High school football: Aidan Gray showcases his running game in Naperville North’s win against Naperville Central

It isn’t a particularly strong year in the area for quarterbacks. There are several solid high school players but almost a complete lack of top college prospects in the senior class.

That makes Aidan Gray a unique weapon for Naperville North. The Northwestern recruit is the only quarterback among the state’s top 20 prospects in the Class of 2023.

Gray led the Huskies to a dominant 31-3 road win against rival Naperville Central on Thursday.

He was 16-for 21-passing for 131 yards with one interception. Gray is comfortable and composed in the pocket and showcased a strong, accurate arm. But there was an added dimension to his game on Thursday.

The 6-3, 200-pounder had 14 carries for 70 yards. Gray looked like a quarterback that enjoyed running the ball, regularly picking up a handful of extra yards after that first hit.

“We haven’t been showing that much,” Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. “It was something we wanted to unveil as the season went on. He’s not afraid of contact and he’s not afraid to play hard. He’s a special kid.”

Naperville Central (6-3, 4-2 DuPage Valley) beat the Huskies (7-2, 4-2) in a low-scoring, 10-7 game in Week 6. The Redhawks also knocked Naperville North out of the playoffs last season. The natural rivals are a little too well-acquainted.

“At this point we have figured each other out and know everyone’s tendencies,” Gray said. “So it’s just down to being the tougher person on each play. We had a lot of emotion built up for this game because we felt like we didn’t give it our all the first time we played.”

Naperville Central managed a field goal on the opening drive of the game. It was all Naperville North from then on.

Danny Eloe (six carries, 64 yards), Cole Arl (six carries, 25 yards) and Nathan Jacobs (six carries, 44 yards) all scored short touchdown runs and Arl added a 12-yard TD run in the third quarter.

Naperville Central had an effective run game with Tyler Dodd rushing 16 times for 70 yards.

Quarterback Chris McCormack was 8 of 17 passing for 93 yards with two interceptions. McCormack and Dodd connected for a 47-yard pass in the first half but that was the only big play the Redhawks managed.

“It was a great defensive effort,” junior safety/wide receiver Luke Williams, who had three catches and an interception, said. “We had some determination to get revenge after what happened earlier in the season.”

Drendel pointed out in his postgame remarks to the team that the Huskies haven’t played a game in November since 2010.

“We’re trying to make the season last as long as possible,” Gray said. “We believe we have all the pieces to get down to Champaign. The seniors are all making great memories and the juniors want it for us a lot and that’s why we’ve been successful this year.”

The DuPage Valley hasn’t had a highly-ranked team for most of the season, which is unusual. Naperville North, Naperville Central, DeKalb and Neuqua Valley have all beaten up on each other.

“There are four really good teams in the conference,” Drendel said. “I wouldn’t want to be playing us right now.”

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