Dodd announces arrival with big game in Naperville Central win
Admittedly, Naperville Central running back Tyler Dodd was not ready to be the lead tailback when he was thrust into the role early this season due to an injury.
The Redhawks running back needed a little time, and some coaching up from injured starter Niko Gordon, before he felt comfortable in the lead role. But those early struggles are ancient history now.
The Redhawks running game has picked up the pace the last few weeks and on Friday put an exclamation point on its arrival in a 45-21 defeat of Metea Valley.
Dodd rushed for 191 yards on 23 carries and scored four touchdowns as Naperville Central rebounded from a 14-0 deficit to close out the regular season with a 6-3 mark. After back-to-back wins over the Mustangs these final two weeks, the program awaits Saturday's state pairings announcement to determine who they open the 2021 postseason.
"There were a bunch of great holes and I had some great lanes so I tried to hit them as hard as I could," said Dodd, crediting a strong Redhawks offensive line. "At the start of the season, I was not totally prepared to get going. But all the work and coaching up with Niko helped so much. He taught me to hit the holes hard and not try and cut around too much."
The Mustangs, who had their playoff hopes end with last week's loss at Naperville Central, jumped ahead 14-0 as Logan Frederick tossed scoring passes of 38 and 37 yards to Northern Illinois-bound Jalen Johnson. After the Redhawks rallied for a 17-14 halftime lead, Frederick put the visitors up 21-17 with a 55-yard touchdown pass to John Flynn in the third quarter.
But the Redhawks took over from there, closing the game with a 28-0 run behind its strong running game coupled with 225 yards and two scores through the air from quarterback Owen Prucha.
Despite the setback, Johnson and the Mustangs can look back at big strides made by the program this fall.
"We had a different mindset this year and we were able to turn things around," Johnson said. "Logan (Frederick) and John (Flynn) really did a lot of great things. I wish we could have done more. I wish we had another game to play, but I love these guys. It's been a blast."
Flynn and Johnson each had over 100 yards receiving for Metea Valley (3-6) and Frederick closed out the campaign by completing 15 of 25 passes for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns.
After a slow start Dodd expects the Redhawks to be ready to go from the opening kickoff when the playoffs open.
"I'm excited for the seedings tomorrow to see who we play," he said. "I know we know that we'll have to come out strong from the start. This sixth win was super important and now we'll have to be ready for next week."