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Gone in a flash.
That's what happened to Naperville North's short-lived lead Friday night, as well as whatever momentum the Huskies had built up by driving 82 yards on their opening possession and kicking a 22-yard field goal by Milan Dosen.
Seconds later Naperville Central's Dillon Grooss returned the kickoff 84 yards untouched for a touchdown and a 7-3 Redhawks lead that eventually grew to 39-3 before a pair of late scores made the final 39-17.
Dosen's long kick return seemed to fire up not only the Redhawks fans in attendance at North Central College, but his team's defense shook off the sluggish start and stifled the Huskies' potent run game much of the night.
"That just got us started and you could feel the emotion afterward," Redhawks coach Mike Stine said after his squad reclaimed ownership of the Wes Spencer Cross-Town Classic trophy. "The key was that kickoff return."
But other keys included a strong defense, solid play by the offensive line and then big plays from skill players like quarterback Jake Kolbe and receiver Mike Kolzow. Kolbe threw a pair of touchdown passes to Kolzow, also had a 13-yard TD run, and the Naperville Central defense forced 3 turnovers, two of which came with Naperville North (5-4, 4-3) deep in Redhawks territory.
The teams combined for 24 penalties totaling 193 yards, and the Redhawks had a pair of touchdowns wiped out by flags, yet Naperville Central made more than enough big plays to improve to 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the DVC while heading into next week's state playoffs.
"We talked about starting strong all week, and we executed on that first drive and it felt good to come out strong," said Kolzow, who had 6 catches for 98 yards, including scoring plays of 17 and 30 yards. "It was a real sloppy game, and coach Stine told us this week there would be a lot of stuff going on with this being a rivalry game and all."
Kolbe capped Naperville Central's first drive with a 13-yard touchdown run for a 14-3 lead after one quarter. The Redhawks' margin improved to 20-3 at the half on the first of two Kevin Clifford touchdown runs.
The Huskies, meanwhile, struggled to get their ground game going and had one threat ended by an interception by linebacker Jack Wooldridge at the Redhawks' 7-yard line, while two other possessions were lost on fumbles.
"We had too many mistakes. After they returned the kickoff we had started inside our 10 three times," Huskies coach Sean Drendel said. "We had too many penalties and too many dropped balls and dropped snaps. It was ugly, but we'll regroup and come out next week and play hard."
One bright spot for the Huskies came from running back DeSean Brown, who had 11 catches for 120 yards and caught a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns from Chris Gajcak, who took over for Conner Johannes, who had gone 15 of 24 for 153 yards and 1 interception through three quarters.