With sheets of rain and a biting wind present, Naperville Central didn't expect to equal the 58 points it tallied in a Week 2 victory against crosstown rival Neuqua Valley in Saturday night's Class 8A quarterfinal.
But the host Redhawks didn't fall too short during a 47-18 victory.
"We knew we could out-physical them, and that's exactly what we did," Central running back Kevin Clifford said. "It was an unbelievable performance, especially in this weather."
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- Photos | Naperville Central vs. Neuqua Valley
Neuqua Valley High School, 2360 95th Street, Naperville, IL 60564, USA
Naperville Central High School, 440 Aurora Avenue, Naperville, IL 60540, USA
Both of the host Redhawks' first two touchdowns came after interceptions of Neuqua Valley's Broc Rutter in Central territory — one a 26-yard Jake Kolbe pass to Ben Andreas and the other on Kolbe's 9-yard run that put Central ahead 13-0.
The Redhawks (9-3) built a 27-0 late-second-quarter lead on two of Clifford's four scoring runs that each came after consecutive Central squib kicks were recovered deep in Neuqua territory. Both were executed to avoid kicking deep to Illinois recruit Mikey Dudek.
The Wildcats (10-2) were forced to attempt 44 passes against only six for Kolbe. Five of Rutter's throws were intercepted , one of which Dillon Grooss returned 35 yards for a touchdown in the second half.
"Knowing they had to pass the ball gave us a big advantage," Grooss said. "We just played the ball."
Player of the game: Kevin Clifford, Naperville Central, 27 carries, 161 yards, 4 TDs.
Key performers: Naperville Central — Jake Kolbe, 1 TD passing; Jon Lubanza, 2 INTs. Neuqua Valley — Mikey Dudek, 8 catches, 112 yards; Broc Rutter, 24-for-44, 298 yards, 2 TDs, 5 INTs.
Next: 8A semifinal, Naperville Central vs. Marist.