Brown, DeMarco filling in for injured brothers at St. Charles North
It has been a trying season at times for St. Charles North's football team.
At first glance, you wouldn't think that to be the case considering the North Stars punched their ticket to the Illinois High School Association Class 7A state playoffs for the fifth consecutive season -- fifth time in Rob Pomazak's highly successful 6-year tenure as head coach.
St. Charles North (6-3), which will face Normal Community High (8-1) in the opening round of the 7A playoffs this weekend, finished its regular season with last weekend's 13-11 loss to Wheaton Warrenville South.
All 3 of the North Stars' losses (by a combined 15 points) are to playoff-bound teams -- Bolingbrook (7-2), Batavia (9-0) and WW South (8-1)
The North Stars began their season in grand style, as senior quarterback Peyton Brown completed his first 4 passes, capped by a 51-yard touchdown toss to University of Minnesota-bound Tyler Nubin on their first offensive series for a 7-0 lead just 56 seconds into the nonconference contest against Schaumburg.
Brown hooked up with Alec Kritta for the North Stars' next 2 touchdowns -- a 22-yard pass just before halftime and a 13-yard toss midway through the third quarter to extend their lead to 23-6.
Late in the third quarter, however, Brown was forced to exit the game after suffering a knee injury while attempting to make a cut to avoid a Saxons defender.
The prognosis -- a season-ending injury for Brown, who threw 3 touchdown passes in as many quarters.
That is a tough thing for any kid to endure, especially a senior who long awaited his turn as the starting signalcaller.
Enter Peyton's younger brother, Kyler.
Kyler, a junior, finished out the North Stars' 23-16 victory over Schaumburg and has been the starting quarterback ever since.
"Kyler has had to step up in a really tough position," said Pomazak.
Midway through the season, Kyler's 28-yard touchdown run snapped a 7-7 deadlock and helped propel the North Stars to a 28-7 victory over cross-town rival St. Charles East.
In Week 7, Kyler's 58-yard TD toss to Nubin sealed the North Stars' 38-14 win over Glenbard North.
Despite the North Stars' heartbreaking 27-24 Week 8 loss to Batavia, Kyler held his own, passing for 147 yards -- highlighted by his 48-yard TD strike to Kritta.
And he has his older brother in his thoughts.
"I'm playing this through Peyton," said Kyler. "Having a brother like Peyton helps me through anything. He builds my confidence every day."
"Peyton is coaching him (Kyler) up every single play," said Pomazak. "The second he knew he was out for the season, he wanted to be an on-the-field coach and that's what he has been doing.
"It's just such a unique experience to see -- and it's awesome."
Ironically, the North Stars' tailback situation has a familiar ring to it.
After senior Sam DeMarco (729 yards, 3 TDs) suffered an apparent knee injury of his own against Glenbard North, in stepped his younger brother, Nick.
Nick, a sophomore, rushed for a game-high 136 yards on just 12 carries and scored a 20-yard TD in 3 quarters of action.
"Nick stepped up for his brother," said Nubin. "That's what we've been doing all season -- guys stepping in and doing their jobs."
"You never want to lose your starting running back," said Pomazak. "Nick just took advantage of his turn. When your number is called, you have to be ready."
With Sam dressed in street clothes, Nick has started in the offensive backfield the past 2 games.
Batavia, Geneva give back: Defending Class 7A state champion Batavia capped its first unblemished regular season since 2012 with last Friday's 24-13 win over Wheaton North.
No matter what happens come playoff time this weekend, coach Dennis Piron's Bulldogs are proven winners -- on and off the field.
Last Thursday, quarterback Jack Meyers, linebacker Joe Oroni, and offensive linemen Andrew Stasell and Evan Holden spent part of their morning greeting some residents of Marklund's Hyde Center.
Accompanied by assistant coach Matt Holm, the quartet presented a check for $5,000 to Marklund, a nonprofit organization that serves infants, children, teens and adults with serious and profound disabilities and healthcare needs.
"We have a lot of people in the community helping us and supporting us," said Stasell. "We love to give back and this is one of the ways that we like doing it."
The money was raised through T-shirt sales the week of Batavia's "Centennial Game" against rival Geneva (Batavia won 41-0 on Sept. 28).
"I love beating Geneva," said Stasell, "but it's definitely more than just football. It's about representing the community and giving back for what they do for us."
"We are always glad to help," said Holm. "The community gives us so much. We feel we should give back."
Geneva's proceeds from the "Competing for a Cause" T-shirts sold benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org.