Naperville North, Naperville Central ready for Round 2
As if Naperville Central and Naperville North didn't know each other well enough already.
The football rivalry usually takes place once a season, but because the DuPage Valley Conference sports only five schools, teams are having to play one league team twice. It's similar to 2014 when a field of six forced teams to play twice.
The second meeting between the Napervilles takes place Friday at North Central College. Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley also play this weekend for a second time.
Unlike the first nonconference game three weeks ago, these rematches will be DVC games.
"We talked about it as coaches and talked to the players," said Naperville Central coach Mike Stine. "We want to approach this game like we haven't played them yet. Are teams going to change a little bit? I don't think we're that much different than we were three weeks ago."
Naperville Central (3-2, 1-0) topped Naperville North (1-4, 0-1) 35-7 on Sept. 7 for the Redhawks' first win of the season. Since then they've beaten Trinity in Kentucky and Metea Valley.
While Naperville Central aims to stretch its winning streak to four straight, the Huskies will try to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"We've gotten a little bit better, but I don't think we've made the progress they have," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel. "Their offense is running on all cylinders."
Willowbrook (5-0, 3-0) is riding high on the heels of West Suburban Gold wins over District 88 rival Addison Trail and Gold contender Hinsdale South.
The Warriors have to come back down to earth for this weekend's crossover game against York (2-3).
"We approach every week pretty consistently," said Warriors coach Nick Hildreth. "We don't so much talk about what's happened before or what might happen down the road."
The Warriors are 5-0 for the first time since 2000 when they started the season 6-0. That team lost three of its last four games including a first-round playoff loss.
If Willowbrook beats York -- a natural rivalry crossover game in the WSC -- the last three games are against Morton, Proviso East and Downers Grove South. All three teams are below the .500 mark.
Not that the Warriors are thinking about their first unbeaten regular season since 1975 but ...
"Going into this week we understand the situation and we're playing a York team that's only lost to quality programs," Hildreth said. "And we know they can't afford to lose football games right now. If we don't match what they bring to the table, we could lose. We want to be in control with how we approach it."
It's a tough stat to imagine, but Downers Grove South (2-3, 2-1 West Suburban Gold) just emerged from a stretch of not having its starting quarterback because of injury in 16 of 21 games.
This season's starter, senior George Ross, saw his first action for a quarter in Week 4 against Proviso East, then started Week 5 against Hinsdale South. Last week the Mustangs rallied for a 29-26 victory over Addison Trail as Ross threw a game-winning 10-yard pass to Kyle Heavey with 29 seconds left.
"George was a lot better this week than last week," said Mustangs coach Mark Molinari. "He just needed more reps back there."
Ross completed 15 of 26 passes for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns against Addison Trail. He kept the final drive going with some key scrambles out of bounds, winding up with 33 yards on 7 carries.
Jayden Lambert, Kenton Johnson and sophomore Devean Johnson each rushed for at least 70 yards in the victory. If the Mustangs keep up that kind of offensive pace, they'll make a push toward the playoffs despite a 1-3 start.
"Hopefully we'll continue to get better with George at quarterback," Molinari said. "He's just making real solid decisions. He's trusting his reads more, he's stepping up in the pocket and making throws. He's doing a nice job for us."
On the road again:
It is now Metea Valley's turn to make a lengthy bus trip, the latest in the season-long line of DuPage Valley Conference road warriors.
Metea will make the hour-plus ride Friday to Bradley-Bourbonnais in the hope of earning its first victory of the season. Mustangs coach Ben Kleinhans believes playing tough DVC competition is solid preparation.
"It's important for our offensive and defensive lines to have good games, establish a physical presence early," he said.
Injuries to key personnel have made much of anything difficult to establish. The Mustangs are still without quarterback Patrick Straub, defensive lineman Aaden Hoag and tight end Austin Frederick, a critical component of Metea's offense. Two-way lineman Matthew Vodden came back from injury only to get hurt again.
Injury to one means opportunity for another. Kleinhans said junior left tackle Kiamiarron Howze has been a bright spot all season and now will get reps on defense. Senior Damien Arredondo has gone from rotating in on the defensive line to "someone in there all the time," Kleinhans said.
The coach hopes the team can establish momentum in the tail end of the season. Metea will have plenty of it motoring 75 miles to Bradley.
"There's only so many teams with open weeks in the middle of the season," Kleinhans said. "Both teams were just kind of looking for whoever's available and were just going to grab it to avoid traveling out of state."
See you later:
Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey, a special-education teacher at the school, had a close encounter of the odd kind at a meeting of Community Consolidated School District 89. That district serves elementary and middle-school students who funnel into Glenbard Township High School District 87.
As the meeting drew to a close, Crissey was approached by a woman who told him she'd "see you in a few weeks."
Surprised, Crissey asked why.
"She said, 'My son's the quarterback,'" Crissey said.
The woman was Dr. Emily Tammaru, District 89 superintendent. Her son, Will, is the junior quarterback at West Aurora. Glenbard South visits West Aurora on Friday in a battle between two teams 4-1 overall and in the Upstate Eight Conference.
West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said Will Tammaru has attracted "a ton" of college attention and is the top quarterback he's coached in his career.
He is concerned, however, with how Glenbard South's defense will greet Tammaru. Eimer specifically noted Raiders linebacker Noah Gibson and the defensive line of nose tackle Anthony Kramer, tackle Jayquan Coleman and defensive ends John Madison, Jordan Bolivar and Connor Murphy.
"Defensively No. 4 (Gibson) really scares me and their rotation of defensive linemen is probably one of the best we've seen all year," Eimer said.
This isn't about a high school football game -- but with the number of area athletes who go on to play at Wheaton College and especially at North Central College it may be of interest.
The 100th meeting between the two teams kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville. Wheaton owns a 53-43-3 advantage in the annual battle for the Little Brass Bell. North Central is ranked No. 5 by D3football.com, Wheaton No. 21.
Wheaton College has 10 players roistered who played their football in DuPage County, including starting receiver Adam Terrini of Wheaton North and long-snapper John Vargyas of St. Francis.
North Central has a whopping 24 players with DuPage County roots. Nine of them start: offensive lineman Nathan Gray (Naperville North), receivers Michael Sfikas (Metea Valley) and Cam Moore (Wheaton Warrenville South), running back Dom Muoghalu (Neuqua Valley), quarterback Broc Rutter (Neuqua); and defensive lineman Tommy Hyland (Montini), linebacker D.J. Warkenthien (Neuqua) and defensive backs Braden Lindmark (Naperville Central) and Zach Greenberg (Neuqua).
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