Four Downs: News, notes and observations from Week 7

Nazareth finally beats Marist, St. Charles East has arrived, Naperville Central’s rough road and more.

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Nazareth’s JJ McCarthy during a practice.

Nazareth’s JJ McCarthy during a practice.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Marist was on Nazareth’s mind all the way back in the preseason. It has been a bad matchup for the Roadrunners for several years; their last win against the Redhawks was in 2015. 

But Nazareth took care of business Friday, knocking off Marist 39-29. Michigan recruit JJ McCarthy was excellent, finishing 17-for-25 for 290 yards. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for one. 

Despite being the preseason top-ranked team, the Roadrunners have been out of the spotlight since a Week 1 loss to Cardinal Ritter. That is changing now with the victory against Marist and a major showdown coming up at undefeated No. 8 Notre Dame in Week 8. 

A sophomore leads the way

St. Charles East has gone from unranked to a top-15 team in two weeks. The Fighting Saints knocked off rival St. Charles North in Week 6, then pulled off the biggest win in Week 7, beating Batavia. 

Sophomore quarterback Nathan Hayes led the way against the Bulldogs. Hayes threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Hull on third down with less than two minutes to play to defeat Batavia. Hayes was 14-for-28 for 211 yards and three touchdowns.

The upset of the North Stars was keyed by senior running back Cole Conn, who rushed for 152 yards and scored four touchdowns.

St. Charles East (6-1, 4-1 DuKane) finishes the season against two sub-.500 teams, Wheaton North and Lake Park. 

Naperville Central’s rough road

Naperville Central was the No. 8-ranked team in the preseason. It wasn’t a stretch; the Redhawks are loaded with talent all over the field.

But it has been a tough season, starting with three consecutive losses to ranked teams. Then Naperville Central knocked off Metea Valley and Naperville North. A Week 6 loss to ranked Neuqua Valley was almost devastating to any playoff hopes. 

The Redhawks rebounded with a win at Waubonsie Valley in Week 7. Junior quarterback Sam Jackson, a Minnesota recruit, threw two touchdown passes. 

So that leaves Naperville Central at 3-4 heading into the last two weeks. The schedule does not let up, but the last two games are at home. The Redhawks will need to beat DeKalb (5-2) and East St. Louis (7-0), possibly the best team in the state, to make the playoffs. 

Unlikely success stories

Big things are happening this season at two schools that aren’t typical powerhouse programs: Kankakee and Proviso East. 

The Kays’ only loss this season was a 27-26 defeat to No. 21 Crete-Monee. Young coach Derek Hart already has led Kankakee (6-1) to only its second playoff appearance in the last decade.

Proviso East beat Hinsdale South 8-7 on Friday to improve to 5-2. The Pirates likely will make the playoffs. It will be the school’s second playoff appearance since 1999.

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