Naperville North becomes playoff eligible with win over Waubonsie Valley

Win and go home.

That's the situation for the Naperville North Huskies, now eligible for the state football playoffs after a 28-7 win over Waubonsie Valley on Friday in Naperville.

"I'm excited. I'm going to celebrate but tomorrow we're right back at it and we're going to keep going," said Huskies defensive tackle Lawson Grier, who opened the scoring with a first-quarter, 53-yard fumble return for touchdown.

As both teams knew given the uneven DuPage Valley Conference schedule, Friday's winner would host the loser Oct. 20 with a potential playoff berth still on the line.

Naperville North (5-3, 3-2) got the first job done. Waubonsie Valley (4-4, 2-3) seeks its turn.

"We know what we need to do. It's pretty cut and dried right now," said Warriors coach Tom Baumgartner.

"It's going to come down to how fast we bounce back and get ready to go Monday and get people healthy. I think we showed in the first half and throughout the game for the most part that we can play with that team," he said.

Despite a holding penalty that negated Luke Elsea's 33-yard pass to Trent Selby on the first play from scrimmage, Waubonsie cruised to the Huskies' 30-yard line before a Grier sack, followed a play later by the 240-pounder's fumble return.

"Mistakes are what cost the game for us," said Elsea, 12-of-22 passing for 158 yards.

Tyler Duewel's kick, opening his 4-for-4 night, gave Naperville North a 7-0 lead at 6:53 of the first quarter.

Waubonsie tied it up at 2:16 of the first quarter on Elsea's 41-yard touchdown pass to Julian Johnson, who split two defenders down the right side of the field. Aiden Manion added the kick. Johnson also had 2 sacks on defense.

It got quiet until the last minute of the second quarter. Naperville North running back Cole Arl broke runs of 28 and 23 yards to set up his own 29-yard touchdown reception from a Jacob Bell pass 18 seconds before halftime.

"The defense was just keeping us in the game," Arl said. "We started off not so hot, but I think our offense just had confidence that we'd be able to pull through eventually."

Defense fed Naperville North's uptempo offense on Luke Williams' third-quarter interception and 27-yard return. Arl's shifty 23-yard touchdown run and Duewel's kick had the Huskies up 21-7 at 6:38.

"I just bounced it out and I was gone," said Arl, who ran for 101 yards on 9 carries.

Bell, 10-of-17 passing for 116 yards, was hit as he completed an 18-yard pass to Williams, and capped the scoring on a 25-yard strike to Carson Marlar, who broke a tackle down the right sideline.

Naperville North led 28-7 with 8:57 to play, and added William Korosec's interception on Waubonsie's next possession.

Huskies coach Sean Drendel got a kick out of defenders like Grier, Gabe Hill, Jimmy Lezza, Josh Lovick, Sam Gehrs and Matt Murphy.

"They're super-physical, which is fun to watch," Drendel said. "It makes offense not have to be in a hurry to score all the time. They did a nice job, they've done a nice job for us all year."

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