Defense helps Naperville Central start with a bang
Naperville Central's Patrick Grange is not shy about talking about the potential of the defense.
The senior defensive lineman is one of the key returnees on a team that's brimming with experience and talent aiming to show last season's 4-5 record was a just a blip in the program's history. The Redhawks provided a glimpse of their talent in a 47-0 win over Waubonsie Valley in Week 1.
Naperville Central coach Mike Stine was presented a banner by his players and a commemorative helmet plaque for his 100th career victory following the win over the Warriors.
After the department of public health directed Neuqua Valley pause its games for the next two weeks, the Redhawks had their key DuPage Valley Conference game canceled.
The Redhawks were able to quickly reschedule, hosting Marmion at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Grange said the defense is ready for another test against the Cadets.
"I think our defense has the potential to be the best in the state," he said. "We have playmakers at every position on the field and don't have a weakness. We have a crazy amount of talent, and when you mix that with hard work, great coaches and steady preparation, you get a great defense. But we still have to go out and prove it every week."
Grange, a Western Michigan, recruit, is helping "prove it" by transforming his body. He gained 40 pounds to jump his frame from 190 to 230 pounds, which has provided a big jolt to the defense.
"I felt I played a solid first game," Grange said. "I made some good plays and did my job ... The new weight on me feels great. I feel more explosive and powerful than ever."
Grange and senior linebacker Shane Roth form a solid twosome on the Redhawks' stout defense, Stine said.
"They both are great players, great kids and the heart and soul of the team," Stine said. "They both do the dirty work. Shane is one of the more athletic kids on the field. He has a great sense for the ball and his football IQ is great. He makes the calls to get our defense in correct fronts and a downhill guy who can get into coverage.
"Patrick is just a force. I'm not sure you can single block him. He plays with a high motor and gives relentless effort and causes havoc."
The York defense opened the season with a strong showing against Hinsdale South. The Dukes held the Hornets to 10 points until allowing a late touchdown in a 49-17 running-clock victory. The Dukes (1-0, 1-0 West Suburban Silver) have a stiffer test in Week 2, when they host powerhouse Glenbard West on Friday.
The Hilltoppers scored on five of their eight offensive plays in the first half en route to a 56-0 rout over Addison Trail last week.
The Hilltoppers have dominated the series in recent years, winning 47-7 in 2019, 45-24 in 2018, 50-3 in 2017, 42-7 in 2016, 41-14 in 2015 and 48-7 in 2014.
York senior linebacker Frederick Levins said the defense can't allow big plays against the Hilltoppers.
"We played well against (Hinsdale South) and have to continue to ball out next week and fly around and work hard and give it all we can out on the field," Levins said.
York coach Mike Fitzgerald said Levins' development was a key factor in the opener.
"Fred is a two-way player who gets a lot of snaps and he was never 100 percent last year," he said. "He's battled back to get healthy. He's battled through a lot. That's why this season was so important to him, going through all that rehab and now we finally have a season."
Out for two weeks:
Downers Grove North joins Neuqua Valley among the teams that will not play for the next two weeks. Downers Grove North football coach Joe Horeni confirmed that the Trojans will not play Friday against Hinsdale Central or next week against Glenbard West.