Hinsdale Central renews rivalry vs. Downers North with win
As a third-generation Hinsdale Central football player, senior linebacker JT Pyle achieved some unique family history during the abbreviated 2021 spring season.
The Red Devils did not get to play against rival Downers Grove North for the first time in the history of their annual Old Oaken Bucket game dating back to 1935. COVID-19 protocols canceled their game.
"It definitely was (weird). We found out we weren't going to play DGN about two days before the game," Pyle said. "But it definitely feels good to come back and beat them this year. It's always a fun game with them. We always get their best and we try and play our best.
The Red Devils were challenged by the Trojans Friday in Hinsdale but emerged from a halftime tie for a 30-20 Homecoming victory in West Suburban Conference Silver action.
Tied 14-14, the Red Devils scored the next 16 points to pull away from the Trojans.
The Red Devils' Thomas Skokna scored his third touchdown on a 3-yard run out of the wildcat formation with 7:44 left to complete the run by the Red Devils (5-1, 2-0 in Silver). Quarterback Billy Cernugel hit Michael Hinchman with a 13-yard TD pass on the first possession of the second half and Peter Deftos kicked a 20-yard field goal.
"They came out firing in the first half. We came out expecting their best game. We got their best game," Hinsdale Central senior Sean Allison said. "The second half we gathered ourselves. We came back. A couple of changes on defense and I think that's what sealed the deal there."
The Red Devils now become eligible for the playoffs for what would be a 10th straight season and remain tied for first in the Silver with undefeated York and Glenbard West, who meet Saturday.
The Red Devils also won the Old Oaken Bucket game for the 14th straight time to increase their overall series lead to 52-31-3.
Pyle's father and grandfather also played on teams who gained control of the bucket as well as two older brothers.
"There's a lot of tradition behind it. It's one of the longest traditions in the state and it's just awesome to win it finally," Pyle said. "It's great to keep that tradition running. I think we played a lot better in the second half defensively and we got our mojo back, which was missing in the first half."
The Red Devils and Trojans were tied 14-14 at halftime, although Hinsdale Central led 220-80 in total yards. Hinsdale Central had two 11-play, 78-yard TD drives with Skokna scoring on its opening possession with a 9-yard run and later with a 19-yard over-the-shoulder catch from Cernugel with 9:42 left in the second quarter for a 14-7 lead.
Downers North (4-2, 1-2) tied the game 14-14 on big play threat Ethan Thulin's second TD catch from quarterback Sam Reichert for 19 yards after earlier score on a 6-yard pass.
The first TD was set up by a fumble recovery at the Hinsdale 36. The second came after Jimmy Janicki's 56-yard sideways punt rolled downfield and Josh Lambert hustled to dove to down the ball inside the 1. After Thulin's 18-yard punt return, the Trojans started their drive from the Hinsdale 23.
"It's a good football team. They came out and popped. You could tell from the opening kickoff," Hinsdale Central coach Brian Griffin said. "We just challenged (our players) at half. It's 14-14. And to come out and play hard together and they did and I think they did a great job in the second half."
Cernugel passed for 216 yards and Nick Fahy rushed for 141 yards.
With the Red Devils leading 21-14, Allison had an interception at the Hinsdale 45 and later at running back converted a fourth-and-2 at the 37 to set up the field goal.
"It's great getting in on offense. I'm kind of the short-yardage back. It feels good going on both sides of the ball, getting a touchdown here and there too," Allison said.
Thulin had seven catches for 70 yards. After a penalty kept the Trojans' drive alive, Carter Radcliff caught a 42-yard bomb from Reichert with 6:11 left. The two barely missed on a 32-yard pass in the end zone with 2:52 left.
"We're one catch away from 30-27 and we have all three timeouts," Downers North coach Joe Horeni said. "We had some opportunities. I'm proud of the way our kids fought. They're a good football team. But we're not a good enough football team to have 75 yards worth of penalties and think we can continue to play with the best teams in our conference."