In seven short weeks when Naperville Central hosts Waubonsie Valley and Naperville North visits Neuqua Valley to open the 2013 high school football season, sparks will fly.
Friday saw a more civil and neighborly meeting of those teams at the inaugural Jersey Mike’s District 203-204 Football Jamboree, Neuqua, Waubonsie, the Napervilles and Metea Valley engaged in a round robin of 7-on-7 passing games at Naperville Central.
“It’s a lot of fun, just competing against all the kids that you see all around town,” said Naperville Central senior quarterback Jake Kolbe, whose swift, dart passes led the Redhawks to wins over all four opponents in the short, 22-minute contests.
It was like a melting pot, somewhat typified by Metea Valley’s head coach, Ben Kleinhans — quarterback at Waubonsie Valley and coach at Neuqua before taking over at Metea last season. Young Mustangs assistants include Naperville Central graduate Nick Kukuc and Waubonsie graduate Tyler Castro.
“A lot of times in a community you start to fragment,” said Naperville Central coach Mike Stine, “and we don’t want it to be that. We’re all in this together and we wanted to have an opportunity to come and showcase and not be afraid to play each other — it’s not like we’re hiding anything — and to really showcase high school football here in the Naperville area.”
The Jamboree drew a nice crowd spanning parents, players’ girl friends, boys out of the Naperville and Aurora youth football programs and just plain football fans. The sponsoring vendor even had a connection. Mark Cross, who in 2009 opened the first Jersey Mike’s restaurant in Illinois on 75th Street in Naperville, played at Byron under Mike Stine’s late father, Everett Stine.
As Cross called him, “My Coach Stine.”
“Football is the foundation of my life,” Cross said. “I always take great pride to be able to give back to the athletes in our community ... It’s the ideal situation for everybody in the Naperville and Aurora community to come out to get a preview one month before camp starts of your top athletes.”
Neuqua Valley receiver Mike Dudek, an Illinois recruit, was unguardable out of the slot. Waubonsie Valley senior quarterback Jack Eddy threw to the one-two punch of senior receiver Christian Gibbs and junior Keaton Casey.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Gibbs said of Eddy. “Throws the ball on time, puts it in a spot where only his receivers can catch it.”
Some are deep in quarterback competitions — Naperville North with senior Connor Johannes and juniors Evan Kujawski and Chris Gajcak, Neuqua with seniors Connor Milliren and Matt Perrigo.
Metea quarterback Blaise Bell, more comfortable this year after transferring in from Texas prior to last season, joins Kolze as the sole returning starting quarterback among these teams.
“The whole thing we take away from this is we need to get better,” said Bell, whose Mustangs dropped a 22-18 game to Naperville Central and tied Waubonsie 19-19.
“The caliber right here has been very good today,” said Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus. “I think the games were fast, I think they played fast. I think the kids were breaking on the ball; offensively I think we executed fairly well. I saw other teams executing well.
“We’ve played a lot of 7-on-7, I thought the caliber of play here was very good.”
Last season was the first time Naperville Central and Naperville North failed to win a nonconference game against their District 204 rivals. The Napervilles are fully aware of that, but Friday’s inaugural all-town Jamboree wasn’t the time or place to make a stink about it.
“We hadn’t done it in the past,” said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel, “because we were fearful of ‘we’re going to play each other.’ But nowadays 7-on-7 has expanded so much, it’s a good thing for Naperville. We can play out here and have a good time and two months later we’re going to play the real thing.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.