One play turns things Waubonsie Valley's way
This was literally the stuff dreams are made of.
When the season opener between defending Naperville Central and Waubonsie Valley was suspended by lightning Waubonsie had nearly 24 hours to sleep on the scenario: Naperville Central ball, first and goal at the Waubonsie yard line, 9 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
That postponement was a real momentum-killer for Naperville Central, and so was Max Ihry. When play resumed Saturday night the Warriors junior linebacker caused a fumble on the Redhawks' first play, off left tackle.
Teammate Chris Fenley recovered and things were never the same for Naperville Central, as Waubonsie defeated the defending Class 8A champion 20-6 at Dick Kerner Stadium in Aurora.
"It changed our whole outlook, hey, we can play with these guys," said Warriors coach Paul Murphy. "I don't think last night we were too sure. After that play on the goal line, our kids, they believed. It took that one play to ignite us."
Naperville Central turned the ball over 6 times, including Ihry's clinching interception in his own end zone with 3:52 left to play in the game.
"We started off not well on Friday and I just figured we have to come out strong because they're going to think they have the momentum, but we've got to show them that we really had it," Ihry said.
Waubonsie Valley responded to Ihry's initial play by marching 80 yards downfield to score on quarterback Zach Bennema's 13-yard run at 6:17 of the first quarter.
Naperville Central appeared ready to match it early in the second quarter but fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line, Waubonsie's Ken Woodruff recovering as the ball rolled into the end zone.
"Give the credit to Waubonsie," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "They came out and they took it to us and we just never recovered."
His club came within a point at 3:41 of the second quarter on a 26-yard scramble by quarterback Conor Joyce, though the kick failed to keep Waubonsie up 7-6.
Later in that quarter Warriors defensive tackle Nick Horn dropped straight back, intercepted a screen pass and returned it 25 yards for his first varsity touchdown to give Waubonsie Valley a 13-6 halftime lead.
"I looked for the ball and when he threw it, it came straight to me," Horn said. "I took my chance, I took my opportunity and it turned out golden. Got a few blocks and it was great."
Naperville Central's first possession of the third quarter ended in three plays with one of Warriors linebacker Luke Marzano's 2 fumble recoveries to go with 2 sacks.
The Warriors added third-quarter insurance on Tony Durns' 54-yard touchdown run. He ran for 178 yards while Naperville Central tailback Kevin Clifford ran for 137.
As Waubonsie Valley ground out the clock, Naperville Central star linebacker Bobby McMillen was taken off the field on a stretcher and left in an ambulance. Stine called the ambulance a precautionary measure after a collision caused McMillen "a little neck pain."
"We've got to pray for Bob," Kolzow said.