Naperville North weathered the storm early and averted disaster late to defeat Glenbard North 21-13 Friday in Naperville and remain unbeaten at 5-0.
The Huskies spent the entire first quarter backed up against their own end zone but only surrendered one touchdown, an 11-yard run by the Panthers' Vittorio Tricase.
"The wind (in our face) was stiff," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel, whose team improved to 4-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference. "We knew if we could just get through the first quarter and stay alive we had a chance. We let Tricase get free on the one run. He made a nice run. He's a great player."
But with the wind at their back in the second quarter, the Huskies' fortunes turned.
A 30-yard pass from Luke Cegles to 6-foot-6 receiver Mitch Lewis set up Eric Wright's 1-yard touchdown run with 10:21 remaining in the half, and after Grant Ericksen's second interception of the game, Naperville North marched 73 yards in four plays to take a 14-7 lead on Cross Robinson's 14-yard blast with 3:11 remaining in the second quarter.
Lewis later hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 21-7 with 42.9 seconds left in the third quarter. But it was his 28-yard reception on second-and-18 from the Huskies' 2-yard line with 3:24 left in the fourth quarter after Glenbard North had closed to within 21-12 on Shane Conway's 17-yard touchdown run 41 seconds earlier that preserved the win.
Naperville North, which narrowly escaped disaster following a fumble near the goal line on the previous play, ran five more plays and ate all but a little more than 90 seconds of the clock. Trevor Wojtyla's 30-yard punt pinned the Panthers at their own 26, and the visitors only advanced 10 yards before time expired.
"Our coach said they're going to think that we were going to run and we'd catch them off-guard," said Lewis, who is making the most of his senior year after missing all but two games last season. "He made the right call. All credit to him."
"We've been kind of playing with house money," Drendel said. "After going 2-7 last year, we're going to take chances. We tell our kids all the time to be aggressive and as coaches we're going be aggressive. The kids made plays."
Naperville North's defense limited Tricase, who had scored 6 touchdowns in each of his last two games, to 115 yards and 1 touchdown on 16 carries.
"Their defensive line did a good job," said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens. "We were able to move the ball through the air at times and Shane (Conway) did a nice job extending the (fourth-quarter) drive and scoring that touchdown.
"We had a couple of turnovers that hurt in the first half, we jumped (offsides) three times, we had two chop blocks called and we faced some bad downs and distances," he added. "I'd like to say that we shot ourselves in the foot, but they (Naperville North) played good football."