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Careless mistakes haunt West Aurora

Quarterback Quintez Jones looks for running room during Friday night's game against Naperville Central. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

Quarterback Quintez Jones looks for running room during Friday night's game against Naperville Central. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 10, 2011 11:59AM

Last Friday could’ve been the night.

This Friday should’ve been the night.

If certain things were done correctly on the part of the West Aurora, the Blackhawks would have ended at least one mind-numbing DuPage Valley Conference losing streak and would be sitting at 4-0.

Unfortunately, they are 2-2, victims of five turnovers last week against Wheaton Warrenville South and three more against Naperville Central in a disappointing 35-20 loss at home.

The turnovers, including a fumble in their own end zone that gave the Redhawks a quick 7-0 lead, came along with a handful of other costly mistakes that prevented the Blackhawks from ending a 14-game losing streak to the Redhawks since joining the DuPage Valley Conference in 1997.

“We can’t make mistakes against good football teams, and we keep doing that,” West coach Nate Eimer said. “We just have to keep putting ourselves in these situations in terms of being competitive in these games, but eventually we’ve got to learn how to come out on top. Right now, we’re not doing that.”

West still has not beaten Naperville Central, Wheaton South or Naperville North since joining the DVC, a combined 0-for-44.

After the fumble, there was Redhawks quarterback Ian Lewandowski shaking out of a would-be sack near midfield on third-and-20 and scrambling down to the Blackhawks’ 1-yard line, setting up a Matt Randolph touchdown (36 carries, 190 yards) to put Central up 14-0.

Then there was West committing pass interference on fourth-and-11 with seconds to go in the first half, followed by a broken coverage that saw Scott Clayton standing all alone in the end zone for a 21-6 Redhawks lead.

“How to get past mistakes? Focus,” West linebacker Brandon Warren said. “Every coach I’ve ever had says a game is won by the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. Just focus for four quarters. It was late in the half and every time we were tired we made mistakes. You have to stay tough when we’re tired.”

Unfortunately for West, the issues didn’t end in the second half. Naperville Central was facing a second-and-21 early in the third, but managed to convert the first down two plays later en route to another Clayton touchdown catch that made it 28-6.

The Blackhawks essentially gift-wrapped two first half scores for the Redhawks, which proved to be the margin of victory.

That’s the most frustrating part, especially because this defense is good enough to beat anyone, and there are playmakers on offense and special teams. This team is also not lacking in confidence, and most importantly, talent.

The only real negative is, at this point, the lack of consistent execution when it matters most.

How to fix that?

“We’ve got to keep working on teaching them how to win,” Eimer said. “That’s one thing this program’s lacked and I’ve got to do a better job of it. That’s part of why they brought me here. We’ve got to find a way to figure it out here these last five weeks to get it done.”

This team could easily finish the season 7-2. It would be very disappointing if it wins no more than four. Perhaps the end result is somewhere in-between. What’s for certain is that this team is for real, and one that could break the most important streak of all — the 16 years since the Blackhawks’ last playoff appearance.

“It’s what kind of men we decide to be the next five weeks,” Warren said. “If we want to make the playoffs and we want to go do stuff, we’ve got to decide it and we’ve got to want it.

“We think we can beat anybody in the state, but we have to quit thinking we’re a good team and start believing it and start acting like it.”

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