Naperville Central answer includes a DVC championship
Naperville Central's Danny Hughes scored on a 99-yard kick return 13 seconds after Waubonsie Valley's first touchdown.
Quarterback Payton Thorne threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Sam Jackson a little more than a minute after the Warriors' second and final touchdown.
Welcome to Naperville Central's 2018 football season, where the Redhawks seem to have an answer for everything.
The Redhawks clinched a playoff berth and a second straight outright DuPage Valley Conference title with Friday's 35-14 victory over visiting Waubonsie Valley.
Thorne, committed to Western Michigan, completed 17 of 24 passes for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns to three receivers and no interceptions.
After Waubonsie Valley (5-3, 1-2) scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jack Drow to Julian Cain to pull within 21-14 late in the third quarter, Naperville Central's defense buckled down and the offense responded with two more touchdowns before the period ended.
"It feels incredible," said Redhawks linebacker Matt Oliver. "This team has dealt with so much adversity, and I'm just extremely happy that we were able to face it all and get through it and come out on top."
Naperville Central (6-2, 4-0) broke out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead on Thorne touchdown passes to Riley Keltner and Jackson, who had 3 catches for 99 yards. Warriors running back Bryce Logan, who rushed for 64 yards, scored on a 5-yard run but Hughes, who had 59 rushing yards, returned the ensuing kick to build the margin back to 14 points.
"They're a great team and a great defense," Drow said. "It was a challenge for us, but I think in the second half we really stepped up to the challenge. Everyone did what they were supposed to. We put some drives together. We've just got to finish them."
Naperville Central ran only nine plays in the third quarter, but two were for touchdowns. Thorne's second scoring strike to Jackson was huge because it stunted the Warriors' momentum after they made it a one-score game again.
"I feel like we never really lost momentum in this game," said Redhawks receiver Cade McDonald, who had 8 catches for 99 yards. "If we got a three-and-out we kept our heads held high and got back on the field and got it done."
Now that a playoff berth is locked up, Naperville Central looks to improve its seed in next week's nonconference game against Cary-Grove (8-0), the top-ranked team in Class 6A. Waubonsie Valley is playoff eligible but needs to beat Metea Valley next week to seal qualification.
"We're playing to get a (first-round) home game," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "That'll be our rally cry."
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