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Hinsdale Central's Chris Wilson lifts up teammate John Claussen, who has just scored a touchdown against Hinsdale South. | Patrick Gleason ~ For Sun-Times Media
The Doings Cup rivalry has been pretty one-sided lately, with Hinsdale Central bringing a 10-game winning streak in the series into Saturday’s homecoming game.
And a lot of people may not have expected anything different this season. The No. 11 Red Devils look to be capable of playing well into November with an offense anchored by a big, veteran line, led by savvy quarterback Brian Owens and blessed with an abundance of playmakers.
Hinsdale Central is the only team to have given Class 7A state favorite Glenbard West any kind of a test, losing by five points a couple weeks ago.
But despite all that, the Devils found themselves in a battle on Saturday afternoon with a resurgent Hinsdale South club. The Hornets stung Central early with some big plays and stayed close all day before the Red Devils held on for a 34-27 win.
It made for some compelling football and as much as the close loss may have hurt Hinsdale South quarterback D.J. Deolitsis, he was able to see the good as well as the bad.
“I’m just really proud of my team, the way they played today,” said Deolitsis, who ran 17 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 160 yards and two more scores. “Because we’ve been getting destroyed in this rivalry the last 10 years.”
The Red Devils (5-1) knew better than to expect another walk-over this time around.
“They have some good athletes,” said Hinsdale Central safety Andrew Eck, who had a fumble recovery and an interception in the second half. “Our record is better than last year but it was a lot closer game than last year.”
Still, the Red Devils had enough in the tank even with standout receiver Ian Bunting, a junior getting big-time college interest, sidelined by injury.
Owens completed 18 of 26 passes for 329 yards and a pair of scores, both to John Claussen, while Jack Adams ran 20 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Owens also had a two-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.
“They played a lot of man-to-man and we were able to exploit that with some deep routes,” said Owens, whose scoring passes to Claussen covered 44 and 70 yards. “The receivers did a great job, the O-line was picking up all the blitzes and Jack had some great runs.”
The Red Devils needed all the points they could muster after falling into a 21-13 hole early in the second quarter. Deolitsis staked Hinsdale South (4-2) to its lead by running 75 and 58 yards for scores and hitting Justin Ward with a 29-yard touchdown pass.
“I wasn’t expecting, to be honest, [to break] the first few plays of the game against Hinsdale Central,” Deolitsis said.
“We had a rough first half,” Eck said. “We weren’t quite ready for their speed on the option. But we made adjustments and it worked out well for us.”
Adams’ one-yard touchdown run at 9:17 of the third quarter pulled Hinsdale Central within 21-20 and Claussen’s second score, the 70-yarder, put the Devils up 27-21 with 2:37 left in the third. Adams broke a 52-yard scoring run at 6:16 of the fourth, which came in handy for the Devils when Ward caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Deolitsis with 3:59 to play.
South’s defense forced a Central punt and the Hornets went from their own 7-yard line to the Hinsdale Central 44 before Eck’s interception with 12 seconds left sealed the win.
Though Central knew South’s improvement had something to do with the closeness of the score, the Devils also figured their sloppy performance — including 17 penalties for 170 yards — played a role.
“[Hinsdale South] played hard, but we stopped ourselves as much as they stopped us,” Hinsdale Central coach Rich Tarka said. “Our kids fought and they always play hard. But at this point we need to be a smarter team, a better team.
“We’re not going to let this team level off.”