All year long St. Charles North had relied on its stout defense to shut opponents down, but Saturday night it was the offense that closed out a 34-22 Class 7A playoff win at Rolling Meadows.
Quarterback Nathan Didier ran for three touchdowns and running back Eric Lins powered in for two more to help the ninth-seeded North Stars (8-2) finish off the eighth-seeded Mustangs (7-3) and advance to a second-round game against top-seeded Cary-Grove.
Didier broke a 46-yard run up the middle on third down for a touchdown to seal the victory after a late fourth-quarter rally by Rolling Meadows had made the game interesting.
Didier finished with 74 yards rushing and completed 17-for-27 for 198 yards.
The Stars drove 59 yards to the game’s first score on Didier’s 2-yard run off right guard on fourth-and-goal with 9:37 left in the second quarter.
St. Charles North’s defense completely dominated Rolling Meadows in the first half after allowing one drive to the Stars’ 28-yard line that ended on downs. The Mustangs never managed another scoring threat until the Stars had gone up 20-0.
The Stars’ defense triggered North’s first two scores of the second half. Nick Zamenick picked off a pass by Mustangs quarterback R.J. Mattucci, and North drove 40 yards to Lins’ first TD on a 5-yard run with 6:38 left in the third quarter to make it 14-0.
A fumble recovery by North’s Dalton Young at the Rolling Meadows 29 gave Didier the chance for his second TD run, this from a yard out with 3:58 left in the third quarter for a 20-0 lead.
Lins, who rushed for 65 yards on 22 carries, scored on a 2-yard run with 6:57 left in the game after Tyler Mettetal’s fourth-down sack of Mattucci at the Rolling Meadows 15.
That TD seemed to lock up a Stars win, building a 28-6 lead.
However, Mattucci, who completed 13-for-23 for 182 yards, fired a perfect 70-yard bomb to Jack O’Neill with 6:45 left in the game. Then he made it interesting by throwing a 42-yard TD strike to Jack Swindells with 2:07 remaining, and the 2-point conversion pass drew Rolling Meadows within 28-22.
North recovered the ensuing onside kick and on fourth down, while trying to kill as much time as possible, Didier broke his 46-yard clinching score.
Blake Kastein hauled in five catches for 69 yards for North, while Kyle Novotney had four catches for 40 yards.