NORMAL — Normal Community High School's football team senses a lack of belief elsewhere in how good the Ironmen are, particularly among schools north of Interstate 80.
Saturday, unbeaten and No. 4-ranked NCHS welcomed its first chance to make headway in that regard.
"We thought this was a game to prove ourselves," said junior quarterback Daylen Boddie.
With Boddie running for three touchdowns and passing for two, the Ironmen offense churned out 406 yards and the defense pitched a shutout in a 42-0 romp over Downers Grove North in a Class 7A first-round playoff game.
Second-seeded NCHS (10-0) advances to a second-round game next week at 18th-seeded Chicago Mount Carmel (7-3), while No. 31 seed Downers Grove South ended 5-5.
"I thought our kids played hard on both sides of the ball. They were excited to play somebody else, somebody from up north," NCHS coach Wes Temples said. "You can point out a lot of positives on both sides of the ball today."
Boddie's 98 yards rushing included scoring runs of 21, 4 and 7 yards, the last coming after a dazzling spin move at about the 5-yard line.
A talented point guard in basketball, Boddie said the spin was like "a basketball move."
"I use that sometimes," he said, smiling.
Both of Boddie's touchdown passes were to Nick Hesse, a 7-yarder in the first quarter and a 28-yard hookup in the second quarter.
Hesse also ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter on an eye-popping late pitch from Boddie. The NCHS quarterback ran for a few yards and, when he was about to be tackled, fired a pitch wide to Hesse to compete a 12-yard scoring play.
"He said my name," Boddie said of Hesse. "I just looked and saw that he was open, so I pitched it."
Boddie was 4 of 6 passing for 62 yards, giving him 160 yards of total offense on a cold, windy afternoon.
"He's unbelievable," Temples said. "He's such a good athlete. But he would be the first to tell you our guys up front did a really good job and blocked well.
"You give him some creases and he's going to make plays. At times you scratch your head, but man he makes a lot of plays."
Hesse had 91 yards rushing on 10 carries to go with his 35 receiving yards behind the line of Marcellus Johnson, Peter Bussone, Preston Engel, Reeves Wester and Ethan Stathem.
"They open holes like no other," Boddie said.
Running back Varshaun Dixon totaled 103 yards in 17 attempts. NCHS had a 257-56 advantage in total yardage at halftime and led 28-0.
Boddie attempted just one pass in the second half, a 13-yard completion to Dixon.
"We could have thrown more, but we felt our front was doing an awfully good job," Temples said. "Our guys were running the ball hard, so why put it in the air?"
Linebacker Jaxon Peifer led a swarming NCHS defense with 10 solo tackles, three assists and one sack, while linebacker Mike Hampton added six solos and one assist.
End Dalton Tevis had four solos, two assists and recovered a fumble, with NCHS' other senior end, Alec DeVecchi, registering a fourth-down sack in the third quarter.
"We had everyone back from injuries and everyone was ready to play," DeVecchi said. "We practiced hard, we all studied and hit our playbooks and looked at film. We just played with an edge.
"We know we're good enough to be a No. 2 seed, but a lot of other schools don't think we are. We're going to show them that we are."
Senior running back Drew Shelly had 84 yards rushing on 19 carries for Downers Grove North, which had two first-half turnovers.
"We knew coming in here we could not let them be on the field as much as they were," Trojans' coach John Wander said. "They were impressive running the ball. The quarterback is a load to bring down and 23 (Dixon) is a load to bring down.
"Their defense stepped up big and their size is incredible. We didn't play our best game, but the better team won the football game."