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Neuqua Valley's Dylan Andrew (12) prepares to hand off the ball during the first quarter at South Elgin High School in South Elgin, Ill., on Saturday, September 8, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Quarterback Dylan Andrew came into the 2012 season having thrown just nine passes in his varsity career, but first-year Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus had no doubts about the production he’d receive from his first-year starter.
“He reads the defense very well. He lacks maybe a little bit of arm strength. But what he lacks in arm strength, he makes up for with his head,” Ellinghaus said of Andrew on Aug. 10, two days after the start of practice.
In 10 games, all Andrew has done is find a way to throw for 17 touchdowns to go along with just one interception.
Not a bad way to put your stamp on a football program known far more for its bruising running game.
Andrew has thrown for 1,389 yards while completing 79 percent of his passes entering top-seeded Neuqua Valley’s visit to defending Class 8A state champion Bolingbrook on Friday night.
Last week against Naperville North, Andrew broke out a little bit. With Neuqua Valley clinging to a 21-20 halftime lead, Andrew led his charges down the field on a seven-play, 70-yard drive that he eventually capped with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Ervin, giving the Wildcats a 28-20 lead and some breathing room.
“We needed it. It was a little back-and-forth there in the first half, so going up by another score really helped us out a lot. We made some good adjustments at halftime and it showed,” Andrew said of the drive.
With his team in the midst of blitzing Naperville North, 35-0, in the second half, Andrew contributed two of his three touchdown passes on his way to throwing for a season-high 268 yards.
“Dylan’s been big for us every week and when we’ve asked him to throw the football, he’s been excellent,” Ellinghaus said. “I mean, there’s really nothing else I can say other than every time I’ve asked him to throw what I ask him to throw, 10 times or 25 times, he’s been outstanding and (Friday) night was no different. He had his best night number-wise Friday night maybe, but he’s been excellent for us all year long.”
His excellence throughout the season has given the Wildcats’ offense perhaps a balance it hasn’t seen before, considering the reputation it has for having strong offensive lines and strong running backs.
“Their quarterback (Andrew) has been outstanding and he’s their leader. I think their team follows him,” Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said in the days leading up to the postseason meeting between the two teams. “I mean, he’s done a great job and when you can turn around and hand it to someone like (Joey) Rhattigan every once in a while, that’s not a bad thing either.”
Drendel knows that all too well after seeing his team get outscored a combined 99-40 in the teams’ two meetings this season and because, after all, consider that Rhattigan has combined to set four new program records in the last three weeks.
With his two touchdowns against Lake Park in Week 8, Rhattigan broke his tie with Anton Wilkins for the program’s career rushing TD mark, which currently sits at 49 after his four-touchdown night against Naperville North last week.
With his 228 yards and four touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 56-20 Class 8A first-round victory over the Huskies, Rhattigan established new program records for single-season rushing yards, career rushing yards and touchdowns in a single season.
Ever the consummate team player, Rhattigan knows his success only goes as far as the team’s success does.
And much of the Wildcats’ success thus far in 2012, which has seen them get off to the first 10-0 start in program history, can be pointed in the direction of their 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior quarterback.
“Dylan’s a great player and he’s proved that throughout the entire season and I think he’s gonna continue to play his best,” Rhattigan said.