Daily Herald: Naperville Central stands strong, beats West Aurora

Naperville Central's Allan Deinhart (21) dives in for a touchdown in the first quarter Friday during West Aurora at Naperville Central football. Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com

One side will have dreams and the other nightmares, but they’ll focus on the same thing.

Fourth and short.

It proved to be critical in Naperville Central’s 35-14 victory over visiting West Aurora in Friday’s opening round of the Class 8A football playoffs.

The 13th-seeded Redhawks stopped No. 20 West Aurora nine times on fourth down, none more important than a fourth-and-2 situation at Naperville Central’s 16-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

A West Aurora (7-3) touchdown there would have cut the deficit to one score. Instead the Redhawks (8-2) held and marched 84 yards on five A.J. Deinhart runs. His 9-yard touchdown romp boosted the advantage to a much more comfortable 35-14.

“We pride ourselves on getting stops on big downs,” said Redhawks defensive lineman Lavar Archibald. “We feel if we get the offense back on the field, we’ve got athletes across the board. If we get the ball in their hands, they’re going to do good things.”

The Redhawks burst to a 28-0 second-quarter lead, scoring on their first four possessions while taking advantage of a fumble and a fourth-down stop at West Aurora’s 38-yard line. The Blackhawks looked like they might get blown out, but they pulled within 28-7 by halftime and scored on the opening possession of the third quarter to make it 28-14.

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