dwelling on it."
Tough to dwell on disappointment when you return talent like Naperville Central's. Illinois State-bound quarterback Jake Kolbe, who threw for 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns, returns with top target Ben Andreas, who caught 36 passes for 614 yards and 7 scores.
Teams will be hard-pressed to stop the talented tandem from consistently connecting, especially with the backfield potential among running backs Tyler Joyce and Kevin Clifford and 220-pound fullback Nolan Davis.
Returning linemen Jacob Angona and Alex Peterson, not to mention Ryan Minick's switch from the defensive line, bring even more confidence in Naperville Central's offensive possibilities.
"It comes down to having a playmaker, and we've got playmakers with Jake and Andreas," Stine said. "Jake's as good a leader as we've had, and we know teams are going to double Andreas. We've got guys who can step up when that happens."
There's no question where you'll find the Redhawks' defensive strength. They return a trio of linebackers in Cole and Jack Wooldridge and junior Bobby McMillen. Experience extends to the secondary with returning starters Jon Lubanza and Dillon Grooss.
Naperville Central's clearly equipped to improve upon last season, which means the Redhawks are also equipped for a long playoff stay.
"We've got a chance, and these guys want a chance," Stine said. "We've got a lot of pieces this season."
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit
Fri, 8/30 Waubonsie Valley at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/6 Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 Lake Park at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 Glenbard East at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/27 Naperville Central at West Aurora 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 Naperville Central at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/11 Glenbard North at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 Naperville Central at Wheaton North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/25 Naperville Central at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.