Naperville Central claims overtime victory against Naperville North in cross-town classic
Yet another big cross-town classic was played Friday night and plenty of memories were created Friday night.
But what Naperville Central football fans will remember most is the goal-line stand in overtime, the one that allowed the Redhawks to come away victorious in front of a big crowd at North Central College.
The Redhawks defense stuffed Naperville North quarterback Aidan Gray on back-to-back plays from the 1-foot line, setting the stage for Logan Ellison's game-winning field in a 10-7 contest that left both teams with 4-2 records.
With each team getting the ball at the 10-yard line to start the extra session, Naperville North had the ball first and almost scored on a pass from Gray to Brock Pettaway, who was knocked out just shy of the pylon on second down. Gray was then stuffed by the Redhawks defensive line on third down and again the line swarmed him on fourth down and allowed linebacker Christian Kuta to swoop in and finish off the critical stand.
"It's huge for the team. It was a great bounce-back week," said Kuta, who also had an interception in the first half, which ended with Naperville Central ahead 7-0. "Everybody played to the most. There was a lot of passion and lot of toughness."
The Redhawks were especially tough in the trenches, and Kuta credited linemen Maverick Ohle, Oliver Robak and John Stout with keeping the high-powered Huskies attack at bay all night long. Naperville North's only points came on a 35-yard interception return by Jackson Bauer that tied the game at 7-7 in the third quarter.
"Our D-line was massive in there. They were huge," Kuta said. "They really stuffed them up front. They allowed me to make the play on fourth down. (Gray) tried to spin out and I smoked him. I think it was one of the most exciting plays of my life. Especially when it's against Naperville North. Oh my god I love it."
Naperville Central had taken a 7-0 lead after a 14-play, 80-yard drive to start the game was capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chris McCormack. From there, however, both teams struggled to break through their rivals' defense.
"It was a great football game," Redhawks coach Mike Ulreich said. "We just have an incredibly tough football team; mentally more than anything else and especially our defense. They're unbelievable. It' an incredible group of kids that play defense for us."
The Huskies had a drive end at the Naperville Central 3-yard line late in the third quarter and then missed a 20-yard field-goal attempt that kept the score tied at 7-7 and eventually headed to overtime.
Bauer's pick-6 was Naperville North's only chance to dent the score board on Friday.
"We played hard and made some good plays but we've got to come back to work and get ready for Metea Valley," Huskies defensive coordinator Chris Arthurs said. "Jackson Bauer had a great play, a great read on the ball. He's a former tight end but I don't think he's scored a touchdown since he was a younger kid playing that position so to see him get to the end zone was pretty cool.
"It's a rivalry where one or two plays can decide the winner and they made one more play than we did."
Naperville Central nose guard Stout was all smiles while holding the Wes Spencer Trophy after the cross-town win.
"We're not the flashiest stars or the biggest recruits, but we're tough as nails," the 6-foot-3, 290-poind senior said. "Our scout team did a phenomenal job preparing us. And our team motto is everything you got, and on those two plays we gave everything we got."