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Desean Brown (with ball) of Naperville North eludes a diving tackle attempt by Kevin Glitz of Wheaton Warrenville South on his way to a touchdown. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
For a program with the tradition and history that Naperville North’s football program holds, 5-5 might be starting to sound like a broken record.
But after being handed a 56-20 defeat by top-seeded Neuqua Valley in the opening round of the Class 8A postseason last Friday, 5-5 is the reality that Naperville North is dealing with at the end of its season for the third time in the last four years.
“The cupboard’s not bare. We didn’t reach for a panic button. We’re gonna work to get better and sometimes you need to get hit in the face to get your program back on track,” Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. “Yes, for us, it’s unacceptable to be where we’re at. But there’s a lot of teams that would love to have what we have going and each year is different than the others .
“So to say, ‘Well, you guys are 5-5 three out of the last four years,’ I mean, you know, that’s not fair to this group. This group worked their tail off — they were 2-7 as freshmen. So they’ve definitely made progress and they’ve made more progress as student-athletes than anything. So we’re very proud of that.”
Defeating just one playoff team in 2012 — courtesy of its 34-20 Week 2 victory over Thornton — four of Naperville North’s five losses came to teams with a combined record of 28-2 as the second week of the postseason begins this week.
“Obviously, we played a lot of good teams, and we just didn’t play our best game against some of those good teams,” Drendel said. “We particularly didn’t play very well against Neuqua Valley. A lot of that was (because) they’re a very good football team.”
Since winning the 2007 Class 8A state title with a 13-1 record, Naperville North has advanced into the state quarterfinals just once — 2010, when the Huskies went 8-4 in Drendel’s first year.
The aim going forward is to try to get the Huskies back to meeting their high standards that have seen them win at least 10 games in a season 12 times while capturing six DuPage Valley Conference titles and a pair of state titles.
That will start with the return of running backs DeSean Brown and Sharad Crosby.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Brown, to whom Drendel referred as “our leader,” broke out as a junior in leading Naperville North’s offense in both rushing (623) and receiving (283), while Crosby finished third on the team with 578 rushing yards.
Brown accounted for 14 of the 37 touchdowns the Huskies’ offense put up this year, recording a team-high 11 touchdowns on the ground and catching a team-high three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Johnny Brown.
Naperville North will need to replace their top six offensive linemen, including Iowa-bound Colin Goebel and the 2012 DuPage Valley Offensive Lineman of the Year Mike Langman. Returning just four starters on offense, the Huskies will bring back five starters on defense.
Drendel said 2013 will hopefully bring back a glimpse of what has made the program good in the past.
“I think we’ll be a more athletic group. We won’t be nearly as big and physical, but that doesn’t mean that (we can’t be successful). Some of our best teams have been of the smaller variety that are really athletic and run around and make plays,” Drendel said. “So we’re very excited.”