Hinsdale Central blows out Sandburg
In some circles, Sandburg was the trendy pick to upset Hinsdale Central in the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs.
The Red Devils knew this implicitly. And they didn't like it.
But instead of dwelling on that possibility, they went to work all week in preparation, and all that sweat equity paid off in a 41-15 blowout at Dickinson Field on Saturday afternoon.
"They told us we were going to be on TV this week because we were predicted to be the upset of the week," senior defensive lineman Calum Kelly said. "We just came out to prove a statement that we're not going to be an upset. We're going to play our role and do our part and we're going to go as far as we can go."
"We've always been doubted since Week 1 when we lost to Naperville Central, and I think this win shows us who we are," added senior defensive lineman Josh Narcisse, who was part of a unit that sacked Sandburg junior quarterback Christian Evans seven times.
How dominant was that defensive line? In addition to that sackful of sacks, they also held the Eagles to minus-57 yards rushing.
You're not going to lose a lot of games if you do that.
Color Hinsdale Central coach Brian Griffin pleased.
"That's got to be at least close to, if not a school record for a playoff game, and on a big stage like this, for the kids to rise up and do that speaks volumes about who they are," said third-year coach Griffin, who recorded his first playoff win.
But in order to win, you have to put points on the board, and the Red Devils (9-1) did that via the big play.
With 1:34 left in the first quarter, senior linebacker Sean Allison fell on a Sandburg fumble. Four plays later, Allison -- now at running back -- put together a 23-yard run that set up junior quarterback Billy Cernugel's 1-yard scoring run.
But the big one was Cernugel's screen pass to junior receiver Reece Kolke who was wide open on the right side and dashed past his own sideline for a 79-yard touchdown to put Hinsdale Central up 13-0 at the half.
Cernugel added touchdown passes of 8 yards to senior receiver Michael Hinchman and 13 yards to senior running back Nick Fahy in the third quarter that essentially put the game away.
But Cernugel had one last big play up his sleeve. With 30.4 seconds and the Red Devils sitting pretty at 34-15, he got loose for a 54-yard scoring scamper that set the final score.
There are things to clean up, for sure. Hinsdale Central lost two fumbles and gave away 87 yards on 12 penalties, including four straight false start miscues early in the game.
"We had a lot of mistakes, shooting ourselves in the foot, playing against ourselves," Cernugel said. "But Kolke, we knew we had one-on-one coverage. He's a great receiver, he made a play and ran for his first touchdown. He's long overdue."
All told, Cernugel completed 7 of 14 passes for 183 yards and those three touchdowns. He also added 55 yards on the ground, which was equaled by Fahy.
"Everyone is going to pick us as the upset of the week," Cernugel said. "Hinsdale Central historically hasn't done great in the playoffs, but we love being the underdogs and love the disrespect."
Next up for the Red Devils is a date with Glenbrook South, which beat O'Fallon 34-6 on Friday.
"I feel like the theme for the week is we're not done," senior defensive lineman Micah McCurry said. "I'm not done playing football with the horns on my head, and I don't think anyone here is."