Nathan Didier struck big with an 85-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff of St. Charles North's season opener against Elk Grove Friday.
But the weather struck an even bigger blow a half-hour later when lightning delayed the game and sent teams and fans scurrying inside St. Charles North to wait out the lightning storm. After waiting it out for an hour, and with reports indicating that the storm wouldn't relent until late in the evening, officials postponed the game at 9 p.m. The game will resume at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Charles North with the North Stars leading 6-0 after one quarter.
The postponement was unfortunately familiar territory for both teams. North's 2013 season opener at Elk Grove was also pushed back a day due to lightning, though that game never even began on the night it was scheduled to be played. The game was even delayed briefly the next day, a Saturday, due to a thunderstorm before eventually starting. Elk Grove went on to defeat North 23-22 in overtime.
North Stars coach Rob Pomazak said this year's scenario is more difficult for the players because they already played a quarter.
"After going for a full quarter, they will be sore tomorrow," said the second-year head coach, a former defensive coordinator at Elk Grove. "We've got to get them to recover as best they can. They'll need to treat tonight like the night before a game. They need to hydrate, get plenty of rest and we'll go through our normal pregame routine tomorrow. But we feel our players are well conditioned and will be ready to do the best they can."
The most significant challenge facing both the North Stars and Grenadiers may be mental. "It's hard psychologically," Pomazak said. "You want to get the win in your first game of the year and in front of a big home crowd. We'll just have to prepare ourselves to start strong as soon as the game resumes tomorrow."
Didier certainly electrified a near-capacity home crowd when he took the opening kickoff and romped through the Grenadiers' kick coverage unit for a quick score to give North the early momentum. Starting at safety for the North Stars' defense, the senior later recovered an Elk Grove fumble near midfield, good signs that he had bounced back from the disappointment of getting beat out for the starting quarterback job by Kyle Novotney earlier in the week.
"Nate was told on Monday that he wouldn't be our starting quarterback," Pomazak said, "but Nate took the kickoff and gave us a big lift. Nate always gives us a great effort, and he made two big plays for us tonight."
North's defense preserved the early lead, limiting Elk Grove's offense to one first down in the opening 12 minutes and forcing a fumble that the North Stars recovered at their 47-yard line. North drove to the Grenadiers' 26 before a holding penalty and a two-yard loss on a pass from Novotney to Brendan Joyce moved the North Stars back to Elk Grove's 38 as time expired in the first quarter, when lightning delayed the game. Saturday's action will resume with North facing second and 22 from the Grenadiers' 38 to open the second quarter.
North hopes to launch a return to the playoffs with a victory over Elk Grove, while the Grenadiers would like an opening win to propel them to another playoff berth. Elk Grove went 6-3 last season to earn a spot in the Class 7A state playoffs before bowing out with a first-round loss.