Four games into its season, there’s little doubt it’s been a tale of two seasons for Naperville Central.
On Friday night against visiting Wheaton Warrenville South, that trend kept going in the positive direction, thanks to its emerging threat — junior wide receiver Ben Andreas.
Andreas’ 60-yard punt return for a TD with just over four minutes gone set off a 21-point explosion in the first quarter for Naperville Central en route to upsetting No. 13 Wheaton Warrenville South 24-13 in DuPage Valley action.
Andreas bobbled the ball initially on the punt return and was freed along the Redhawks’ sideline thanks to a great block from senior defensive back Kevin Nowak. Andreas would play a hand in all three first-half TDs for Naperville Central (3-2, 3-0), which led 24-0 at halftime.
“I saw the punt and I saw a lane before it even touched my hands. Dropped it and knew I had a lane, so I tried to pick it back up and did what I can,” Andreas said.
Following a series that saw the Tigers get all the way to the Redhawks’ 21 before two straight incompletions from Tigers junior QB Ryan Graham turned the ball over on downs, the Redhawks’ offense got rolling again.
Graham’s counterpart, Redhawks junior Jake Kolbe, would cap a nine-play, 79-yard scoring drive by finding Andreas for a 38-yard score with 18 seconds remaining in the first.
Immediately following Redhawks senior linebacker Luke Roth’s recovery of a Brandon Adams’ fumble, Andreas finished matters in the game’s opening 12 minutes by finding senior wide receiver Blake Butler for a 32-yard TD as time expired.
Three first-half turnovers, including two Graham interceptions, harmed the cause for Wheaton Warrenville South (2-3, 2-1), which lost to Naperville Central for the first time since Oct. 22, 2004.
“You know, it’s a big win. But what’s big about it is we got three (wins) now. We gotta get two more,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “We gotta come up with two more in the next four (games) and Glenbard North is the next one. We know that’s gonna be a battle.”
Redhawks sophomore linebacker Bobby McMillan picked off Graham twice, while senior defensive back Justin Markham added a pick of Graham.
Graham finished 11-of-19 passing for 82 yards with a TD and the three interceptions while running for a game-high 106 yards.
“It was tough. I mean, we came out (and) really hit (Graham) in the first half,” said McMillan, who has three interceptions and a fumble recovery in the last two weeks. “Second half, we came out, struggled at first. But during the week, a lot of film, a lot of hard work on the practice field paid off really well during the game.”