September 25th 2015 – Naperville IL vs Naperville Central HS
Final: NC 20 – WWS 8
Iowa recruit Emmanuel Rugamba makes big plays in Naperville Central win.
Big plays, plus a key short reception by the senior wide receiver and Iowa recruit, propelled the Redhawks to a 20-8 homecoming victory over Wheaton Warrenville South.
It avenged a crucial loss last season for Naperville Central (4-1, 4-1), which got back on the winning track after a close loss to Waubonsie Valley. The Tigers (1-4, 1-4) dropped their fourth straight. “Ron (Muhitch, Wheaton South coach) and I were talking before the game about how every game in this conference is a meat-grinder,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “It was an old-school battle, felt like a playoff game to us.” Despite the disparity in records, neither of these traditional powerhouses gave an inch.
Wheaton South led 8-7 after a 14-play, 76-yard drive was capped off by a bootleg by Matthew Dohse with 6:25 left in the second quarter. That lead would last until the fourth quarter. The long, methodical drive foreshadowed an even more impressive possession in the second half. But this time, it was the Redhawks who gave their huge crowd a drive to remember. After containing Dohse — he had 50 yards rushing in the first half — on the Tigers’ opening drive of the second half, Naperville Central went to work from its own 12.
The Redhawks converted three third downs, and Rugamba cradled a 10-yard pass from Conor Joyce on fourth-and-9 to keep the drive alive at the Tiger 29. Finally, Joyce scored on a 2-yard sneak with 10:28 remaining to give Central a 13-8 lead. “We knew this would be a tough game. We have a ton of respect for Wheaton South,” Joyce noted. “Our offensive line worked their tails off on that long drive.” The 18-play, 88-yard drive overcame two penalties and consumed 8:32 of the clock.
“We felt that this was a statement game after losing last week,” Stine said. “We challenged them in practice, especially the seniors, and they responded.” Wheaton South got a pair of first downs on its next possession but was forced to punt. Rugamba set up the insurance touchdown with a 46-yard reception, getting behind the Tiger secondary as he did earlier in the game. Joyce scored again from the 9 with 4:03 left, and the win was sealed when Rugamba made a brilliant interception several plays later. Iowa recruit Emmanuel Rugamba makes big plays in Naperville Central win.
Wheaton Warrenville South quarterback Matthew Dohse scrambles for yards during Friday’s game at Naperville Central. (Steve Johnston / Naperville Sun)
The statistics say a lot about how even this game was. The Redhawks outgained Wheaton South 282-177, but 121 yards came on two post-pattern catches by Rugamba (6 receptions, 168 yards).
Rugamba got his team on the board in the first quarter with a 75-yard strike behind the Tiger secondary, three plays after a similar pass by Joyce was slightly overthrown. “I read my keys and saw when I had one-on-one coverage,” Rugamba said. “We buckled down in practice starting on Monday, and we had to because they (the Tigers) have a very tough defense. “We were a run team last year, but being able to run and pass definitely opens up a lot of things for us as we look to the playoffs.”
Bob Reynolds is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.