WHEATON – Football is a game of inches, and St. Charles North found that out the hard way Friday at the Red Grange Classic.
Trailing by six points with under a minute left against Class 5A state runner-up Montini with a trip to the final four on the line, North quarterback Nathan Didier floated a spiral down the sideline to a streaking Jayson Reckards. Squeezed between the sideline and perfect coverage, Reckards elevated and hauled in the bomb near the pylon of the end zone, seemingly the go-ahead touchdown.
But the referees ruled Reckards was out of bounds, and North would turn the ball over on downs – eventually losing to the Broncos. Even with the defeat, head coach Rob Pomazak was pleased with North being in a position to be one of the final four teams in the 7-on-7 event.
“To have a kid make a catch in the corner of the end zone to win a ballgame, whether it’s in or out, that’s the kind of players we’re looking for,” Pomazak said. “We couldn’t be prouder of this bunch.”
The North Stars jumped on Montini early, and led, 11-0, after two defensive stops and a touchdown on their opening offensive possession. Montini marched right back, however, with its go-ahead touchdown coming with just 43 seconds remaining in the game.
The North offense had just one interception on the day, thanks in large part to the play of Didier. North utilized a heavy dose of rollouts to move the pocket and create opportunities for Didier and he responded with crisp passes and sound decision-making for much of the day.
“He’s the exact kind of kid we look for in this program,” Pomazak said. “We don’t like to highlight individual efforts, but I feel like we had to today because he did a great job.”
North finished in the top six by going 3-2 on the day, beating Downers Grove South, Lincoln-Way East and Huntley, while losing to Montini and Nequa Valley.
“It shows that skill-wise we can play with any team,” said Didier, who said he “of course” thought Reckards was in bounds on the game-deciding play against Montini. “Overall as a team, we played great.”
For a team that just started summer practices less than two weeks ago, Pomazak was ecstatic the team was able to go through crunch-time moments together during the tournament – which will help foster chemistry within the squad.
“You can never get that team atmosphere until you’re in a competitive atmosphere,” Pomazak said. “That’s what this does, that’s what the Red Grange does.”
Batavia eliminated early: Batavia was able to avenge a loss from Thursday’s pool play, but not much else on Friday at the Red Grange Classic. The Bulldogs were eliminated in three games, with a lone victory coming against Naperville North.
Batavia lost to Naperville North, 19-5, during pool play but turned the tables on the Huskies on Friday in a near-flawless 29-3 win. After an interception put Batavia down, 3-2, the Bulldogs ended the game on a 27-0 run and stayed alive for a third contest.
“It’s just a weird format; you never know,” Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron said. “I think we’re starting to see where the openings are happening and seeing what’s going on.”
The victory against Naperville North was sandwiched by a pair of losses to Barrington and Waubonsie Valley, respectively. Batavia squandered an early 12-2 lead and lost, 18-12, to Barrington, and the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome an 18-point deficit to the Warriors in an 18-10 loss.
“Our defense has played great all tournament. Offensively, we lacked consistency,” said Piron, whose team is coming of a 6A state championship. “We do some pretty complex stuff. We’re not trying to manufacture a victory here, we’re trying to run an actual offense like we would in a regular game, just without the run game.”
Batavia finished the two-day event with a record of 2-6. Piron said it’s hard to improve on a game-to-game basis with such a small interval between contests, but that film from the past two days will be “critical” to his team’s development moving forward.
“I have no problem with anything that went on. That’s just how these things go,” Piron said. “I’d say this is one-third of real football and in this third of football, we’re pretty close to an awful lot of good teams.”