Naperville North stages epic comeback
EDWARDSVILLE -- Staring at the potential of a running clock defeat and a long four-hour bus ride home, the Naperville North Huskies somehow, someway dug deep and found a way to win a football game that could define their 2017 season.
The Huskies were down 42 in the second quarter to a potent Edwardsville Tigers team that was clicking on all cylinders and going in for another potential score that would have extended the lead to 49, but Naperville North got a key turnover and set the wheels in motion.
The Huskies scored 39 unanswered second-half points, including Drake Davis' 1-yard touchdown run with 21.5 seconds remaining in the game to give the Huskies an improbable 53-49 victory over the Tigers on Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both teams.
"I think it's probably our biggest comeback we've ever had," Huskies coach Sean Drendel said. "I've been there a long time. As a coach, it's one of my greatest victories. It's by far the biggest comeback that we've had. They're a great team. We're super-happy to get out of here with a win."
The Huskies (1-0) trailed 28-0 in the first quarter and 42-0 when Edwardsville's Antonio Thigpen Jr. scored on a 2-yard run with 5 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The Tigers were ready to put the final touches on a potential running clock game at the Huskies 19-yard line.
But the Huskies turned a key Bo Richter fumble recovery into a Davis 3-yard run with 3:03 left in the second, and Davis, who threw for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed for 2 more, found Nick Calcagno for one of three touchdown passes, this one from 17 yards out with 13 seconds left in the half to make it a 42-14 game.
That's when the Huskies actually started to believe they could win.
"When we got two scores in the first half and made it 42-14," Drendel said. "We thought if we could get a stop somewhere and they started to get tired a little bit. We're well-conditioned,
"I'm proud of my kids, man. I'm really proud of my kids. We were trying to tempo them and try to get them going faster. We were lining up and let's go. Defensively, started pressuring them a little bit. Some things started going our way."
Calcagno hauled in 14 passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns and ran back a key 86-yard punt return for a score with 8:27 remaining to cut the Edwardsville lead 49-47.
Then Davis, who threw one interception to set up a Tigers score in the first quarter, took over at the end.
"It's a lot of hard work in the summer, dedication and just straight believing in everyone on the team," Davis, a transfer from Bureau Valley, said. "I struggled the first half. I put that on me. It was a bad start, but we went in the locker room at halftime with 14 points and we just started believing in each other. ... It's awesome. It's amazing."
Edwardsville (0-1), which got 158 yards and two scores rushing from quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman and 165 yards and a score from tailback Dionte Rodgers, lost both players to cramping. Abdur-Rahman left for good after an 80-yard run with 57.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter and Rodgers was in and out all game receiving treatment.
"If their quarterback stays healthy, I don't know if we stop them all day," Drendel said of the Tigers. "That was a big piece to the game. They had to shorten their playbook a little bit and now we can do some things.
"... We're going to load up on our bus, be happy that we got a win and get out of here and feel like we stole one."