East St. Louis keeps Naperville Central from important fifth win
Until it is said otherwise, it's business as usual for Naperville Central.
A win Friday night on senior night would have secured a playoff berth for the Redhawks, but East St. Louis's high-powered offense could not be curtailed and the Flyers finished off a perfect 9-0 season with a 66-21 football victory.
Naperville Central coach Mike Stine told his team in the postgame meeting to be prepared to practice Monday or turn in equipment. The 4-5 Redhawks await their postseason fate with the playoff pairings announcements Saturday night. Stine said a small chance remains 4-5 Naperville Central might reach the playoffs.
"We might sneak in if a few 4-4 teams that were supposed to win tonight lose. It's been a strange year," he said.
The Redhawks scored two touchdowns in the span of 39 seconds, including with no time on the clock in the first half and Naperville Central hit end zone after getting the ball to start the second half. The Flyers led just 28-21 after the Redhawks' second-half opening score.
Then East St. Louis went on to score 38 unanswered points and finished with well over 500 yards in offense.
"It got to be 28-21. They're an explosive football team. We hoped they might put the ball on the ground," Stine said.
While the Flyers racked up numerous big plays, the Redhawks' three scores also came courtesy of big yardage.
With just under two minutes until halftime, Naperville Central quarterback Sam Jackson turned a scramble into a 34-yard touchdown run to put his team on the scoreboard. East St. Louis scored on the subsequent possession to go up 28-7.
The Redhawks weren't done yet in the first half.
A 19-yard run by Trevor Simpson went a little farther thanks to a targeting penalty by the Flyers and the Redhawks were on East St. Louis's 23-yard line. No time remained on the clock and obviously the first half couldn't end on a penalty.
On the next play Jackson hurled the ball into the air with receiver Jadon Thompson in a crowd of Flyers defenders in the end zone. He leapt and caught the ball.
"We practice that play every week," Thompson said. "I got in the middle of the field and Sam made a great throw."
What would be Naperville Central's last score of the evening was that first TD of the second half. A keeper by Jackson turned into a 44-yard trip into the end zone. Kicker Dylan Greenhagen nailed his third extra point of the night.