Week 8: Naperville North Huskies vs. Naperville Central Redhawks
NAPERVILLE -- The calendar says the IHSA state playoffs begin in two weeks.
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But for rivals Naperville Central and Naperville North, the postseason might as well start in Friday's showdown at North Central College in a game that will be shown on CN100, The Comcast Network, at Noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, and at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15. You can also find the game throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
Central is 3-4 and needs to beat North and West Chicago just to qualify for the playoffs. North is 4-3 and a loss would set up a must-win against state powerhouse Glenbard North in Week 9 to reach the playoffs.
"We have to win this game," Central coach Mike Stine said. "We just talked to the kids about it. We have to win to stay playing. It's a big game. For them, it's an important game. It's bigger than just the rivalry. You're fighting to keep the season going."
Both teams are accustomed to playing in big games. Central started the season against Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley in conference play before getting shut out by Glenbard North and Wheaton North.
"The teams we lost to are a combined 26-2, and Neuqua beat Waubonsie last week," Stine said.
The Redhawks need to get their offense untracked. Senior running back Nick Thomas has rushed for 400 yards and eight touchdowns, but only an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Junior quarterback Jake Kolbe has been steady, passing for 1,225 yards and nine scores. His main targets have been Ben Andreas (27 catches, 457 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Jimmy Nashert (21 catches, 197 yards, 2 touchdowns).
"Their quarterback is special, they have some great receivers," North coach Sean Drendel said. "They have a good running back; he just hasn't quite gotten it going yet. They're a great football team that has fallen on a few hard times. We don't want to see them get it going against us."
North's strength is up front, led by Iowa-bound lineman Connor Goebel, whom Stine said is one of the best he's seen in a long time. Mike Langman and Dan Patton are also Division I-quality offensive linemen. Senior quarterback Johnny Brown has had a big season passing and rushing. Desean Brown, Sharad Crosby, Chris Junior and Justin Williams have all made an impact rushing the ball, as well.
"We'd rather get in a street fight than a football game, we're that type of team," Drendel said. "We're a hardhat, lunch pail group. We'll stick to that. We'll count on Johnny to do a lot of things, maybe some things other teams haven't seen that we're going to ask him to do. We're pretty excited about where that's headed."
Stine said that the Central/North game has always been a close one, and it usually comes down to seniors making plays, and he feels that this must-win for both sides is no different. Central has won games behind Matt Randolph and Nick Linne in recent years, while North has gotten huge games from guys like Matt LaCosse and Jordan Tassio.
"Games of this caliber, you have to have great senior leadership willing to step up," Stine said.
North has been followed by CN100 cameras all season as part of the "All In" program, and the Huskies have gotten used to the attention.
"We've had fun with it," Drendel said. "It's like they're not even there at this point. It's been a great experience for us and they've done a great job with it. It will be a memory for all of our kids."
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- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
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