Naperville North, like many teams, took to its field knowing that Friday night's game was crucial to its postseason hopes.
The 21-14 upset of No. 4 Wheaton Warrenville South brought plenty of postgame smiles after coming through in the clutch.
"This is a huge win. The crowd got into it more and believed in us. And we began to believe in ourselves as well. We can contend with everyone," said senior running back DeSean Brown, who scored all three of Naperville North's touchdowns.
The win improved the Huskies to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the DuPage Valley Conference with four games remaining and the team hoping to build on this momentum.
And while Naperville North ran for all three of its touchdowns and had a solid performance in its running game, the defense deserves equal attention having played a huge role in helping the team take control of the game and the turnovers that the Tigers (4-1, 2-1) served up.
WW South lost three fumbles and was intercepted once. Two fumbles led to Huskies touchdowns.
"Our defense came through tonight. We played physical football against one of the top five teams in the state," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel. "The defense hasn't made big plays, but tonight it made big plays."
The score was tied 7-7 at halftime. The Huskies shifted the momentum of the game in a big way late in the third quarter thanks to a 10-play, 67-yard drive that was capped by Brown's second score of the game, this one a 1-yard run. Brown carried six times for 43 yards during that span.
"On that drive we started to get the running game to pick up a little. The whole team got it into it and everyone started to make plays after it," Brown said.
That included the defense.
WW South fumbled on its subsequent drive on the first play and Naperville North's Adam Milsap recovered and ran it to the Tigers 1. Brown ran for his third touchdown on the next play.
The Tigers were not finished yet, moving the ball 82 yards in less than a minute on their next possession. Quarterback Ryan Graham threw 39 yards Keishawn Watson for the TD to pull to within 21-14. Graham scored his team's first touchdown on a 21-yard run in the first quarter.
Naperville North went three-and-out on its next drive, but WW South coughed up the ball on the punt return and Ryan Towers recovered and the Huskies were able to eat the rest of the clock.
"You can't beat yourself like that. There were too many fumbles and too many interceptions, especially in the first half," said WW South coach Ron Muhitch.