DeKALB – Luke Schmerbach got the ball and, just for a short while, had to figure out what to do.
Once he did, the DeKalb sophomore inside linebacker took the ball 14 yards on the interception for a score, pushing the Barbs lead to two scores for the first time in an eventual 49-19 win against Naperville North on Friday.
"I was surprised; I didn't know what to do when I first caught it," Schmerbach said. "I paused for like three seconds, but once I saw where to go I just ran."
The win makes the Barbs (5-2, 3-1 DuPage Valley Conference) playoff eligible for the seventh straight year.
"This program is one of the best in the state," Schmerbach said. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. This program is amazing."
DeKalb led, 14-7, and was coming off its first punt of the day before Schmerbach's interception. The Huskies (2-5, 2-2) faced a third-and-16 from their own 5-yard line, when quarterback Anthony Gabrione was hit as he threw. There was no receiver near Schmerbach, and he returned it 14 yards for the touchdown.
"I was back in the middle when he threw it, and someone hit his arm as he threw it," Schmerbach said. "It went right to me, I stuttered there, and I just went."
Snyder said Schmerbach was a late addition to the starting lineup and still ended up coming away with his first varsity touchdown.
"We weren't sure what we were going to do starting wise literally up until 10 minutes before the game," Snyder said. "Some things had gone on and we needed to make a change. So we had to throw a sophomore out there in a big game against Naperville North, and he responded. He took his coach. That's a tough debut and he did it fantastic."
Snyder said he could not elaborate on what things happened to necessitate starting Schmerbach at inside linebacker.
On the first play of the next drive, Gabrione threw another interception, this one to Tanner MacDonald. The Barbs ran a meticulous nine-play, 38-yard drive. Seven of those runs were by Jalon Redmond, and the two that weren't were a 3-yard run on fourth down by quarterback Trenton Kyler and a 2-yard TD run by Kyler.
DeKalb outgained Naperville North (2-5, 1-3) 408-117, including 233-65 in the second half. Snyder said the team was focused on slowing down Huskies receiver Matthew Maschmeier, who has received interest from FBS schools. Snyder called him one of the best four receivers he's faced.
He finished with three catches for 21 yards with Donovan Lacey the main defender on him in man coverage.
"We told him he's their dude, you're our dude," Snyder said. "Go toe-to-toe, see what they got."
The three touchdowns scored by the Huskies were all on wide-open plays to other receivers.
"We had some blown coverage on film that we're going to teach up," Snyder said. "It's always great to be able to coach up in win. So that will be the things we have to go through."
After the second pick, the Huskies answered with a long drive of their own to bring the score to 28-13, but DeKalb scored with 12.8 seconds left in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by Trenton McCollum.
Naperville North started the game with a 10-play drive, scoring on an 18-yard pass on fourth-and-5 for a 7-0 lead. DeKalb needed only two plays to respond – a 42-yard pass from Kyler to Alex Siebens, then a 20-yard scoring run by Redmond. The Barbs' defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense scored four plays later on a 9-yard run by McCollum.
In the second half, DeKalb scored again on the first drive, with McCollum taking a dump pass from Kyler and speeding past the defense for a 37-yard touchdown. The teams traded punts, then the Huskies scored on a 37-yard pass from Gabrione to a wide-open Damian Welch.
The Barbs punted, and the Huskies threatened, but Michael Clayton got DeKalb's third interception early in the fourth quarter. The Barbs ran off a long drive to score, capped by a 2-yard run by Donovan Lacey. Earlier on the drive, McCollum had two long touchdown runs called back due to downfield holding calls.
DeKalb's last drive got to the Huskies 4-yard line but the Barbs kneeled to run out the clock.
Redmond had 105 yards on 20 carries, while McCollum finished with 85 yards on 15 carries.