Wheaton North linebacker Jameson Smykal described the scope of Friday's 23-0 football victory over Neuqua Valley.
"This was our hugest win so far, this is our hugest win of the year," the Falcons senior said. "This is huger than any win last year. (Naperville) Central (next) week is huge."
Wheaton North (6-1, 5-1 DuPage Valley Conference) dealt Neuqua its first shutout in 36 games, since Neuqua (5-2, 4-2) lost 19-0 to Naperville Central on Sept. 5, 2014. The Falcons visit Naperville Central next week, both teams 5-1 in the DVC.
If that's not huge enough there's this ...
"We haven't even said the word playoffs, but I just acknowledged it in there with the kids and I told them congratulations on qualifying for the postseason," coach Joe Wardynski said after Wheaton North cinched its first playoff berth since 2013.
Sam Singleton ran for 138 yards on 25 carries, grinding behind linemen Logan Meyer, J'Kolbi Grant, Lucas Royer, John Willeford, Richard Ficociello and Sam Odell, plus tight end Jake Johnson.
Neuqua running backs Cameron Raupach ran for 105 yards and Will Chevalier caught 6 passes for 55 yards, but Wheaton North's Jackson Gray, Drake Dickinson and Sam Chesney stymied momentum with interceptions.
"Big credit to those guys up front, they keep making big holes for me," Singleton said. "But honestly, it comes down to what the defense did tonight. They put up that goose egg, they held them to zero points."
On Wheaton North's first possession quarterback Rhett Netzer's sole completion, a 27-yard flare to Alex Adams, helped set up Singleton's 4-yard touchdown run.
Jacob Secrest and the Falcons defense forced a quick three-and-out, and Trenton Hegranes' 27-yard field goal gave Wheaton North a 10-0 lead at 9:53 of the second quarter.
"I think he's probably the back who's run the hardest all season long at us," Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said of Singleton. "And we gave up something in the first half which we really haven't done all year long. Our defense has been outstanding for us. We got down a little bit and offensively we couldn't pick them up. I told the guys, it was definitely a team loss tonight."
Neuqua quarterback Jake Eskoff hit a 32-yard seam pass to Brant Stare on the ensuing possession, but two plays later Gray intercepted. Singleton followed Johnson's crackdown block for a 5-yard touchdown run for a 17-0 Falcons halftime lead.
Dickinson intercepted on Neuqua's first second-half possession, then early in the fourth a Neuqua high punt snap let Wheaton North take over at the Wildcat 7-yard line. Fullback Michael Jarosz ran a 1-yard counter for the 23-0 lead with 9:34 remaining.
"They played pretty well, you've gotta give it to them," Eskoff said. "They shut us out, which is pretty hard to do."