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Monday, December 4, 2023

Naperville North Reflects on Comeback for Ages at Edwardsville


These were the type of games Drake Davis had designs on playing at Naperville North.

For the Huskies’ senior quarterback, it was just a matter of time.

“I wasn’t really expecting the speed,” Davis said. “I mean, yeah, a lot of people have told me about the speed of the game – a lot quicker. It took me a little bit longer to adjust than I thought it would’ve, as it showed in the first quarter. I want to play my best.”

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Davis’ exploits in the Huskies’ miraculous 53-49 victory Saturday at Edwardsville were just a small piece to a greater puzzle.

But the 427 total yards of offense – including six total touchdowns – the 6-foot, 180-pound Bureau Valley transfer accounted for jumps immediately off the page.

“From a statistical level, it’s outstanding,” Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. “It’s probably the best we’ve ever had. If you ask Drake, it wasn’t great to start with. So he’s looking forward to getting better. Now that he’s got a gauge of how fast the game is at this level, I think he’s got huge upside and I can’t wait to see how well he can play.”

Behind quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman’s 159 rushing yards and two TDs, the Tigers raced out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter.

And despite Abdur-Rahman leaving the game for good after that opening quarter with cramps, Edwardsville kept the pressure on with two more touchdowns.

Davis’ first touchdown – a three-yard run with 3:03 left in the first half – finally got Naperville North (1-0) on the board at 42-7.

Moments later, Bo Richter’s fumble recovery deep in Tigers’ territory helped set up another score before half – a 25-yard pass from Davis to Nick Calcagno.

From their standpoint, the momentum from those two scores while avoiding a running clock provided hope that something spectacular could happen.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what was going to happen,” Calcagno said. “But our defense started making plays and their offense couldn’t stay on the field because our defense kept stopping them. Once I noticed that our defense all come together and play well, that’s when I thought maybe we have a shot at this thing.”

With Davis setting things up, Calcagno – at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds – took full advantage.

The duo connected 13 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns while Davis found 6-4 Ryan Laurenzo for nine catches, 97 yards and a score.

Calcagno then added an 83-yard punt return for a TD in the fourth quarter to get the Huskies within 49-47 for good measure.

“Nick was special (Saturday),” Drendel said. “Nick played pretty well on defense. He played some snaps on defense. He was just special (Saturday) and he found a way to get through it. I know he was exhausted, but he was great.”

While Davis, Calcagno and Laurenzo were doing their thing offensively, defensive lineman Ryan Robinson was leading the defense.

Robinson was the only defensive starter from 2016 to play Saturday in light of all-DVC linebacker Ryan Marrano getting hurt in practice.

The contributions of Richter, with the fumble recovery and his team-high seven tackles, weren’t lost on his head coach.

“Our outside linebacker – Bo Richter – hasn’t even played high school football before,” Drendel said. “So he played outstanding. He had a couple TFLs. He probably led our team in tackles. He had the fumble recovery. For a kid who hasn’t played football before and really until Thursday wasn’t even going to start, that’s a big deal.”

Sophomore safety Matt Maschmeier had one of the two interceptions the Huskies’ defense recorded while returning a third-quarter kick 72 yards for a score.

“I can go on and on,” Drendel said. “We had kids battling. We didn’t tackle very well early on, but those two guys really stood out. We did some things later in the game that were a lot better.”

Back-to-back 2-7 seasons in 2014 and 2015 certainly were furthest from the norm for a program that owns a pair of state titles.

A 8-2 season and co-DVC championship in 2016 represented a return to the standard set by former coach Larry McKeon and Drendel, a 1990 Naperville North alumnus.

What transpired Saturday downstate will go down in program and state lore.

And – with eight straight DVC games upcoming – the Huskies are ready for more.

“I’ve just never been so proud of a single team,” Calcagno said. “Just the way that we fought back was unreal and it was honestly just a surreal feeling to have our whole team come together as one unit. We’re all so tight. It was an awesome thing to happen (Saturday) and I was unbelievably proud of our entire team.”





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Blake Baumgartner
Blake Baumgartner
Raised in Naperville, Blake Baumgartner is a 2001 Naperville Central alumnus and a 2005 graduate of Michigan State's School of Journalism. Since March 2010, he has covered football, boys' basketball and baseball for both The Naperville Sun and Positively Naperville. Follow him on Twitter @BFBaumgartner.


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