Chris Bern never played quarterback before this week, appearances to the contrary.
Bern, a two-sport standout in football and wrestling, usually starts at receiver for Naperville Central.
But when the Redhawks’ No. 2 quarterback was ruled out for Friday’s game at Neuqua Valley with an injury, they needed a backup to starter Jack Cook.
And when Cook was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after taking a big hit, Bern stepped in. He ran 15 times for 67 yards out of the wildcat formation — after catching a 65-yard touchdown pass just before halftime — to help Naperville Central earn a 21-7 DuPage Valley Conference win.
“Last couple games we haven’t been helping the defense out,” Bern said. “I told them, I got you right here. We’re all doing this as a team.”
“We put that in on Wednesday,” Redhawks coach Mike Ulreich said of the wildcat package featuring Bern. “He’s our best offensive player. If Jack goes down, we’ve got to put the ball in his hands and that’s what we did.”
Cook made plenty of plays as well before leaving the game, accounting for all three Naperville Central touchdowns. After an interception by Logan Ellison gave Naperville Central (4-1, 3-0) a first-and-goal at the Neuqua Valley 5-yard line early in the first quarter, Cook scored from two yards out. Then he powered in from 12 yards out with 2:50 left in the first half.
Neuqua Valley (2-3, 2-1) got within 14-7 on Kiet Truong’s 55-yard TD pass to Carter Stare. But on the first play after the kickoff Cook and Bern teamed up for a 65-yard touchdown pass.
“We don’t really do that, but coach trusted me and it was great,” Bern said.
Naperville Central forced four turnovers en route to claiming the rivalry’s WildHawk Trophy for the first time since 2017 and winning at Neuqua Valley for the first time since 2014.
“We used to be the top dogs in the city, in this conference,” Redhawks defensive lineman/tight end Maverick Ohle said. ”We’ve lost the last two years and haven’t won a DVC championship. Last night I told the team that we’re circling Neuqua this year and we’re gonna go get ‘em. That was my first time beating them, so it felt amazing.”
Ohle was among the Redhawks who made big plays for a defense that has allowed three points after halftime in five games.
“We’ve got our front guys that make it hard on a quarterback and our guys in the back … did a good job of keeping the ball in front of us,” Ulreich said.
Neuqua Valley alternated Ryan Mohler and Truong at quarterback. Mohler passed for 88 yards and ran for 39, while Truong threw for 84.
“We told our guys … we can’t win a conference championship unless we win this football game,” Ulreich said. “We put the pressure on our guys and they stepped up.”