Attitude and effort.
Those are the key words that Naperville North coach Sean Drendel and his coaching staff are emphasizing this season after a downer 2-7 campaign a year ago.
The Huskies showed equal amounts of both, especially in the third quarter, in a 42-14 season-opening victory over host Sandburg on Friday.
Naperville North raced out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, thanks to a 35-yard touchdown run on its opening drive by senior Eric Wright and touchdown passes of 43 and 28 yards by senior quarterback Luke Cegles.
Cruise control, right? Wrong. Despite losing top-flight running back and linebacker Patrick Brucki to a high ankle sprain with eight minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagles scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 6:12 to pull to within 21-14 at the half.
"We talked about it over there to get better and make things happen and we had a few slight adjustments, but it was more about attitude and effort," Drendel said of his halftime talk. "That's been our motto all year, and get the ball back to our offense because there are a lot of weapons over there."
And how. Cegles leveraged just about all of them to break the game wide open in the third quarter.
He started by engineering a 99-yard drive, covering 2:11, punctuated by a 51-yard run by senior Cross Robinson and culminated by a 27-yard pass from Cegles to senior receiver Mitch Lewis.
After Sandburg's ensuing drive went nowhere, Cegles was at it again, using 7 plays to cover 55 yards and hitting junior Nick Calcagno in the left side of the end zone.
And when the Eagles went three-and-out on its next possession, it took Cegles only three plays to hit Lewis again on the right sideline, where he traipsed into the end zone. Senior kicker Matt Malan's sixth extra point of the evening set the final score.
All told, Cegles went 13-for-16 passing for 241 yards and 5 touchdowns, a big reason the Huskies put up 501 total yards.
"Luke had a great game," Drendel said. "Outstanding. It's a difference when you have senior quarterbacks, and when you have the opportunity to have a senior lead you, he did a great job. He's put in a lot of time and a lot of work."
But, again, Cegles had a lot of help. Robinson rushed 12 times for 100 yards and Wright had another 100 on 11 carries. Calcagno was his Cegles' favorite target, catching 5 passes for 66 yards, while Lewis had a pair for 53 -- both for touchdowns. The defense also held Brucki to just 12 yards rushing, and 177 total yards.
Cegles was just glad to get to 1-0 and do it by beating a quality opponent.
"It feels really good," he said. "We were confident coming in, and we all knew it would be a tough test, but we aced the test, I guess you'd say."