Naperville Central falls to top-ranked Lincoln-Way East
Which is more effective, the run or the pass?
The answer to that question was debatable Friday when Lincoln-Way East visited Naperville Central in a much-hyped nonconference football showdown.
Exhibit A: Naperville Central junior quarterback Sam Jackson. He completed 25 of 39 passes for 275 yards and had one touchdown throw, to sophomore Reggie Fleurima midway through the third quarter.
Exhibit B: Lincoln-Way East running back Devon WIlliams, who rushed 20 times for 282 yards and had scoring runs of 59, 5 and 64 yards.
The winner? No. 1-ranked Lincoln-Way East 31-10.
That score, however, is not indicative of a Naperville Central second half that had all the momentum and the Griffins on the ropes. Down 17-3, Jackson completed his first eight passes in a row entering the third quarter. He got picked off on fourth-and-goal at the Griffins' 17, but that was called back due to a Lincoln-Way East personal foul.
Two plays later and Naperville Central (0-2) had its first offensive touchdown of the season, with 7:09 to go in the period.
"We didn't think offensively we played very well last week at Hinsdale Central," Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. "Tonight, that's a great football team, Lincoln-Way East. We came out in the second half and we battled. We got it to a one-score game.
"Overall, I'm proud of the way the guys played today. I thought we fought hard and we made a step forward in the right direction."
After Jackson's touchdown pass, the Redhawks held defensively and got the ball back on their own 20 with 3:35 to go. They marched all the way to the 50, but that drive stalled with 15 seconds left, which gave the Griffins the ball heading into the fourth quarter.
Williams, who had had a 59-yard touchdown run in the first half along with another run of 37 yards, carried the ball for the lion's share of that drive, culminating in a 5-yard scoring run.
He added a 64-yard touchdown run that set the final score.
True, it was a loss, with a another tough matchup next week against nationally ranked Pickerington Central in Ohio. But Stine and his players saw marked offensive improvement, especially in the passing game.
Senior Bo Turner had 11 catches for 76 yards, while senior Jadon Thompson added 65 yards on 5 catches. They both pointed to halftime as the key to their team's second-half fortunes.
"We were in halftime so hyped, and we knew we were going to come out here and run it up on them, and that's what we did," Turner said. "We got the momentum going with little 9-yard catches, 11-yard catches."
"Halftime, I was the last person in the door, so I made sure I yelled and screamed at everybody to play real hard, grind, dig deep," Thompson added. "Everyone had that look in their eyes that they were ready to come out in the second half."
Winless after two games is a situation Naperville Central is familiar with; the same thing happened a year ago, and the Redhawks still made the playoffs.
"I think we improved a ton from last week to this week, and I think when we go into Pickerington, we're going to be way better than what we showed tonight," Turner said.