For two years Naperville North's football team felt its confidence being siphoned away.
The Huskies started getting it back on Friday with a 42-14 win over Sandburg, but at the same time they're avoiding the pitfalls of overconfidence.
"It's only one game," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel. "I thought we did some good things, but we have a lot of work to do."
After back-to-back 2-7 seasons, the Huskies needed a strong start to the season. Led by a new-look offense that piled up more than 500 total yards behind quarterback Luke Cegles' 254 passing yards and 100-yard rushing performances by Eric Wright and Cross Robinson, that's exactly what they got.
The result, however, wasn't as easy as the final score indicates. Naperville North needed to extend a 21-14 halftime lead, something Drendel was pleased to see.
"I think it helped us because we started to get overconfident," Drendel said. "That can't happen against the teams we play in the (DuPage Valley Conference)."
The Huskies open DVC play on Friday against Metea Valley, which won last year's matchup 29-28 after trailing by 2 touchdowns with five minutes left.
Needless to say, Naperville North is eager for more redemption.
"It's an emotional game for us," Drendel said. "We'll be ready to go and they'll also be ready."
Up to his old tricks:
Lisle senior Mark McGrath was all over the place in the Lions' opening 21-14 win over Sandwich.
"He's like, find Waldo," said Lions coach Paul Parpet Sr.
McGrath ran 29 times for 115 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added 2 catches for 23 yards -- thrown by his sophomore brother, Jay -- kicked 3 extra points and just missed a field-goal try. On defense Mark McGrath made 5 tackles with an interception on Sandwich's last-gasp play.
He also had touchdowns called back on a 42-yard run and a 64-yard catch.
Quality and versatility were why McGrath was a Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area pick last season as a junior.
"He's a ballplayer," Parpet said. "He is as competitive and as versatile as you can find."
It's bad enough Naperville Central suffered a 35-6 DuPage Valley Conference loss to Glenbard North on Friday.
On Saturday the Redhawks woke up to find Week 6 opponent St. Edward, a powerhouse from Ohio, on national television. The Eagles beat Pine-Richland, Pa., 28-27 on ESPN.
"Yeah, I watched it," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "But that's down the road. We've got five games to worry about before then."
Friday's loss showed how much work needs to be done between now and the Redhawks' trip to Ohio. The defense hung in there against Glenbard North, but the offense struggled through too many mental mistakes with 10 new starters.
Naperville Central faces another huge DVC test this week against Neuqua Valley.
Worrying about Ohio definitely can wait.
"(St. Edward was) good, but I'm not sure they're any better than Glenbard North," Stine said. "We're just worried about Neuqua Valley right now. They're pretty darn good, too."
Getting Walker running:
Montini senior running back Prince Walker missed the Broncos' opener with a quadriceps injury. Coach Chris Andriano said it's "still up in the air" whether the Western Michigan recruit will play this week in Montini's home opener against Lake Zurich.
Walker has been nagged by the injury since the second week of practice in August, Andriano said.
Will Smith ran for 180 yards including a 68-yard touchdown run in Montini's 44-13 loss at Maine South, but the Broncos are better with Walker than without him. He ran for 1,266 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and shared the Chicago Catholic League Green Division's outstanding offensive player award.
"Will played well, but it just weakens us all around when we won't have our speed guys," Andriano said. "Not that it made any difference, believe me. They outplayed us."
The coach is cautious about hurrying Walker back into the lineup in only Week 2.
"If he does something to it now we may lose him," Andriano said.
The field general:
In a win the magnitude of IC Catholic Prep's 34-0 margin over defending Class 3A champion Bishop McNamara, stars are plentiful.
Senior running back Jordan Rowell ran for 207 yards and 4 touchdowns. Senior linebacker Chris Johnson's 16 tackles were impressive. Sophomore linebacker Kemon Reese matched that number. Lineman Jim Kenneally made 5 tackles for loss.
IC coach Bill Krefft, however, called quarterback Luke Ricobene the player of the game.
"His reads were so on, on the offensive side of the ball," Krefft said. "He had us in tempo, in rhythm. He was checking off at the line of scrimmage."
Ricobene turned a fumbled snap into a touchdown run that gave IC a 21-0 halftime lead, and he completed 57 percent of his passes. He affected the two other phases as well, gaining a first down on a fake punt on the opening series. When Ricobene did punt he averaged 43 yards with three inside Bishop McNamara's 20-yard line.
Most impressively, Ricobene came in at safety to defend Western Michigan-bound receiver Chris Bell. Ricobene intercepted two passes and had a third pick ruled out of bounds, made 7 tackles and knocked down two other passes.
"Bell was not a factor after that," Krefft said.
Hinsdale Central played the area's most intriguing season opener, welcoming American Fork, Utah, to town last weekend.
The Red Devils pounded the Cavemen 42-12 to cap a one-time meeting between the teams.
"We posted the opening a couple years ago and they reached out to us," said Red Devils coach Dan Hartman. "We thought it'd be a good matchup for us."
American Fork didn't pick Hinsdale Central by accident. The Cavemen have a tradition of taking long road trips -- by bus or, in this case, by airplane.
"It's something they like to do as a program," Hartman said. "It's really worked out for them."
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