Despite coaching game No. 11 this season, with countless practices and games and drills under his team's belt, Naperville Central coach Mike Stine still had some new tricks going into Friday's Class 8A second-round playoff game at Homewood-Flossmoor.
Providing the inspiration was Stanford's ability to run the ball against Oregon on Thursday night. From that game Stine drew up a new formation that he debuted Friday. That formation wound up providing the difference between Naperville Central playing in the state quarterfinals and watching the rest of the postseason from afar.
With offensive lineman Alex Peterson back from a torn ACL, Stine put him at tight end alongside the rest of Naperville Central's sturdy offensive line. After H-F took the lead with 6:31 left, Stine called for a run play for star receiver Ben Andreas out of that formation. Andreas wound up going 80 yards untouched to help the Redhawks to a 24-21 win. They will face the winner of Saturday's Neuqua Valley/Simeon game in next week's quarterfinals.
"That formation, I put it in today," Stine said. "We didn't practice it one time. We thought with the five guys up front; let's see if we can run it right at them. We were able to do that. We've been a team that can throw it. They did a great job of taking that away today. We were able to run it and we have some big guys up front."
H-F (9-2) took a 21-17 lead with 6:31 left when Isaac Cutrara found Devonte Harley-Hampton for a 10-yard score. After a touchback it was Andreas' turn to shine. On the first play he burst through the line and sprinted untouched for what wound up being the winning score.
"The O-line exploded off the ball," Andreas said. "I have to give the credit to them. I can't explain it. It's the best feeling I've ever had in my life. I owe it all to the O-line, I swear."
Naperville Central (8-3) still had work to do defensively to secure the win. The Redhawks finally got the turnover it was looking for all game when a bad snap was pounced on by Jack Wooldridge with 4:28 left. Naperville Central drove the ball to the Vikings' 5-yard line but stalled there. But the Redhawks took 4:09 off the clock and left H-F 95 yards to go with 19 seconds left and no timeouts.
"The defense stepped up huge and stopped them," Andreas said. "They fumbled, we recovered, and that was it from there."
Quarterback Jake Kolbe was only 5-of-11 passing for 32 yards, but he had touchdown runs of 1 and 24 yards. Kevin Clifford ran for 111 yards on 21 carries. Connor Assalley kicked a 36-yard field goal to go with his three extra points.
Naperville Central weathered a three-game losing streak against the other elite teams of the DVC this season, and now they find themselves headed to the quarterfinals.
"Coach said we didn't work all off-season to lose in the second round," Andreas said. "We worked all off-season to make a run in the playoffs."