On a night when Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson broke his personal DuPage Valley Conference record for rushing yards in a game, the senior saved his biggest play for catching the ball.
Nursing a drive to run out the clock, Jackson's 12-yard reception off a tipped pass converted a crucial third-and-11 and helped the visiting Panthers preserve Friday's 40-34 victory over Naperville Central.
Oh, and about that record. The Northwestern-bound back carried the ball 42 times for 405 yards, shattering his own DVC mark by 50 yards.
The defending DVC champion Panthers (6-1, 5-0) needed every bit of the effort to hold off Naperville Central (4-2, 3-2) and stay alone atop the league standings.
"Sometimes it's good to be good but better to be lucky," Jackson said of the third-down ball he somehow snagged after being tipped by a defender.
There was way more good than luck from the 6-foot, 185-pounder who also played the entire game at cornerback.
Jackson scored 5 touchdowns including sprints from 51, 70 and 77 yards out. Twice he broke free of what seemed like sure tackles, only to outrun the entire Redhawks defense.
"The past few games I haven't been getting too many hits so I've been pretty healthy," Jackson said. "I needed every little bit of it this game. Just glad to get this one today."
Jackson's performance overshadowed an impressive comeback by Naperville Central, which trailed 28-0 at the half. Illinois State-bound quarterback Jake Kolbe completed 23 of 41 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 3 more scores.
Kolbe's 38-yard strike to Ben Andreas, who had 12 catches for 167 yards, narrowed the gap to 40-34 with 6:28 left, but 10 Jackson runs and his 12-yard reception drained the clock to keep the Panthers unbeaten in the DVC.
"We came out and dug ourselves such a big hole," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "I'm really proud of the way our guys battled back in the second half."
Glenbard North quarterback Brett Gasiorowski's 21-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Kuechler boosted the Panthers' lead to 21-0 midway through the second quarter. Naperville Central finally started moving the sticks on its next possession, crossing midfield for the first time.
After stalling out on a fourth-and-5, however, Jackson ripped off his 70-yarder to put the halftime lead at 28-0. Naperville Central responded by scoring on five of its six second-half possessions, including a 29-yard touchdown pass from Mike Kolzow to Tyler Schmidt.
"It was real important to get out to that lead," said Panthers defensive lineman Cyris Parker. "I had to do my job, everybody else had to do their jobs. We played phenomenal in the first half, and then in the second half we fell apart a little bit, but then we picked it up."
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