North Central College is a special and unique place.

You don’t have to tell that to Naperville Central junior quarterback Payton Thorne.

Naperville Central quarterback Payton Thorne.

As Naperville North and Naperville Central prepared to face one another on the first Friday of October, Thorne got to come home to Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

“It’ll be special,” Payton said. “I’ve obviously grown up on that field and then have seen a couple of the crosstown games and how packed it is.”

The son of North Central College football coach Jeff Thorne and grandson of former Cardinals coach John Thorne, Payton has seamlessly fit in for the Redhawks.

Through six games, Payton had thrown for 1,173 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions as Naperville Central got off to a 5-0 start.

Tommy Carlsen, the senior defensive back who put aside his own quarterback aspirations, acknowledged the impact Payton and Jayden Reed have had.

“I haven’t really played with anyone as good as (Payton and Reed),” Carlsen said. “High-caliber athletes and they really show it every time they step on the football field.”

Payton’s arrival from Metea Valley in June understandably was a huge development for a program looking to rebound from a 4-5 season in 2016.

Drake Davis’ movement from a Class 1A program, Bureau Valley, to a Class 8A stalwart, Naperville North has been just as impressive.

For a program that shared a DuPage Valley Conference title in 2016, its new senior quarterback has set the area on its head at times.

Naperville North quarterback
Drake Davis.

Sparked by the historic comeback at Edwardsville to start the season, Davis had lit the match for a Huskie offense averaging 34.7 points through six games.

Senior receivers Ryan Laurenzo and Nick Calcagno have been the main beneficiaries by combining for 84 catches, 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“I definitely knew that (Davis) had potential, but what’s he’s been doing is unreal,” Laurenzo said. “I’ve never seen this before. It’s really awesome that he can do this.”

Davis accounted for six touchdowns in each of Naperville North’s first two games and had 2,053 total yards and 23 touchdowns through six weeks.

“My running comes off my running backs’ running because if my running backs are doing good, they watch them instead of me,” Davis said. “Then that opens up plays for me.”

The future

Since 2000, North Central College has served as the backdrop for a rivalry that has seen the Huskies hold a 9-8 advantage.

Opinions differ on where the game should be played and whether or not it should return to campus.

Those opinions only figure to get magnified with the two programs scheduled to play twice in 2018 in light of the changes the DVC is undertaking.

“It’s been a lot of years since we played at Naperville North or Naperville North has played here,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “So I know those would be big, fun contests, too.

“We may not play at North Central either time (next year). I mean, I don’t know how the ADs will work that out or how they would determine who gets a home game and who doesn’t.”


If you plan to attend the Wes Spencer Cross Town Classic…

According to School District 203, when the Redhawks and Huskies face off at the annual Naperville Central vs Naperville North “Wes Spencer” Cross Town Classic Football game, backpacks will not be allowed to be carried into Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium at North Central College.

The price of tickets is $7 for adults and $5 for students K-12th grade.  High School students must have school I.D. card.

Game times are 5PM for the Sophomore Game and 7:30PM for the Varsity Game.  Gates will open at 4:30PM. No early access to the the stadium will be permitted prior to 4:30PM.

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