Hinsdale Central scoops up win over Naperville Central
So much offense. So much defense.
But never -- never -- fall asleep on special teams.
Hinsdale Central's Aidan Cruickshank blocked a late fourth-quarter punt and Andrew Novatney scooped it and scored to rally the visiting Red Devils to Friday's 35-34 football victory over Naperville Central in a stunning nonconference opener.
Naperville Central took a 28-7 lead in the opening minute of the third quarter and reclaimed a 34-28 lead in the opening minute of the fourth. A missed extra point, however, proved to be costly.
Zach Drescher's extra point off the punt block gave Hinsdale Central a 35-34 lead with 4 minutes, 41 seconds left. After trading punts Naperville Central worked the ball to the Red Devils' 11-yard line in the final two minutes, but a fumbled handoff was recovered by Hinsdale Central's Zach Brewer to pretty much end it.
"As soon as I shifted a little bit, I knew I had a clear shot at the punter," Cruickshank said. "It feels great to be down, come back, rally as a team. It takes all 80 of us to do something like that."
Red Devils running back Luke Skokna, who rushed for 178 yards before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with a lower leg injury, opened the game's scoring with a 2-yard run. Naperville Central and quarterback Payton Thorne, who threw for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, answered with 28 straight points and seemed to be on cruise control.
The Red Devils rallied quickly in the third quarter behind a pair of Skokna touchdowns and a 36-yard scoring pass from Matt Rush to Tommy Fitzsimons.
With the score knotted 28-28 heading to the fourth quarter, Thorne found Cade McDonald for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
"To keep on playing to the bitter end there, there's definitely no quit in the group we've got," said Red Devils coach Dan Hartman.
In the final two minutes Sam Jackson threw a 46-yard pass to McDonald and Thorne added a 19-yard pass to drive the Redhawks into the red zone. On a soggy field and with a constant mist falling, though, the fumble ended the drive.
Defending Class 8A champion Lincoln-Way East looms next week, leaving the Redhawks no time to think about a very tough loss.
"You've got to flush this one and get ready for the next one," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "It's a tough one, but it's early and we've got to come out fighting next week."
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