Sometimes a team will add a tweak or wrinkle to its offense late in the season, just to give an opponent something it hasn’t seen on film.
Naperville Central added a little something during Friday’s Class 8A second-round game at Homewood-Flossmoor and it ended up turning into a big something – the game winning touchdown.
Trailing 21-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Ben Andreas blasted up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown.
It would prove to be the difference in a back-and-forth game that ended in a 24-21 Redhawks victory.
They’ll move on to the Class 8A quarterfinals and meet either Simeon or Neuqua Valley.
“We call it ‘Stanford’ and we put it in this morning,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “The first time we ran it was here.”
Homewood-Flossmoor (9-2) used a meticulous, six-plus minute, 12-play drive covering 72 yards to take a 21-17 lead on a 10-yard pass from Isaac Cutara to Devonte Harley-Hampton with 6:18 remaining.
Then it was time for Stanford. On Naperville Central’s very next offensive play, Andreas broke through the middle and just like that the Redhawks led 24-21.
“The O-line exploded off the ball and I got to give them all the credit,” Andreas said. “I can’t explain the feeling, it’s the best.”
The Vikings drove the ball to the Redhawks’ 44-yard line on their next possession, but they fumbled and Naperville Central’s Jack Wooldridge made the huge recovery.
It was one of many big defensive plays made by the Redhawks. They held standout tailback Vashon Nutt to just 44 yards on 17 carries.
“We knew they were a finesse team with a bunch of fast players,” Wooldridge said. “We just tried to make plays and I think we dominated them physically for four quarters.”
Naperville Central (8-3) was able to convert a couple first downs the rest of the way to work the clock down to 19.1 seconds before turning the ball over on downs deep in Vikings territory. Homewood-Flossmoor was able to run one play for a short gain before time expired.
“Our defense played great and that’s a great offense,” Stine said. ‘We’ve been really good at stopping the run and we knew this team could run it.”
The teams were tied 7-7 at halftime on Kolbe’s one-yard run and Nutt’s three-yard score.
Connor Assally’s 36-yard field goal gave the Redhawks a 10-7 advantage, but the Vikings answered with a crucial fourth-down conversion as Cutara (17-of-23, 182 yards) connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass to James Sheehan (seven catches, 108 yards).
The Redhawks finished with 274 rushing yards and Kevin Clifford had 111 of them on 21 carries.