CHICAGO -- Naperville North’s Matt LaCosse and Nick Lifka were only sophomores when the Huskies were upset by Marist in the 2008 playoffs, but it was a memory they carried heavily with them on Friday night.
The 2008 Huskies had gone undefeated in the regular season and were considered to be a state favorite heading into the Class 8A playoffs. In the second round, they ran into Marist, the No. 7 seed. Naperville North appeared as if it was going to advance to the quarterfinals with a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Marist rallied with back-to-back scores in the final minutes and pulled off a 28-25 shocker.
LaCosse and Lifka can still remember the crushing feeling of that defeat, and it was what they wanted Marist to experience on Friday.
The pair succeeded.
Naperville North jumped to an early lead, and this time didn’t relinquish it as the No. 9-seeded Huskies defeated No. 8 Marist 27-14 in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
Naperville North (7-3) will host top-seeded Lyons (9-1) in the second round.
“It was devastating in the second round,” Lifka said of the 2008 loss. “We had an undefeated team, and it was huge. We’re playing for the program here. We won it for those guys. They talked to me all week about how they needed me to get that vengeance. We got the redemption.”
LaCosse had those same players on his mind, too.
“We did this for the ’08 team,” LaCosse said. “I know some of them were here tonight. I’m glad we got it done for them.”
LaCosse played a major factor in Naperville North being able to do that.
On the opening drive, LaCosse, the quarterback, orchestrated a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown run by Alex Kinne. LaCosse accounted for 32 rushing yards, including a four-yarder to pick up a first down on fourth down, and completed one pass for three yards on the drive.
“We came off the bus with a lot of fire in our hearts,” LaCosse said. “We knew this could be our last game as seniors in high school. We didn’t want that to happen, so we pounded the ball, our defense played great, and we end up going home happy.”
Naperville North’s defense did do its part. On back-to-back possessions after Naperville North’s initial score, the Huskies forced Marist to turn over the ball in the RedHawks’ territory.
LaCosse and the offense capitalized on the second turnover. Starting on Marist’s 26-yard line, LaCosse carried the ball for 15 yards. On the next play, Antonio Owens scored from 11 yards out, and Naperville North had itself a 14-0 lead with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter.
“They obviously had the momentum,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “It was pretty quick how they jumped out to 14-0. They did a good job of executing and running the clock out there.”
Naperville North kept Marist a few touchdowns behind the rest of the way. Lifka and Nick Sianta each added touchdown runs for the Huskies.
Marist quarterback Luke Oosterbaan hooked up with Mike Skalitzky on two nine-yard touchdown passes for their team’s scores. Oosterbaan, a junior, was 23 for 32 for 165 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
LaCosse (94 rushing yards), Sianta (47 rushing yards) and Owens (76 rushing yard) led a balanced Naperville North offense.
Marist’s loss was especially difficult for its seniors. A year ago, that same group saw its season in the state championship game. This year, it was in the opening round.
“I’ll tell you what, this group we’re so proud of just as much as we were the state championship,” Dunne said. “These are great kids. They work so unbelievably hard. I’m so absolutely proud of them.”