Naperville Central takes key victory at Waubonsie Valley
Needing to win out to reach the football postseason, Naperville Central has its back squarely against the wall.
Maybe the Redhawks like it that way.
Behind a pair of touchdown passes from Sam Jackson and 2 interceptions by Jake Lynch, Naperville Central knocked off Waubonsie Valley 28-14 Friday in Aurora.
The Redhawks improved to 3-1 in the DuPage Valley Conference (and 3-4 overall) while the Warriors (2-5, 0-4) saw their playoff hopes dashed.
"For us, we put ourselves in this position," Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. "If we want to be playing in Week 10, we have to win out. This was Round 1 of the playoffs for us, and next up is a DeKalb team that is playing really well. That will be a big test of us. It's Round 2 of the playoffs."
A big play of the contest was Lynch's first interception, the one he returned 13 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to extend the Redhawks' lead to 21-0. He later picked off another pass, which led to the visitors' final score, a 4-yard run by Trevor Simpson.
"Our defense has been pretty good all year," Lynch said. "It starts up front with our D-line and then our linebackers are amazing. It makes it easy for us defensive backs. (On the interception) I saw their quarterback call for an audible, so I knew it was coming. We were blitzing; our blitzer and the D-line did their job on that play.
"This was do or die for each team. Practice was different this week, there was more intensity then normal."
Naperville Central had jumped out to a 14-0 advantage at halftime thanks to Jackson's TD passes to Bo Turner and Jadon Thompson, who each now have 4 receiving scores on the fall. Thompson hauled in 7 passes for 77 yards.
"I think we had our best week of practice this week," Thompson said, "and that carried over to the game tonight. All week at practice we were focused just on this game, we were not looking ahead. Now we have Homecoming coming up and we have to prepare like we did this week. We have to get better every day."
Waubonsie Valley made things interesting in the second half, first scoring on a 7-yard run by quarterback Ethan Nelson. Josh Stevens later found the end zone from 5 yards out. But three turnovers and a bad snap on a punt were too much to overcome.
"We started figuring things out in the second half," said Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy, whose team has lost five in a row. "In the first half we didn't execute at all. We haven't learned how to put a complete game together since the second game of the season. We are just not clicking on all cylinders."