Naperville North gains eligibility for state playoffs with victory vs. Waubonsie Valley
Naperville North had to stave off Waubonsie Valley's best half of the football season Friday to become eligible for the IHSA playoffs.
But that's not all that happened Friday after the Huskies' 28-19 home victory over the Warriors. They also reveled in the fact that they will play for the DuPage Valley Conference championship next Friday at Neuqua Valley.
Since there are six conference teams, each plays the others once. Tack on three nonconference games, and that leaves one week unoccupied. That week is Week 9, when the first-place Wildcats will host second-place Naperville North.
That's a lot to absorb, but Naperville North's Williams brothers can get used to it.
"Knowing we could have been in the playoffs last year, and getting in this year, it feels awesome," said sophomore receiver Luke Williams, who had 5 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown Friday.
HIs senior brother, Zeke, added another 5 catches for 93 yards and a 31-yard touchdown catch.
"It's amazing," he said. "This is my first year in the playoffs since I've been playing and have a chance to go down state. With these guys, I've been with them for two years, and it's just amazing."
The Williams brothers took their cue from junior quarterback Aidan Gray, who completed 14 of 17 passes for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. He said the Huskies are in the right place at the right time.
"I feel like as a team, we're really confident," Gray said. "We feel like we're where we need to be as far as playoffs. We're really excited. We know the job's not done. We're playing a great opponent with Neuqua Valley, so next week we have to go over there and take care of them and then focus on the playoffs."
That's all fine and good, but consider that Waubonsie Valley made Friday's game very interesting, especially in the fourth quarter. Down 28-7, the Warriors struck back with a 55-yard pass play from sophomore quarterback Luke Elsea to senior receiver Tyler Helbing with 4:32 to go. Waubonsie Valley did miss the extra point, however.
That was just the beginning. Elsea connected with senior running back Jacob Razo on a 69-yard touchdown that started innocently enough with a screen pass to the right. Razo picked up the slack, dashed through a line of defenders and took it to the house. Suddenly, the Huskies' lead was cut to 28-19.
But it was too late. Naperville North went into victory formation in the last 1:45.
"Coach (Tom Baumgartner) really got on us at halftime, and the line really got into it so we could get the ball moving in the run game, and once you get the run game going that opens up the pass," Helbing said.
Helbing, who earlier had a 9-yard scoring catch, finished with 3 catches for 74 yards.
The second half "was probably the best half we put together as a group, offensively, defensively and special teams," Baumgartner said. "We got on them at halftime, and they responded."