Naperville Central adjusts, continues rolling along
Naperville Central senior linebacker Shane Roth credited a simple motto for his team's success this season.
The Redhawks (4-0) have thrived in a condensed season playing diverse opponents on different days. So far, the Redhawks have played games on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Redhawks played one of their best games of the season at DeKalb last Friday. Naperville Central ran for 285 yards rushing in a 41-7 rout in DuPage Valley Conference action.
The Redhawks are scheduled to play at Metea Valley (0-3) on Friday, but Roth said the team won't be fazed with any last-minute schedule changes, especially the defense. The Redhawks are allowing just 5.8 points and 133.8 yards per game.
Led by Niko Gordon's 254 yards rushing, the Redhawks have three players with at least 150 yards rushing. Reggie Fleurima leads the team with 13 receptions for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns.
"Our coaches tell us every week that we'll play anyone, anywhere and anytime," Roth said. "We believe that, and know the crazy times we're in. We believe in our coaching and preparation, and focus on playing our style of football. If we do that, we feel we will be very successful."
This season, the Redhawks, who are currently No. 4 in the Class 8A AP poll, had to swap out two games during the same week with new opponents. The Redhawks took it a step further last week.
The DuPage Valley Conference game was rescheduled and played -- all on the same day. Naperville Central coach Mike Stine admitted it's been a unique season.
"We like to do exactly the same thing every week," Stine said. "We've been doing it for years and years, just the same thing on Monday and Tuesday, etc. We have our practice scripted, but this year, we all had to adapt.
"They had to figure our officials and immediately get buses Friday morning. Those are the two big things, so when that happened, we started the ball rolling. We have a good chain of commands, got the messages out to the players, coaches and parents. Our kids have become used to this by now. High school football is a Friday night game, so our kids were excited. We made that transition. It was a great atmosphere. We challenged our kids all week. In our mind, it was a playoff game, like a quarterfinal game. DeKalb is very good. We challenged our seniors, and they rose to the occasion."
The Redhawks played one of their best all-around games against the Barbs. DeKalb ran 41 offensive plays but managed 176 yards, including just 79 yards rushing. The Barbs had scored a total of 89 points in wins over Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley.
Roth said the defense focused on stopping the Barbs' rushing attack.
"We wanted to make them throw the ball and put them in uncomfortable situations," Roth said. "We focused on driving through our tackles and getting all 11 players to the ball. The goal for our defense is to be relentless no matter who we're playing. We want to shut teams down. We want to finish 6-0 with this weird schedule and dominate every team."
Neuqua Valley is back
Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus wasn't bothered by the cold and wet conditions during Saturday's game against Waubonsie Valley. The Wildcats had two of their games canceled, while Ellinghaus also missed his team's lone game over another quarantine issue.
Ellinghaus welcomed a return to the sidelines, especially watching the Wildcats record a 34-12 win over the Warriors. The Wildcats (2-0) had to quarantine for 14 days and practiced just five times before playing the Warriors, Ellinghaus said.
"I missed the Naperville North game myself because of another situation in quarantine, so that was the first time in 25 years for me," he said. "It was great to get back out there. I felt like a kid in a candy store. It was great to see our guys out there."
Ellinghaus credited senior captains Armani Moreno, a Grand Valley State recruit, and Trey Borske, a Winona State recruit, for keeping the team together. The Wildcats play at DeKalb on Friday.
"Trey and Armani have been a rock on offense and defense," he said. "Armani and Trey have kept the team together during trying times. Overall, everyone has stepped up. We're an extremely young team with nine sophomores up and 20 seniors."
DuPage Valley update
The DuPage Valley Conference schedule for the final week of the season remains up in the air. Stine and Ellinghaus both confirmed the conference has yet to announce the schedule.