Super 25 Countdown: No. 24 Naperville Central

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Jake Kolbe and Ben Andreas make it look easy when Naperville Central’s passing game is clicking, which is most of the time.

But the success of the senior teammates’ pitch-and-catch show is the result of hard work.

‘‘Jake and Ben have been in

every morning,’’ Redhawks coach Mike Stine said. ‘‘Six o’clock in the morning, they’re there.’’

That time has been well-spent. Kolbe is an Illinois State-bound quarterback who threw for 1,623 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 for Naperville Central, which is No. 24 in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25.

Andreas is Kolbe’s primary target after catching 36 passes for 614 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Those numbers don’t really tell the full story, though.

‘‘It’s crazy,’’ Kolbe said of his top receiver. ‘‘You might only throw the ball five yards, and he’ll turn it into a 75-yard gain.’’

Or as Stine put it: ‘‘I’ve been at Central for 28 years. Ben is the best combination of speed and strength that’s ever been [seen] at Naperville Central.’’

Kolbe’s arm and Andreas’ speed will be the foundation for what the Redhawks hope will be a better season than 2012. Coming off a run to the Class 8A semifinals in 2011, Naperville Central finished 4-5 and missed the IHSA playoffs for only the third time since 1991.

‘‘That’s really not acceptable at Naperville Central,’’ Kolbe said. ‘‘We definitely will come out with a chip on our shoulder.’’

The good news for the Redhawks is that Kolbe has other options when Andreas draws blanket coverage. Among them are junior Mike Kolzow, the starting sophomore quarterback last season whom Stine thinks is good enough to start at that position at most schools, and senior Tyler Schmidt.

And there’s depth in the backfield with Tyler Joyce and Kevin Clifford at tailback, along with 6-foot, 220-pound fullback Nolan Davis.

All the skill players will be operating behind a good-sized line that features five seniors: Jake Angona (6-4, 280), Ryan Minick (6-4, 275), Alex Peterson (6-2, 250) and the Daley twins, Brendon and Luke.

On the other side of the ball, Stine said: ‘‘We’re going to be an athletic defense. We can run.’’

The defensive veterans include three returning starters at linebacker — Cole Wooldridge, Jack Wooldridge and Bobby McMillan — and defensive backs John Lubanza and Dillon Gross.

‘‘I think they’re going to shape up well,’’ Kolbe said. ‘‘Good senior leadership at defensive back and linebacker.’’

That’ll come in handy as Naperville Central negotiates potential pitfalls in the DuPage Valley Conference against 2012 Class 8A runner-up Glenbard North, Wheaton North and perennial power Wheaton Warrenville South. And that’s not even including nonconference games against Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley, which were a combined 22-3 last season.

‘‘That’s how we want it; that’s how our kids want it,’’ Stine said of the rugged schedule. ‘‘If we get to the playoffs, we’re going to be a quarterfinalist or semifinalist.’’

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