Naperville Central tunes up with runaway over Hubbard

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How good is Naperville Central?

It’s difficult even for coach Mike Stine to get a gauge on his defending Class 8A state champ Redhawks as they look ahead to next weekend’s DuPage Valley Conference opener against No. 25 Wheaton Warrenville South.

Saturday’s 59-0 shutout of Hubbard at Lane didn’t reveal much about No. 15 Naperville Central (2-1), which scored three times before its offense took the field and led 52-0 at halftime.

“It’s really hard to tell because Week 1 [a 20-6 loss to Waubonsie Valley], we were so bad offensively,” Stine said. “We turned it over six times. Then last week [a 19-0 win over Neuqua Valley] we played in the mud. [Saturday] the game got out of hand.

“So I know defensively we’re very good and we’re going to have to be very good next week against Wheaton South. Offensively, I still think we’re a work in progress. I think we’re trying to figure out what kindof identity we want to have.”

For senior linebacker Bobby McMillen, who blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety, it was a chance to get ready for league play.

“We … took this game as a momentum builder,” he said. “This upcoming week is going to be the toughest week we’ve had all season, the toughest game we’ve had.

“This is definitely a morale booster for the team. Our offense went out there and gained confidence. So did our defense. We executed all week in practice and the same thing happened in the game.”

Indeed. On Hubbard’s first series, linebacker Dan DelGrosso picked off Greyhounds quarterback Jaquelle Smith in the end zone for the Redhawks’ first score. Cameron Conners blocked a punt on Hubbard’s next possession and recovered it in the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

Then Jonathan Barker tackled Hubbard punter Alejandro Davalos in the end zone for a safety and a 16-0 advantage with 7:59 left in the first quarter.

Hubbard (1-2) forced a three-and-out and had an interception on Naperville Central’s first two possessions. But then the Redhawks offense started rolling as well.

Conor Joyce ran 4 yards for one score, Kevin Clifford had a 21-yard touchdown run and Joyce hit Mike Kolzow for a 6-yard TD, making it 37-0 with 3:56 left in the first half.

McMillen’s safety and Matt Lehmann’s 64-yard runback of the ensuing free kick pushed the lead to 46-0 and Luke Brady (10 carries, 105 yards) added a 43-yard scoring run just before halftime.

Hubbard was hit hard by injuries — sophomore Joshua Land, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, was among those who didn’t play. But the Redhawks still were efficient on both sides of the ball.

“I’m sure once we watch the film [Sunday] there’s going to be a couple things we need to clean up,” McMillen said. “But the score speaks for itself: 58-0. It doesn’t matter who you line up against. You’ve still got to play football, and that’s what we did today to the best of our ability.”

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