Sometimes, the line between winning and losing can be razor thin.
Just ask both Naperville North and Naperville Central.
Spurred on by its perseverance and a key break, Naperville North took full advantage en route to a 26-23 victory over Naperville Central Friday night at North Central College.
Overcoming a 14-0 second-quarter deficit, the Huskies found themselves trailing by four early in the fourth quarter.
Twenty-three plays, 99 yards, a roughing the punter penalty and three fourth-down conversions later, the Huskies took the lead for good on a six-yard TD run from junior running back DeSean Brown with 1:52 left in regulation.
“After I had that fumble (in the third quarter), I didn’t know how I was gonna come back from that,” said DeSean Brown, who had 44 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 12 attempts. “We had to go back on defense and then they score. I don’t know. My teammates would just say, ‘Stay up. You’re gonna get your touchdown. We’re gonna be back in the game. We’re gonna get this win.’ And we came out on top.”
Becoming playoff eligible with its fifth victory on the season, Naperville North (5-3, 3-3 DuPage Valley) was able to overcome deficits of 14-0 and 17-6 to take its first lead early in the third quarter on a one-yard TD run from DeSean Brown.
Eliminated from postseason contention for the second time in three years with a third straight loss, Naperville Central (3-5, 3-3 DuPage Valley) had one last opportunity to either tie or win the game at the Huskies’ six-yard line in the waning seconds. Junior QB Jake Kolbe hit Nick Thomas in the flat for no gain as the seconds eventually ticked off the clock.
“It’s a check-down. It just didn’t go the way we had wanted it to go,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said of the play. “It’s just one of those things. Naperville North made a play.”
Completing 15 of his 24 passes for 174 yards, Huskies’ senior QB Johnny Brown also ran for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
“It feels really good to get a win against Central and knock them out of the playoffs,” Johnny Brown said. “Another reason it feels good is because we lost a game like this against Wheaton South in the same type of situation. It feels good to finally come back and beat Central from what happened last year (a 36-26 Naperville Central victory).”
Snapping a 10-quarter scoreless drought in the process, the Redhawks’ offense got right to work by traveling 49 yards on eight plays, capped by a two-yard Jim Nashert touchdown run, on its first possession, to take a quick 7-0 lead.
Nashert would factor in once again a quarter later as he was on the receiving end of a 19-yard TD pass from Kolbe to cap a 10-play drive early in the second quarter that increased the Naperville Central lead to 14-0.
Kolbe went 12 of 18 passing for 164 yards and a TD. Nashert ran nine times for 42 yards and two scores for Naperville Central.
“It was a great high school football game. I’m proud (as) heck of that team,” Stine said. “We battled. Their team battled. It went down to the final play and they came out on top. But that was a great high school football game.”