It's taken only two games to realize this is a completely different Naperville Central football team from the one that missed the playoffs a year ago.
Some things, however, are happily staying the same.
Senior quarterback Jake Kolbe remains the driving force for the Redhawks, a force that threw for 5 touchdowns in Friday's 58-35 victory over visiting Neuqua Valley on Friday.
Naperville Central (2-0) showed some District 203 pride by sweeping District 204 mates Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley (1-1). The Week 2 version of the Redhawks looked far scarier than last week, especially on offense as they piled up 506 total yards.
Illinois State-bound Kolbe led the diverse attack by completing 19 of 30 passes for 285 yards. An option pass from backup quarterback Mike Kolzow, a receiver who had 8 catches for 110 yards and 3 scores, added a sixth touchdown pass.
"Our offense revolves around our offensive line," Kolbe said. "Jake Angona, Alex Peterson, Luke Daley, Brendon Daley, Ryan Minick ... I mean, they're the core of our team."
Not to be outdone, Kevin Clifford, Tyler Joyce, Nolan Davis and Kolbe combined for 180 rushing yards in front of the dominant offensive line that allowed no sacks.
It was enough to outshine a tremendous night for Neuqua Valley receiver Mikey Dudek, who's committed to Illinois. Dudek made several acrobatic grabs on his way to 12 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown reception in addition to a rushing touchdown.
Nolan Dean scored on an 11-yard first-quarter run for the Wildcats while T.J. Scruggs added a pair of second-quarter rushing touchdowns.
Dudek's miraculous 43-yard catch from Broc Rutter with two seconds left in the first half tied the game at 28-28, but Naperville Central seized command in the second half. The spark was a 37-yard field goal by Connor Assalley that led to a 16-0 third-quarter burst by the Redhawks.
"We had a good halftime speech, we were all pumped up," Dudek said. "I guess they just came out better than us, and we came out flat. So that's something we're going to have to work on these next few games, just coming out in the second half and finishing what we did in the first half."
A Redhawks stop followed Assalley's field goal, and then four straight run plays led to Davis' 7-yard touchdown run. Neuqua Valley fumbled the ball back to the Redhawks on its next possession, and Naperville Central immediately took advantage with Kolzow's 41-yard pass to Emmanuel Rugamba.
Leading 44-28 midway through the third quarter, Kolbe added his final touchdown pass to Ben Andreas four minutes into the fourth quarter. Dudek responded with a touchdown run, but Clifford tallied the game's final score on a 4-yard run.
"People got to see what we see every day in practice tonight," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "When (Kolbe's) got time and our receivers are able to get out there and run in space, we've got a chance to be pretty good. And, you know, we showed we could run the ball pretty well, too."
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