Naperville C. reaches first semis since '01

NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Jimmy Nashert studied Tim Williams, then passed the star quarterback's test.

Nashert helped his defense force Williams into four turnovers — including the defensive back's two interceptions — and No. 19 Naperville Central dominated No. 18 Homewood-Floosmoor in a 42-14 Class 8A state quarterfinal win on Friday night.

Naperville CentralHomewood-Flossmoor

The Redhawks harassed Williams all night and forced five turnovers in all. They held the Vikings, averaging 47 points, to a single touchdown in the first half.

Williams, the 6-foot-6 senior who accounted for five touchdowns the previous week, couldn't put together a consistent performance. He threw a third interception to linebacker John Dulleck and fumbled three times.

In the semifinals for the first time since 2001, Naperville Central (9-3) will now play the winner of Saturday's game between Bolingbrook and Downers Grove South. Whether at home or on the road next week, Nashert said his team got there because of preparation. And 20/20 vision.

"Coaches all week stressed 'pass first, pass first' for the defensive backs, and we did a good job of looking at the quarterback's eyes," he said. "[Williams] usually looked at who he wanted to throw to every time, and it was easy to read where he was going and jump on the ball."

That was all the help Naperville Central's offense needed. Nick Thomas returned the opening kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown, and, thanks to great field position, the Redhawks needed less than six minutes to score four other first-half touchdowns.

The defensive effort wasn't anything new. In the previous week's win, the Redhawks held Belleville East's 1,400-yard rusher to 50. On Friday, Zach Borta and his fellow defensive lineman kept the pressure on Williams.

Through three playoff games, the Redhawks have forced 11 turnovers. The result shows up on the scoreboard.

"For the defense to hold that team to 14 points," Naperville Central coach Mike Stein said, "that's special."

Homewood-Flossmoor (8-4) hoped to make back-to-back state semifinal appearances for first time in school history. Last year, the Vikings beat another Naperville high school, Naperville North, less than two miles from where Friday's game was played.

But too many mistakes dashed any hope of a repeat.

"We just had a lot of disappointments and a lot of letdowns," senior defensive lineman Michael Anyiwo said.

To get back in the game, the Vikings experimented by moving Williams to wide receiver and putting running back Anfernee Roberts behind center, in the shotgun.

It may have worked, to a degree. Roberts scored in the third quarter and made the score 35-14, but quarterback Ian Lewandowski kept Naperville Central running smoothly. He finished with four touchdowns in all — three on the ground and a 65-yard pass to Blake Butler.

Lewandowski didn't even need top running back Matt Randolph, who rushed for 66 yards on 10 carries before watching the second half from the sideline. Randolph took a helmet to his quad and sat for precautionary reasons but assured reporters he'll be ready to go next weekend.

That's no surprise. He's just one rushing yard shy of 1,700 this season.

Players of the game: Naperville Central -- QB Ian Lewandowski (Sr.) 4-for-10 passing, 128 yards, TD, 9 att., 95 yards, 3 TDs; RB Nick Thomas (Jr.) 76-yard TD kickoff return; DB Jimmy Nashert (Jr.) 2 INTs. Homewood-Flossmoor -- QB Tim Williams (Sr.) 18-of-28, 234 yards, rush TD; WR Gerald Butler (Sr.) 8 rec., 97 yards.

Stat of the game: All three of the Homewood-Flossmoor's first-half turnovers came on third downs, and all three led to Naperville Central touchdowns.

It was over when: Quarterback Ian Lewandowski's third rushing touchdown of the game put Naperville Central 42-14 at the end of the third quarter.

Quote of the night: "Tonight, our defense stood up and let everyone know that we are pretty good," Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. "I don't know how much credit we've gotten all year, but this is a darn good defense."