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Darien, IL - Friday, October 11, 2013: Hinsdale Central's quarterback Thomas Ives (9) finds room to run past Hinsdale South's Jake Hynek (15). | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media
Every player would like to be No. 1. For Thomas Ives, being quarterback No. 5 to play for Hinsdale Central this season seems just fine.
The carousel of quarterbacks at Central seems to have ended Friday night in a 17-7 victory over Hinsdale South in the 31st annual Doings Cup between District 86 sister schools.
Central (4-3) defeated South (3-4) for the 12th consecutive year to extend its lead to 19-12 in the series. Senior running back Ben Stefani scored Central’s touchdowns on runs of two and 14 yards. Stefani was Central’s third quarterback this season after starter Chase Hamilton injured his right ankle in Week 3.
Jacob White took over, and Sam Saltiel came in for late minutes in Week 4. But White, a senior linebacker, returned full-time to the defense in a 35-14 victory over Lyons Oct. 5. White had re-injured his left ankle against Glenbard West a week earlier.
Stefani started against Lyons and ran for five yards in his only play at quarterback. Ives became quarterback No. 5 on the Devils’ second play when he came in and threw an incomplete pass.
Ives’ starting debut came against Hinsdale South. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound junior from Hinsdale hopes to make enough strides to lead Central to another playoff berth. The Devils (2-2 West Suburban Silver) play at No. 15 Oak Park-River Forest (6-1, 4-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. They finish the season at home against Downers Grove North (4-3, 1-3) on Oct. 25.
“This will be our biggest game of the year,” Ives said of OPRF. “I’m trying to get my timing down with the receivers. That’s the most challenging thing.”
Ives has yet to throw a touchdown pass. Stefani has Central’s only TD reception this season. Hamilton’s replacements, including Saltiel against Proviso West, were primarily running quarterbacks. Ives is a 9-for-21 for 60 yards in his two games, but threw three interceptions against Lyons.
Ives did not throw a pick against Hinsdale South and he can threaten defenses as a runner. He rushed nine times for 49 yards against South and has 23 carries for 109 yards on the season.
“(Ives) has great upside,” Central coach Rich Tarka said. “His only problem is (lack of) experience. He was a wide receiver as a freshman and sophomore. He only returned to quarterback recently.”
Earlier this year, Ives had to wear a back brace for three months. At an AAU basketball game in April in Milwaukee, he took a hard charge while playing for Full Package South. Ives not only continued playing , he played another game later in the day.
The next day, Ives could barely walk. An MRI revealed he had fractured a bone in his lower spine. He wore the brace, took calcium pills and went through nearly a month of physical therapy before returning to football in time for practice in August.
“I was not planning on playing quarterback this year,” Ives said. “I’d say I played quarterback last in youth football, but not as a freshman or sophomore. I’m trying to get back in the groove. There are things I’m trying to get, like footwork.”
An early hit to Hinsdale Central’s depth chart at quarterback occurred when last year’s sophomore team starter, 6-foot-7 Matt Rafferty, chose to skip football to focus on basketball as a Division I recruit. Hamilton, Saltiel, Ives and senior Abdullah Dilawar are the only quarterbacks listed on Central’s varsity roster.
Because Ives missed football all summer and returned as a wide receiver in August, he was not prepared to play quarterback until Week 6.
“The time was right for Thomas last week (against Lyons),” Tarka said. “It looks like he’ll finish up.”
The Devils hope he’ll finish up in the playoffs. They’ve reached the postseason 11 of the last 12 years, missing only with a 4-5 record in 2010.