Red Devils don't miss a beat with backup Connor Bauer at QB

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DARIEN – Hinsdale Central quarterback Connor Bauer’s first pass Friday was intercepted and his team’s first 11 plays netted a paltry 27 yards.

Not to worry.

Bauer, a senior who took over from injured starter Matt Rush three weeks ago, fired a 56-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Bjorson late in the first quarter that ignited the Red Devils in a 42-7 rout of District 86 rival Hinsdale South.

Bauer finished 8-for-19 for 192 yards and three touchdowns, all to Bjorson, while running back Luke Skokna added 141 rushing and three touchdowns for Hinsdale Central (7-2), which allowed only 109 yards.

“We were just trying to persevere and use what we’ve been doing all season, pounding it down with the run game with Luke, then looking for that big play with Matt,” Bauer said. “He’s one of our best playmakers, so if we can get the ball in his hands, it’s all good from there.”

That’s what Bauer did when he pump-faked and led Bjorson with a beautiful pass up the left sideline for the game’s first score.

“They were playing up and stacking the box,” said Bjorson, an Indiana recruit. “I saw them so pressed up so I just ran a hitch-and-go.

“I communicated it to Bauer and Bauer made a great throw. He’s been throwing the ball nice this game.”

Indeed, Bauer later found Bjorson wide open on a 38-yard scoring strike in the third quarter and again on a 12-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was Bjorson's first three-touchdown game.

But the first score was the most important.

“It makes the guys all hyped up,” Bauer said. “We came out a little bit slow and we didn’t match their intensity initially.

“They came out hitting hard and right after that play we took control for the rest ofthe game.”

The Hornets (5-4) keyed on stopping the Red Devils’ vaunted running attack, which was without injured star Garrett Oakey. They allowed 46 rushing yards in the first half yet still trailed 14-0 after Skokna scored on a 10-yard run with 1:13 left.

“Early in the game they were pounding the inside just trying to stop our run game,” Bauer said. “Then once we starting spreading the ball out it really opened up opportunities for Luke and all the running backs.”

Hinsdale South, which made only four first downs, had a glimmer of hope after senior Julian Kinsey, who had the interception of Bauer, returned a fumble 67 yards for a score to make it 14-7 with 8:53 left in the third quarter.

But Skokna returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the South 40 and three plays later scored on a 24-yard run. The Red Devils then took advantage of a succession of short fields to increase their lead.

With Rush’s return uncertain, Bauer appears to be the man heading into the playoffs – which his fine with Bjorson.

“They’re both throwing great balls,” Bjorson said. “Bauer is still developing but he puts the ball where it needs to be and he’s getting those reads done, which he did in this game putting up 42 points.”

That pleased Hinsdale Central coach Dan Hartman.

“He’s been getting better and better every week,” Hartman said. “He’s definitely doing what we’ve asked of him and he’s making better decisions every week. I think we’ll be just fine.”