Payton Thorne was every bit as good as advertised Friday night.
His teammates weren't bad either.
Thorne's debut as Naperville Central's quarterback was outstanding. The junior transfer from Metea Valley completed 15 of 21 passes for 196 and 4 touchdowns to four receivers.
The Redhawks scored touchdowns on 3 of their first 4 possessions and rolled to a 37-7 DuPage Valley Conference victory over host Glenbard North in Carol Stream.
"Obviously, Payton is a great athlete and a great person, too," Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. "He's very poised and wise beyond his years.
"He has a little bit of the gunslinger mentality. But when you've got some athletes out there you've got to try and get them the ball and he's not afraid to do that."
Thorne demonstrated remarkable chemistry not only with fellow Metea Valley transfer Jayden Reed but with his new targets as well. He completed his first 7 passes and 10 of his first 11, finding five receivers in all.
But as good as he was, the Redhawks receivers might have been better. Tommy Coyne made an outstanding leaping catch for a 25-yard touchdown on Naperville Central's opening drive and Cade McDonald stretched to snag a 20-yard score midway through the second quarter to make it 20-0.
"It was just a ton of fun," Thorne said. "Our O-line protected great and Tommy and Cade were bailing me out with two amazing catches."
Reed caught a 60-yard TD pass late in the first quarter and Thorne tossed a 4-yard scoring strike to Ethan Allgauer midway through the fourth quarter.
"He's a great leader," Coyne said of Thorne. "He puts the ball where you need it and all we got to do is run under it.
"It's great having him and we can't wait for the next 12 games, hopefully."
The air show was necessary because the Panthers bottled up Naperville Central's ground game, holding star running back A.J. Deinhart to 42 yards rushing on 19 carries.
But the Redhawks' defense was equally stingy against the Panthers, who had just 34 yards of offense in the first quarter. Naperville Central got interceptions from Justin Agema on the opening possession and Grant Frieh, who returned his pick 63 yards for a touchdown to finish the scoring with 1:43 left.
"Our defense was outstanding," Thorne said. "Justin Agema with an interception on the first drive of the game just set the tone for the whole team."
Defense was a question mark heading into the game for the Redhawks, but Stine may have found some answers.
"I thought the key to the game was our defense being able to shut down their run game," Stine said. "They're a potent running offense and I just thought our defense flew around the field and they were physical and we were getting guys to the ball.
"They played as a unit and when we can get 11 guys playing as a unit we've got a chance to be pretty good."