No. 1 Lincoln-Way East overpowers Naperville Central
Given the two football teams Naperville Central has played so far this season, the Redhawks' results are understandable.
That doesn't make the Redhawks' 0-2 start this season much easier to take, especially with a nonconference game against archrival Naperville North on next week's docket.
In a game postponed from Friday night due to the weather, Naperville Central lost 38-19 Saturday to defending Class 8A champion Lincoln-Way East, the top-ranked team in the AP's state rankings.
"You know it's going to be tough," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine, whose team lost by a point to Hinsdale Central in Week 1. "This is a quarterfinal, semifinal kind of caliber football game. You know coming in you've got to play fairly error free. We didn't really do that at times, but again I felt like in the first half we had the game where we wanted it."
The Redhawks showed spirit in the first quarter. After an interception led to a Griffins field goal, the Redhawks drove 80 yards in 11 plays, ending with senior quarterback Payton Thorne's 35-yard touchdown pass to classmate Cade McDonald. The point after was blocked, but Naperville Central led 6-3.
"They were pretty tough," said Lincoln-Way East quarterback Jack Baltz. "Their defense, man, they came out strong. They were grounding and pounding everything. And their offense is one of the best in the state."
The Redhawks took a 10-point lead in the second quarter when Thorne found sophomore Sam Jackson for a 9-yard TD pass.
"We were feeling pretty confident, but then in the second quarter things kind of fell apart," Redhawks senior offensive lineman Luke Hallstrom said. "But that's football. We tried to bounce back and unfortunately we couldn't."
The Lincoln-Way East offense found its groove the second part of the second quarter. It drove 80 yards in eight plays, hitting paydirt on running back Devon Williams' 12-yard TD run.
That was the start of 21 straight points for Lincoln-Way East.
"We settled down," Baltz said. "I started making plays. Basically, we just found out what their weaknesses were and we started going after them."
The Griffins (2-0) grabbed the lead for good on a Williams 8-yard TD run, going into halftime ahead 17-13. The score quickly moved to 24-13 when Baltz found wide receiver Chase Anderson for a 31-yard touchdown pass on the first possession of the third quarter.
Naperville Central narrowed the gap to 24-19 on a 30-yard TD pass to Jackson from Thorne with 3:34 to go in the third quarter, but the Griffins answered with another TD pass to Anderson and another Williams TD run. Williams played in place of injured Griffins running back A.J. Henning, who boasts numerous college scholarship offers.
Naperville Central found it difficult to overcome 5 turnovers, despite forcing 3 turnovers from Lincoln-Way East.
"Give them credit. Lincoln-Way East is a very good football team. They're defending state champions for a reason," Hallstrom said. "It takes less mistakes than we made to beat a team like that. I'd say we made a lot of mistakes."