Well-rounded Naperville Central wins big
Naperville Central went about its offense one way in the first half Friday night in Plainfield, another way in the second.
In the first quarterback Payton Thorne threw for 245 yards and 5 touchdowns. The second saw running back Danny Hughes pick up 118 yards with a score.
Add it all up and the result was a 42-10 first-round Class 8A playoff win for the 21st-seeded Redhawks over No. 12 Plainfield South.
"Our offense played really well in the first half," said Naperville Central coach Mike Stine. "The offensive line blocked well, the receivers got open and Payton was really special. In the second half we knew that we needed to run the ball and we were able to do that."
Thorne's first half was nearly flawless; he completed 15 of 17 throws. Twelve of them went to Cade McDonald and Samuel Jackson, who combined for 212 yards and the 5 scores in the first half. The first two went to Jackson, a 19-yard end zone fade that capped an 11-play, 80-yard game-opening drive and a one-handed stab at midfield that he turned into an 82-yard score.
McDonald grabbed the next three, routine 18- and 10-yard scores before he closed the first half in spectacular fashion. With 10 seconds left Thorne eluded Plainfield South's rush, slid to the right and fired the ball to a wide-open McDonald who crossed the goal line to complete a backbreaking 52-yard score as time expired.
"That one at the end of the half was kind of cool," Thorne said when asked if he had a favorite. "Cade just ran by the guy and the offensive line blocked it well. They were a Cover 3 (zone) team and I thought we could take advantage of it and we were able to do it."
After being limited to 23 yards on 8 carries in the first half, Hughes dominated the second 24 minutes. The highlight was a 4-play drive midway through the third quarter when he had consecutive 13-yard gains before closing the march with a 24-yard scoring run that established the final 42-10 score.
The Naperville Central (7-3) defense also had its share of highlight moments. After the Cougars (7-3) overcame 3 penalties to drive 81 yards to set up Benjamin Ortiz's 45-yard field goal that answered Naperville Central's opening touchdown, Plainfield South was limited to 61 yards the rest of the half as the Redhawks opened an insurmountable 35-3 lead.
"We went to a five-man front, read our assignments and just executed," said linebacker Jack Gannon of the plan to slow down Plainfield South's tricky veer-option offense. "When they started to throw in the second half, we were able to get pressure because they couldn't block us."
Indeed, the Redhawks recorded 5 sacks of Plainfield South quarterbacks Cody Dieball and Joseph Passo on the night. That was more than enough to offset Passo's 67-yard touchdown pass to Nico Schultz in the third quarter.
The Redhawks will wait to see if they will host No. 5 Marist (8-1) or No. 28 Stevenson (6-3) in the second round next week, with those squads meeting at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We always come into the season with three goals: win conference, qualify for the playoffs and make a run at it -- we've got two down," Stine said. "We're going to play a good team next week, but in the playoffs every game is a challenge. We just know we get to spend seven more days with each other. That was our goal because they're just a great bunch of kids."