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With its highly anticipated meeting with crosstown rival Waubonsie Valley a week away, Neuqua Valley came to Metea Valley last Friday looking to make a bold statement with three former coaches, including Mustangs’ head coach Ben Kleinhans, watching from the Metea Valley sideline.
Consider it done.
Putting 35 points on the board in the game’s first 12 minutes, the Wildcats raced out to a 42-0 first-half lead en route to a 59-32 victory. Neuqua Valley brings a 6-0 record into Friday night’s game with the undefeated Warriors.
“This was a statement game for us because a lot of our old coaches came here. I mean, no disrespect to them, but we definitely wanted to come out here and show the guys what we’re made of,” Wildcats junior receiver Mike Dudek said.
Dudek grabbed three Dylan Andrew passes in the first half, including touchdown receptions of 56 and 59 yards, respectively, during the Wildcats’ 35-point first-quarter outburst.
While Andrew and Dudek were making the most of their three connections, Neuqua Valley senior running back Joey Rhattigan ran for a pair of first-quarter TDs and a 99-yard kickoff return for a TD in the fourth quarter to complete the Wildcats’ scoring.
“Coming into this game, it’s kind of like a personal matter with our coaches. We knew the (Metea Valley coaches, which include three former Neuqua Valley coaches) and we want to give them our best game,” said Rhattigan, who finished with 122 rushing yards.
For Kleinhans, who spent the last three seasons as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach, the uncharted success Neuqua Valley has enjoyed through the season’s first six weeks hasn’t come as a surprise.
“Not really (surprised). We’ve known this senior class since they were in middle school and we’ve been waiting for them to be seniors, you know, from my time there,” Kleinhans said. “They’re just a solid group. Not only is it a talented class, it’s a very motivated class. A couple of their key players have been on varsity — this is their third year. Those seniors are focused, determined and motivated to have a great year and they’re off to a great start.”
With its defense posting its third shutout of the season, Benet reached playoff eligibility for the first time since 2010 with a 17-0 win at St. Viator.
Three interceptions of St. Viator quarterback Bobby Calmeyn and limiting the Lions to 170 total yards did the trick, while the Redwings’ offense struggled to get much of anything going against the Lions.
Knowing his team’s struggles in the East Suburban Catholic Conference a year ago and of his team’s one-point loss at St. Patrick in Week 3, Benet coach Pat New thought his team’s mindset was in the right place heading into the game at St. Viator last week and remains the same looking forward to its last three games against Nazareth, No. 7 Marist and No. 19 Joliet Catholic.
“Personally, I think the last three games are all tough. Marist beat Nazareth on a last-second field goal and then JCA beat Nazareth in an overtime game,” New said. “So, quite frankly, I see all three teams as all being pretty much equal. The games with Nazareth, JCA and Marist could have gone either way.”
Benet (5-1, 2-1 East Suburban Catholic) can officially clinch its way into the Class 7A postseason field with a home victory Friday against Nazareth.
Close games help Waubonsie
Four weeks into the season, aided by an offense averaging 41.6 points a game entering this week, Waubonsie Valley was able to put it into cruise control a little bit.
But with Friday’s meeting with crosstown rival and fellow unbeaten Neuqua Valley next on the docket, it’s the Warriors’ last two weeks that might be the most beneficial to them as they move forward.
Carrying only a 6-0 lead into the fourth quarter of its game at Bartlett in Week 5, Waubonsie Valley gutted out a 19-0 victory by utilizing a 13-point fourth quarter and a tremendous effort from its defense.
The Warriors then followed that up by beating South Elgin, 35-20, in a game that saw the Storm cut a 28-7 deficit going into the fourth quarter all the way down to 28-20 with just under 3 ½ minutes remaining.
“Yeah, (it’s beneficial) because it puts us into those situations we hadn’t been in,” Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said. “We had a 50-point game (against Oswego and Streamwood), you know what I’m saying? In the middle of the season, it was back and forth, but there was a ton of points scored.
“You need those other close games to see how you’re gonna handle adversity. Yeah, they made it within eight points and we go right down the field within five plays and put it the end zone to get it back to 15.”
Waubonsie Valley (6-0, 3-0 Upstate Eight Valley) and Neuqua Valley (6-0, 3-0 Upstate Eight Valley) finally cross paths on Friday at North Central College. Neuqua Valley is ranked sixth and Waubonsie Valley seventh in this week’s Associated Press Class 8A football poll.