About the last thing Hinsdale Central’s football coaching staff expected Friday night happened while routing Proviso West.
Second-string quarterback Jacob White started the game after Chase Hamilton suffered a season-ending injury the previous week.
But one major question on Hinsdale Central’s depth chart remained: Would White keep his starting spot as an inside linebacker in the team’s 3-5-3 alignment?
The only returning starter from last year’s linebacking corps, White was already considered Hinsdale Central’s best defensive player, according to coach Rich Tarka. That’s why he was issued uniform No. 40, indicating his position as linebacker and running back, rather than backup quarterback.
The game plan Friday was to start White both on offense and defense.
“We were going to pick and choose based on the situation,” Hinsdale Central linebacker coach Brian Griffin said after the game. “We talked about it when he was getting ready to play (quarterback this week). When would his number get called (for defense)?”
But fate intervened in the final series of the first half. On first down, with Proviso at the Panthers’ 35, White lunged to tackle ball carrier Tyrone Neal and injured his left ankle.
The senior did return for the second half as the Devils rolled to a 31-0 West Suburban Silver victory over Proviso West (1-3, 0-1). The Devils used their third- (Ben Stefani) and fourth- (Sam Saltiel) string quarterbacks to finish the game.
White is nursing a minor sprain and the 6-foot-1, 208-pound three-sport athlete is expected to return for the showdown at Class 7A defending state champion Glenbard West (3-1, 2-0) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
Tarka, defensive coordinator Tom Dorrance and Griffin must decide how much White will play on defense while remaining at quarterback.
Jack Clark stepped up Friday and played linebacker the entire second half while White stood on the sideline on crutches. Clark, a 6-1, 200-pound junior, joined a corps that included sophomore Matt Bradley, junior Jimmy Thompson, senior Trevor Paul and senior Matt Muellner.
Clark had replaced White at linebacker in special situations during the first half.
“(White) got out on third and fourth downs,” Clark said. “Since he’s playing quarterback, that gave him time for a quick rest.”
Clark has counted on following White someday as linebacker and is preparing for his backup role.
“I honestly try to imitate Jacob,” Clark said. “I stand behind him at practice. He gives me pointers and advice. He’s a great role model. He shows you how to play hard and how to make reads.”
Clark’s life has changed since Hamilton broke his right ankle at York. Now he is in demand at linebacker and likely will see his playing time increase against Glenbard West.
“I did not expect to play that much (this season),” Clark said. “I thought I would play on special teams and maybe go in at cornerback a bit.”
Despite playing only the first half, White was the leading rusher with 148 yards and two TDs on 10 carries for the Devils (3-1, 2-0).
The Panthers couldn’t threaten against Hinsdale while confronting their own quarterback problems, allowing Devils coach Tarka to put his backups in a game situation with the game already decided.
“On the bright side, it was good to see other guys play,” Tarka said. “I like what I saw from Jacob and Ben. We’re getting better as a team. They had that attitude that they can get the job done.”
Hinsdale Central has other injuries to worry about. Three starting offensive linemen were out Friday and center Doug Kramer was brought up from the sophomore team but was not even listed on the varsity roster.
“It has been an interesting ride, but we have a great group of kids. We are going to keep getting better,” Griffin said.