BY KEN RYAN | Contributor
October 15, 2012 6:10PM
DOWNERS GROVE — Hinsdale Central junior running back Ben Stefani is getting used to being patient.
He figured prominently in the Red Devils’ plans this season, but suffered an ankle injury during the summer that set him back.
Then, he watched senior teammate Jack Adams rack up more than 1,000 yards in seven games.
“Unfortunately, Ben sprained his ankle pretty bad during the summer and never really got going,” Hinsdale Central coach Rich Tarka said. “The last few weeks he’s been healthy, but Jack’s been doing so well. We’ve been counting on Ben since the beginning. He’s been playing better in practice and has more confidence.”
Stefani demonstrated Friday why the team has high hopes for him.
Starting in place of Adams, who was given the day off to rest a bruised abdomen, Stefani rushed for 110 yards on 23 carries in his first varsity start to help the Red Devils clinch a playoff berth with a 21-20 win over Downers Grove North.
“I was banged up earlier this year and missed the first couple games,” Stefani said. “It was just good to give Jack (Adams), our main running back, a little break. We’re getting him rested up for the playoffs.
“We have a great line. They were opening up huge holes for us. We moved back to the power game (in the second half) and started running between the tackles. That worked out really well.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Stefani missed the first five games and got limited carries the past two weeks.
“It was good to see him have a game like that,” Tarka said. “He knew he was going to be the man this week and he really stepped up. I give him a lot of credit. He has a lot of determination. He’s physically strong and gets it done.”
Hinsdale Central’s offensive line of seniors Nick Piker, Chris Zott, Chris Kallas and Joe Morrison and junior Brian Allen, along with senior quarterback Brian Owens, has been a key part of the team’s success.
But Stefani earned plenty of praise for his effort.
“Ben was awesome,” said senior wide receiver Joe Herr, who had nine catches for 111 yards in the first half of Friday’s win. “Jack (Adams) is the workhorse of our team and a great player, so having Ben come in and fill that position great is a big help for us.”
Hinsdale Central (6-2, 3-2 West Suburban Silver) closes the regular season at home Friday against York. Adams is expected to be back in the lineup. The Red Devils also hope to have junior wide receiver Ian Bunting, who has been out with a high ankle sprain, back for the playoffs.
“Six wins is nice,” Tarka said. “Hopefully we can get another one and have a chance at a home (playoff) game.”
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