Naperville North knocks off Naperville Central behind Roberts, Gray
Almost felt like the whole city of Naperville was in attendance at North Central College Friday evening.
Naperville North senior running back Ethan Robert gave them a show.
The 5-foot-10 Robert looked like a pinball bouncing off tacklers en route to a whopping 287 yards rushing on 34 carries and a pair of touchdowns, including an 80-yarder on North's sixth play from scrimmage.
That, and his junior quarterback Aidan Gray's 16-for-18 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown, proved to be too much for Naperville Central, as the Huskies spoiled the Redhawks' homecoming with a 38-27 victory.
"It's Central, you know?" Robert said. "You've got to have the fire when you're playing your rival. We were playing with emotion today, we came together as a team, and we needed this win."
Robert's efforts offset that of Naperville Central senior quarterback Owen Prucha, who threw for 302 yards on 16-for-26 passing and three touchdowns, including a 64-yarder to senior receiver Tristen Hall late in the fourth quarter that set the final score, but made it look like the Redhawks just might spoil North's evening.
"It's a good one," Huskies' coach Sean Drendel said. "It's sweet because we didn't play them last year. The kids missed that opportunity, and you know, they (Naperville Central) are a really good program, and anytime you can beat a really good program, it matters."
Naperville North took a 28-13 lead into the third quarter, but watched that nearly evaporate thanks for a Prucha 1-yard scoring run. But as luck would have it, the Huskies' got a big break on their ensuing drive.
On the 14th play of the drive, a fourth-and-goal from the Central 1-yard line, Naperville North lost the ball in a scrum. There it was laying right there for the picking, and senior receiver Zeke Williams alertly fell on it for a touchdown.
The ball appeared to have been tipped, Williams said, but he was in the right place at the right time.
"I didn't hear a whistle, so I went for the ball and fell on it," Williams said.
The Huskies (3-3, 2-1 in the DuPage Valley Conference) added a 27-yard field goal from junior David Olano late in the fourth quarter.
Looking good for Naperville North, right? Wrong.
On Naperville Central's ensuing drive, Prucha dropped back on his own 36 and lofted a perfect spiral down the middle to Hall, who caught it in stride and took it to the house.
"We had a nice little screen before that to set that up," Prucha said. "We had them on their toes, I felt like. I don't think they were expecting a deep shot. Tristen Hall is a really fast receiver. I put it out there and he did the rest."
Naperville Central (3-3, 1-2) picked up a fumble deep in its own territory with 2:02 to go, but could get only so far as the Huskies' 29.
"Give them credit, they outplayed us and they beat us," Redhawks' coach Mike Ulreich said. "They ran the ball really efficiently, and it felt like they gained five, six yards on first down, and that's a tough night when you can't get a stop on first down."