By Mark Maxwell
No, that’s not the final score from a video game. That is the combined score of Naperville Central against their last three opponents.
Year after year, the DuPage Valley Conference produces great high school football. 2013 is no different, as the Redhawks lead the way in the DVC. The Redhawks defense is allowing an impressive average of only nine points per game and they have played 14 consecutive quarters without allowing so much as a field goal. Senior middle linebacker Jack Wooldridge has been a key contributor to the stifling defense.
“We've just been playing faster than ever. We're just out-hustling everyone,” Wooldridge said. “It's speed and alignment. All week, we watch film of the same team, over and over and over. When everyone is lined up and everyone knows exactly what they're doing, it starts to get fun. People start flying to the ball. When everyone knows what they're doing, that's when plays start to be made. I think that's one of the reasons we're such a good defense this year. Everyone knows their jobs and responsibilities.”
Senior strong safety Daniel Dolehide has also made his presence known for the Redhawks. His senior leadership anchors the speedy secondary and provides an element of physicality that any defensive coach would want on his roster.
When asked about this year’s early success, Dolehide said, “I think it has been coaching. Our coaches put us in the right spots. We prepare all week. Our defense is really fast this year. We're pretty athletic so we get to the ball fast. When a lot of guys are there, good things happen. A lot of hard work put us in this position.”
Senior quarterback Jake Kolbe has been an offensive catalyst for the Redhawks this year. The team captain is relentless and intense in his pursuit of success. He sprints on and off of the field after each possession. His energy and leadership sets a high benchmark for his teammates. Much of his growth is attributed to working against a top defense every day in practice.
“They're the best defense we've seen,” Kolbe said. “It's nice going against them every day because when you get into the game, it's just not as hard. They're well-coached and they also have some great leadership.”
The Redhawks season started against strong competition. Naperville hosted and defeated Waubonsie Valley (5-1) and Neuqua Valley (5-1) in weeks one and two. Playing in such a competitive conference, Kolbe reminds his teammates not to get too far ahead of themselves. So far, that approach has worked well as no competitor has come within 13 points of the Redhawks final score.
“We are just worried about ourselves and going 1-0 each week,” Kolbe said. “We put posters up all around the locker room and weight room saying, 'Go 1-0. Beat whoever we're playing.' We really try to focus on going 1-0 each week. So far, it's worked and we're going to keep doing it.”
This week, their posters say, “Go 1-0. Beat Wheaton Warrenville South.” For only the second time this season, the Redhawks load up the buses for a road game. They will invade the Tigers at Red Grange Field during their homecoming week.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Kolbe said.
After a tough matchup with Wheaton Warrenville South, Naperville Central will have to prepare to face Glenbard North (5-1) and Wheaton North (5-1). If Naperville Central can escape these games healthy and record at least 7 regular season victories, they will be an early favorite to do some serious damage in the playoffs. This team is a confident bunch and their offensive line is dominant. All season long, the offensive line has had their way with opponents, paving the way for the skill players to be so successful.
“We have some playmakers on offense. But those playmakers can't do what they do without the five guys up front,” said coach Mike Stine. “Our offensive line has been very good this year. We feel we can present a lot of problems for defenses. We know we're going to be tested this Friday night at a Wheaton Warrenville South.
Stine has led this team to quite a turnaround after the Redhawks went 4-5 just one season ago. Stine deferred all of the credit to the senior class.
“There are probably some people out there that we've snuck up on a little bit. This group has been great in the offseason,” Stine said. “They have worked extremely hard. This team expects to be successful. So far, they have been rewarded for all of their hard work.”
Fun fact: Naperville Central alumni Sean Payton brings his unbeaten Saints team to Soldier Field this week to face the Bears.