It wasn’t the script Jayden Reed had written for himself and his Naperville Central teammates.
Sidelined early Saturday against Maine South with an ankle injury, all the Western Michigan-bound receiver could do was watch.
All year long, Reed had come up with the big plays when Naperville Central needed it most.
Big plays were the recipe Maine South used to survive and post a 39-28 victory in a Class 8A state quarterfinal in Park Ridge.
A 20-point fourth quarter helped defending state champion Maine South (11-1) snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Western Michigan-bound Reed caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown for the Redhawks before leaving with a sprained ankle early in the second quarter.
“It happened quick,” Reed said. “It happened fast.”
Behind running back AJ Deinhart, Naperville Central built leads of 21-7 and 28-13.
After his 49-yard touchdown run late in the first half put the Redhawks up 14 points, Deinhart eclipsed that in the third quarter.
Three plays into the second half, he burst up the middle for a 53-yard score and Naperville Central was up 28-13.
That would be the last time it would score.
“The O-line was playing great and we knew with Reed out, we knew we were going to have to run the ball,” said Deinhart, who rushed for 227 yards on 28 carries. … We felt great and sadly couldn’t capitalize on it.”
The Redhawks turned the ball over three times – all in the second half – including two fumbles, one on a kickoff.
“I thought, overall, as a team, we played extremely well,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “I think the difference (was) the turnovers we had in the second half. That really hurt. And give Maine South credit. They really capitalized on it. I thought our defense battled.”
With Reed out and Deinhart roiling on the ground, junior quarterback Payton Thorne tried his best to keep Naperville Central in it.
Thorne completed 14 of 26 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“We ran it well (Saturday),” Thorne said. “We just couldn’t get the pass going in the second half. … It’s extremely frustrating when you realize that your defense has been out there (constantly). On offense, we can’t go three-and-out (repeatedly).”
Northern Illinois-bound running back Fotis Kokosioulis accounted for 255 total yards and four touchdowns for the Hawks.
Two Kokosioulis TD runs came in the fourth quarter following a pair of Aidan Carolan field goals.
A future foe of Kokosioulis in the Mid-American Conference, Reed praised his teammates.
“Those guys fought with everything they had in them and I’m proud of every single one of them,” Reed said. “I wouldn’t rather be with anybody else. It’s just a pleasure to be here.”