Naperville Central picks up defensive pace with three interceptions for TDs

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Apparently it was pick-6 night Friday in Naperville.

Bobby McMillen, Jack Walsh and Rick Hatton each returned interceptions for touchdowns in Naperville Central’s 28-14 DuPage Valley Conference win over Glenbard North in Naperville.

The Redhawks undoubtedly needed those big defensive plays during a game in which their offense never really got much going against an aggressive Glenbard North team.

“It’s unbelievable to get 21 points from our defense,” Redhawks coach Mike Stine said. “We struggled against them all night. It was a great effort by our defense.”

Naperville Central (4-1, 1-0) received a 76-yard TD run from Kevin Clifford in the third quarter, but didn’t do much of anything on the ground outside of that huge play, rushing 19 other times for just 15 yards.

“That was a huge play,” Stine said. “We struggled with the running plays and we knew they had a great defense inside. They packed the box and made it difficult on us. They were very good.”

The only thing that the Redhawks had working offensively was the passing game of Conor Joyce to Mike Kolzow (five catches, 126 yards).

Glenbard North (2-3, 0-1) committed five turnovers. While the Redhawks turned three of those turnovers into pick-6 scores, they also took advantage of a crucial Panthers’ fumble in the third quarter.

The Panthers took possession at the Naperville Central 26-yard line early in the third quarter after a Joyce interception, but they ended up fumbling the ball away.

The Redhawks pounced on the opportunity, getting the lengthy TD run from Clifford three plays later to jump ahead 21-7.

Junior Devion Hodges (41 carries, 211 yards) kept the Panthers within striking distance.

He helped the Panthers control time of possession throughout the game, rushing for at least four yards on 19 of his carries.

“They’ve got those big linemen up front and they were able to get him in between,” Stine said. “He’s so quick and shifty.”

Glenbard North pulled to within 21-14 on a Brett Gasiorowski TD run with 3:55 remaining and actually had a chance to score the tying TD, but once again were victimized by the Naperville Central defense.

Without any timeouts and facing a fourth down on the Redhawks’ 8-yard line with only 52 seconds remaining, Rick Hatton intercepted Gasiorowski’s pass and returned it for a 96-yard TD to seal the victory.

Hatton also had an interception earlier in the game.

“You live for these kind of moments,” he said. “It was awesome. We knew it would take a big defensive effort for us to win and we all believed in each other and made big plays when we needed them most.”

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