The Naperville Central football team won its homecoming game Friday night against Waubonsie Valley 33-16. But there is so much more beyond that final score for the Redhawks.
The DuPage Valley Conference has always been considered one of the Chicago area's toughest. The arrow on the toughness meter has pointed further upward in the second season with the addition of the District 204 schools Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley.
Add the Redhawks fighting to get back to .500 and trying to shake a 1-3 record against the Warriors the last two seasons, including two defeats in 2015, and it's easy why Naperville Central was savoring this victory on the field long after it ended.
"This win is gigantic. But we can't get ahead of ourselves," said running back A.J. Deinhart, who finished with a game-high 181 yards on 28 carries and 2 touchdowns. "We stress that we're 1-0 every week."
Deinhart put the Redhawks (2-2, 2-2 DuPage Valley Conference) on the scoreboard just 1:42 into the game on a 66-yard run. However, Naperville Central managed just three more points the rest of the first half on the first of Andrew Delgado field goals on the night.
Waubonsie Valley (2-2, 2-2) scored two second-quarter touchdowns to lead at halftime 14-10. The Warriors' first TD came with 9:48 remaining before halftime on a 67-yard scoring pass to Eric Esch from Tanner Westwood. Naperville Central fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Warriors took over at the Redhawks' 25. On the second play Nate Ashford hit end zone from the 21.
Waubonsie scored the first points of the second half after tackling a runner in the end zone for a safety. But that's where Naperville Central took over.
Delgado kicked his second field goal and late in the third quarter Redhawks quarterback Patrick Ryan found Josh Ruiz on a 12-yard TD connection, and that's where the game stayed until 7:19 remained in the contest.
"This is so big. I remember being on the field last year. We wanted to beat them so bad. The DVC is like this," Ryan said.
Naperville Central finally put some space between it and the Warriors at the 7:19 mark when Ryan found a wide open Tommy Coyne for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
"It starts with the offensive line. They were blocking up front and Pat had a ton of time to read. He got it on the point. It helped seal the win. It feels great," Coyne said.
Deinhart dried the ink on the final score with a 2-yard run that capped an 8-play drive that took about three minutes and left 3:26 remaining in the contest.
"The offensive line's pushing in the second half was unbelievable," Dienhart said.
Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said it all came down to a lack of fundamentals by the Warriors.
"We had two fumble exchanges on option plays. We left points on the board," he said. "You have to execute when things aren't going your way and you have to rely on fundamentals. Take nothing away from Naperville Central. They kicked our butt."