Downers Grove North senior Noah Battle scores 4 times in win over Kenwood

Trojans force 5 turnovers to win Class 7A playoff opener

Downers Grove North's Noah Battle (20) runs back an interception for a touchdown against Kenwood during a class 7A playoff football game at Downers Grove North on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

DOWNERS GROVE – It would be an understatement to say that Downers Grove North is a better team with Noah Battle on the field.

After the Trojans lost each of the two games Battle missed due to injury, the senior RB/LB was elated to be back on the field to help his team to two consecutive victories before Friday night’s Class 7A playoff opener against Kenwood.

Downers Grove North remained unbeaten with Battle, whose four touchdowns Friday included an interception return for a touchdown – one of five turnovers forced by Downers Grove North in a dominant 42-13 win.

Along with his near 50-yard pick-six Friday, Battle also totaled 217 yards from scrimmage (125 rushing), two rushing touchdowns and caught a 76-yard screen pass for a score.

“We’ve had a renewed energy since Noah’s been back,” Downers Grove North coach Joe Horeni said. “He’s just so good. I really think he’s the best running back in the state. But we go as he and our run game goes.”

“I couldn’t wait to get out here,” Battle added. “I knew when I missed those games, my team had my back… All I could think about when I was out was what’s next. I didn’t want to dwell on it. Now, I’m back, and it’s just all systems go. It’s all about winning games and we got it done tonight.”

Battle carried the ball on the Trojans’ first seven plays from scrimmage and totaled 68 of his 125 rushing yards on the game’s opening drive, which he punched in from nine yards out on fourth-and-goal.

Downers Grove North (8-2) didn’t run away with Friday night’s contest until after halftime, but took an 8-point lead into the break thanks to an interception from linebacker Jimmy Janicki at the Kenwood 3-yard line. Battle scored one play later late in the second quarter to push the Trojans lead to 14-6.

Battle and Janicki were joined by Jake Gregorio and Weston Waughop with interceptions for the Trojans, who allowed just 23 yards of total Kenwood offense after halftime before removing their starters late in the fourth quarter. Gregorio also ran for 79 yards and a touchdown.

“We just played fast and physical tonight,” Janicki said. “I think it’s something we’ve had a lot of success doing, and it worked again tonight… We needed to clean a few things up heading into the playoffs and I think a lot went well tonight.”

Jameson Ordway also stripped the ball from a Kenwood receiver for a fumble recovery just before halftime for the Trojans, as well.

That dominant defensive effort allowed Downers Grove North to score 35 consecutive points before a late touchdown run by Kenwood’s Mako Grant with 1:17 left.

Kenwood (6-4) saw many of its playmakers kept under wraps in its season-ending loss, but did get a touchdown from Michigan commit I’Marion Stewart to pull the Broncos to within 7-6 midway through the second quarter. However, they did not score again until Grant’s late score.

“That’s a really good football team over there,” Horeni said of Kenwood “They have a lot of weapons and a really good offensive scheme. I’m just really proud of our kids and our coaches, who all did such a great job in game planning for this game. It’s a special group and we’re excited to keep it going.”

Owen Thulin also caught a touchdown from Trojans quarterback Owen Lansu, who completed 2-of-3 passing attempts after halftime for 99 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore signal-caller finished the night with 140 yards through the air.

Downers Grove North awaits the winner of Hersey (9-0) and Wheaton Warrenville South (5-4), who kickoff Saturday at 6 p.m. at Hersey.