A reason to celebrate at Naperville North

  • Naperville North varsity football practice.

      Naperville North varsity football practice. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/21/2015 1:08 PM

Naperville North football coach Sean Drendel has been around the Huskies' program for decades, but he's never seen a sight like last Friday.

His team just beat Waubonsie Valley 25-24 in overtime -- the Huskies' first win of the season -- and the scene was indescribable.


"I've never seen our fans or our players more excited about winning a game," Drendel said, "and that includes winning the state title."

It was a victory worthy of the celebration. The Huskies, with three losses this season and one last season by a touchdown or less, hadn't won since Week 2 last year.

Frustrating as the drought has been, the Huskies kept fighting.

That spirit showed against Waubonsie Valley when they stopped the Warriors in the fourth quarter on four attempts with first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Junior Kiser Floyd came up with the huge fourth-down tackle.

Drendel felt best for his seniors while praising the 16 starting juniors who have endured their share of growing pains.

Naperville North hopes to end the season on another high note with a Friday victory over Wheaton Warrenville South.

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"Ending the season with two wins would be a great springboard into next year," Drendel said. "It'd send our seniors out the right way and it'd help our juniors going into the off-season."

New look Redwings:

During Benet's loss to Nazareth in Week 6, when the Redwings also lost two quarterbacks to injury, coach Pat New joked with linebacker Charlie Weidenbach that he might be the next man up.

Turns out New was only half kidding.

With running back Marty Dosen banged up the last couple weeks, the Redwings have turned to safety Alec McEachern as a feature back and Weidenbach as a bruising fullback to keep the ground game moving.

The last two weeks they've combined for 270 rushing yards. McEachern, the starting running back as a freshman on the sophomore team, even had a 170-yard effort in a win over Carmel.


Playing his best athletes on both sides of the ball isn't ideal, but New believes survival in the East Suburban Catholic Conference depends on it. Weidenbach and McEachern, meanwhile, have thrived.

"When you get into crunc time it's really all hands on deck," New said. "You need to have your best players out there. Competitors want to be out there."

With Colin Hall also stepping up in the backfield, and with quarterback Jack Sznajder continuing to bring balance to the offense, the Redwings (6-2) are on a roll. They've won their last two games, including last week's 24-21 upset win over Joliet Catholic, which came in as the top-ranked team in Class 5A.

That victory clinched the program's fourth straight playoff berth.

"It's a credit to all the kids who have gone through the program," New said. "It's been a nice run."

Two heads:

It took six weeks but Downers Grove North (4-4) is nearly exactly where it wants to be at this point of the season.

Much of the reason is because the Trojans' dual threats at quarterback -- Brandon Bancoro and Quinn McAnally -- are together again thanks to Bancoro's recent return from injury.

While Bancoro offers more of a run threat, McAnally's provided a spark in the passing game. In the last three weeks they and running back Connor Olson, also back from injury, helped Downers North pile up 800 rushing yards and 300 passing yards.

"Both of our quarterbacks have played well," said Trojans coach John Wander. "Bancoro's injury affected what we wanted to do offensively, but now we're playing our style of football."

Perfect timing, too. The Trojans were 2-4 and on the verge of elimination from playoff contention when they managed to beat Downers Grove South and York the last two weeks.

A Friday win over Proviso West (1-7) makes Downers North playoff eligible. With 36 playoff points heading into Week 9, the Trojans should qualify easily with five wins.

"We've been in playoff mode for three weeks," Wander said. "We need one more win to get there."

On the bubble:

Waubonsie Valley would have preferred to have clinched a playoff slot last week. After a 25-24 overtime loss to Naperville North that horse left the barn. Now the 5-3 Warriors must either beat Wheaton North on Friday or hope their playoff points will be sufficient.

"I see us on the bubble right now," Warriors coach Paul Murphy said. "I think 37 or 38 (points, or wins by opponents) is going to be the cutoff. We won't want to be there if we don't have to be."

Waubonsie may be in a precarious spot. It has 33 playoff points and ranks 27th among projected Class 8A teams on the Illinois High School Association's playoff projections. That's above only West Aurora with 30 among 5-3 teams, and seven 4-4 teams in 8A have at least 33 playoff points.

"We're in control of our own destiny. We need to take care of our own business," Murphy said.

Waubonsie enjoyed a balanced ground game last week -- tailback Max Ihry ran for 56 yards, quarterback Jack Connolly for 32 and running back Tanner Westwood took the pitch for a team-high 77 yards -- but twice came up empty on first-and-goal situations.

"If we're a playoff team we've got to prove that we're a playoff team," Murphy said.

The same boat:

Wheaton Academy's playoff scenario is like déjà vu.

"We're in the exact same spot as we were last year," said Warriors coach Brad Thornton, who calls it "exciting."

In 2014 the Warriors were the last team eliminated from playoff consideration. At 5-4 their 39 playoff points tied with Aurora Christian for the 256th and final slot. Aurora Christian won the tiebreaker of having played four playoff teams to Wheaton Academy's three.

Solidly lodged in Class 4A, the Warriors' 33 playoff points are tied with Herscher, the Nos. 28-29 ranked teams in the division. Hyde Park has 32 points at 5-3.

Thornton projects his team will finish with 37 playoff points if it drops to 5-4 Friday at Aurora Central Catholic. After what happened a year ago he doesn't seek that option.

"Last year's seniors remember what it was like last year with five wins and on the outside looking in," he said.


At 2-6, its offense directed by a sophomore quarterback making his second varsity start, Fenton heads into IC Catholic Prep on Friday looking to bring momentum into the future.

"We've just got to continue to work to get better," said Bison coach Mark Kos.

Mainstay Eric Lonergan, running back and middle linebacker, will have graduated but not before showing leadership to sophomore quarterback D.J. Kelly, junior quarterback Eddie Saucedo and other key underclassmen such as Dylan Butts, Ivan Rodriguez and Greg Cazares.

"Same standard operating procedure -- we want to get better," Kos said. "We want to have something to build upon going into the off-season."

Enviable position:

Many teams would like to have just one of Glenbard North's two running backs -- Vittorio Tricase and Devion Hodges.

They've combined for 1,796 yards rushing and 17 rushing touchdowns, Tricase with 1,021 yards on the ground, 12 touchdowns. Both average at least 6.1 yards a carry.

They continue a Panthers tradition of two solid if not stellar backs, like brothers Phil and Justin Jackson or, before that, Phil Jackson and Evin Natick.

"We've been very lucky at the tailback position for years now," said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens.

A rhetorical question will probably go unanswered -- what would happen if both lined up in the same backfield?

Hodges and Tricase also play on defense, the former at safety, the latter at linebacker. If one gets gassed after a couple hard runs, a defensive series or a special teams explosion, the other takes over. Or Hodges will play in the backfield as Tricase splits out at receiver.

By now the duo is on autopilot with substitutions.

"When one gets tired they'll switch on their own," Wilkens said.

The bottom line is they both have skills.

"I would say they're fast, deceivingly powerful and they also just understand what we're trying to do offensively -- where's that one (defensive opponent) who's going to be free and keep a path where they can distort that free hitter," Wilkens said.

"They don't rush things. Once they realize that they've got what they want they're very explosive."

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