A rose, then a thorn: Bad exchange puts damper on Payton Thorn's big night as Naperville Central falls

3 minute read

Blake Baumgartner
Naperville Sun


With momentum seemingly on Naperville Central’s side late in the waning moments Friday night, Payton Thorne believed something big was about to happen.

His connection with Cade McDonald had been flourishing all game, and all Thorne and the Redhawks needed was one more throw.

It never got to that point.

A bad exchange at Hinsdale Central’s 11-yard line with 1:30 to play handed host Naperville Central a tough 35-34 loss.

“I knew we were going to score, but it’s the simple things that we do every day — the quarterback-center exchange,” Thorne said. “That was on me.”

Thorne, the Western Michigan commit, completed 16 of 31 passes for 345 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

Thorne and McDonald hooked up nine times for 194 yards and two TDs to lead the Redhawks (0-1).

Aidan Cruickshank’s blocked punt and 39-yard TD return from Andrew Novatney gave the Red Devils a 35-34 lead with 4:41 left.

Running back Luke Skokna found the end zone three times for Hinsdale Central (1-0).

Matt Rush’s 36-yard TD pass to Tommy Fitzsimons late in the third helped Hinsdale Central force a 28-28 tie.

“We still have a long ways to go to get better,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said. “This was a team loss. Give credit to Hinsdale Central. They were down three scores and they didn’t panic.”

Naperville Central’s final drive began with 2:14 remaining. On the first play, sophomore Sam Jackson hit McDonald for a 45 yards on a double pass.

McDonald finished with 10 receptions for 239 yards. He scored TDs of 14 and 50 yards.

“I feel like we’re all connecting really well,” McDonald said. “The flow has been great with the offense. We’re getting the big plays down. We just have to work on our short game. Our offense is working great.”

Naperville Central jumped out to a 28-7 lead with less than one minute gone in the second half, courtesy of Danny Hughes’ second TD run. His 77-yard run set up the 2-yard TD. Hughes ended up with 147 yards.

“I just kind of hit the hole,” he said. “I don’t know. But it was huge. It was big and I hit it.”

Blake Baumgartner is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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