Scouting the Naperville Central Redhawks
Naperville Central is primed for another deep playoff run.
If the Redhawks survive the regular season.
With the DuPage Valley Conference shrinking by four schools, Naperville Central had to fill its football schedule with five nonconference games, including the first of two matchups against cross-town rival Naperville North.
It starts with one of Hinsdale Central's best teams, continues with defending Class 8A champ Lincoln-Way East and heads to Kentucky to face a two-time defending state champion riding a 30-game winning streak.
"I'm not sure we've had a schedule this tough, but that's part of the fun," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "Our guys have to be up for the challenge."
Luckily the Redhawks return one of the state's elite offensive players in quarterback Payton Thorne, who committed to Western Michigan. Last year he threw for 2,294 yards and 25 touchdowns and, despite the graduation of current Western Michigan freshman Jayden Reed, still has quality targets in Cade McDonald and Jared Suchevits.
Sophomore Sam Jackson, a transfer from Bolingbrook, is another Division I-caliber quarterback who will find his way onto the field.
The Redhawks also have one of the state's top offensive lineman in Air Force-bound Luke Hallstrom. If running back Danny Hughes picks up where graduated A.J. Deinhart left off, the offense shouldn't skip a beat.
"The offense has a chance to be pretty dynamic," Stine said. "The way Payton carries himself, it's off the charts. He understands the offense as well as anyone on our staff."
Defensive back Jack Jopes led last year's team with 85 tackles. With Justin Agema returning and junior Jamarri Moore transferring in from Waubonsie Valley, the secondary will be a strength.
Linebacker Matt Oliver returns, but the front two levels of the defense need to be bolstered.
"There aren't a lot of big-name guys on defense," Stine said. "But as a group it's pretty good."
One to watch: After six weeks of a brutal schedule, the Redhawks need maximum effort Week 7 against Neuqua Valley.
Coach: Mike Stine (13th year, 88-45).
2017 record: 9-3, 7-1, first in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Payton Thorne (QB, 6-2, 190, sr.), Jack Jopes (DB, 5-9, 170, sr.), Luke Hallstrom (OL, 6-2, 290, sr.), Matt Oliver (LB, 5-11, 185, sr.), Cade McDonald (WR, 5-11, 180, sr.), Jared Suchevits (WR, 6-3, 195, sr.), Justin Agema (DB, 5-11, 165, sr.), Danny Hughes (RB, 6-0, 185, sr.), Ryan Walsh (OL, 6-5, 265, sr.), Byron Skodi (OL, 6-5, 260, sr.), Jamarri Moore (DB, 5-11, 175, jr.), Jake Codo (DL, 5-11, 195, sr.), Sam Jackson (QB-WR, 5-11, 170, so.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/24, Hinsdale Central at Naperville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 8/31, Naperville Central at Lincoln Way East, 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/7, Naperville North at Naperville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/14, Naperville Central at St. Mathews (KY), 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/21, Naperville Central at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/28, Naperville Central at Naperville North (North Central College), 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/5, Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/12, Waubonsie Valley at Naperville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/19, Naperville Central at Cary-Grove, 7:30 p.m.