Playoff Football Rivalry Renewed

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There is nothing better than a good sports rivalry, especially on the gridiron. And when those rivals meet up in the post season, that’s what high school sports are all about! This weekend we were treated to the 7th all-time playoff matchup between Crosstown rivals Naperville North and Naperville Central to kick off the 8A opening round.

20 Year Wait

This is the first time North and Central have met in the post season since the year 2000! At that time, the Redhawks were the defending 6A state champions and the teams met in the state quarterfinals. The Huskies won a thrilling 36-33 contest before falling to Glenbard North in the semi finals the following week.

The first ever playoff matchup between the two teams came back in 1987. In just the second ever playoff appearance for the Huskies, the orange and blue took down the Redhawks 24-6 in the second round.

In the 90’s, North and Central were two of the strongest teams in the state year after year, meaning that an eventual playoff matchup was nearly inevitable.

In 1992, Naperville North once again outlasted Central 31-28 in the quarterfinals. The Huskies then slipped past Waubonsie Valley in the state semi finals 15-13, before defeating Loyola to win their first ever IHSA state championship.

The two teams met again in 1994 in the 6A semi finals, the deepest in the playoffs the two teams had ever squared off. Naperville North was victorious once again 21-11. The Huskies then were defeated by Homewood-Flossmoor in the state championship game.

In 1995, the crosstown rivals met for a third time in four years, but Naperville Central finally came out on top. The Redhawks won 35-15 in the quarterfinals, eventually advancing to the state championship where they fell to Wheaton Warrenville South.

Two years later in 1997, it was yet another quarterfinal duel and another one score game. Central was the winning team that year as well, 16-12 in another thrilling game.

And that brings up back to 2021. Both teams with identical 6-3 records, but Naperville North holds the DVC championship and the Crosstown Classic trophy thanks to a 37-28 win the first week of October. But this rivalry is never predictable, as the Redhawks defeated the Huskies 28-16 on the road to advance to the second round. Naperville North head coach Sean Drendel, who played for the Huskies in several of the early 90’s matchups feels that this rivalry still burns as bright as ever.

The Huskies still hold a 4-3 post season edge, but hopefully we won’t have to wait another 20 years to see these teams going head to head in the playoffs.

Other Major Rivalry Matchups

North and Central are not the only fierce rivals we have seen meeting up in the IHSA second season. Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley have squared off twice in the past ten years. The Wildcats edged their green and gold adversaries 23-20 in the 8A quarterfinals back in 2012. The Warriors returned the favor in 2015 with a second round 21-14 win on the road on a Cinderalla run to the state semi finals as the 30 seed.

Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus has seen first hand how intense these types of rivalry games can be when it’s win or go home.

Metea Valley has only made one playoff berth in the history of the program, but wouldn’t you know it their first ever post season game was against Eola road rival Waubonsie Valley in 2014. The Warriors came away from that contest victorious by a 14-7 score. Every year provides a new opportunity to create unforgettable moments and there are not many things more memorable than ending the season of your biggest rival.

For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell.