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Neuqua Valley's Joey Rhattigan breaks a long run Friday at Metea Valley. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
With next week’s clash with crosstown rival Waubonsie Valley awaiting in the wings, No. 10 Neuqua Valley successfully took care of business in its 59-32 victory over Metea Valley on Friday night in Aurora, officially clinching a berth in Class 8A’s 32-team field.
Thanks to a 35-point first quarter, the Wildcats—ranked 7th in Class 8A by the Associated Press, will enter their annual meeting with the Warriors at 6-0 for the first time in program history.
Workhorse running back Joey Rhattigan scored twice in the game opening’s 12 minutes, including finding paydirt twice for Neuqua Valley (6-0, 3-0 Upstate Eight Valley), which turned a pair of Metea Valley first-quarter turnovers into TDs.
Wildcats’ senior QB Dylan Andrew completed five-of-seven passes for 156 yards and three TDs—two of which went in junior wide receiver Mike Dudek’s direction in the first.
“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 had 121 yards and whose two TD runs on the night came during within the first 2:14 of the game. “We came out right away and scored real quick. … The start of the game was great for us. I think we came out and did what we had to do.”
Rhattigan also added in a 99-yard kickoff return for a TD in the fourth for good measure, representing his second kickoff return for a touchdown on the year while also marking the fifth straight game the Wildcats have returned a kickoff for a TD.
Sacking Mustangs’ junior Blaise Bell five times in the first half, including three from defensive lineman Tyler Speich, the Wildcats raced out to a 42-0 lead in the second quarter after a 13-yard Iby Amedu touchdown run.
Mustangs’ senior running back Cameron Wilcox got the Mustangs on the scoreboard with a 24-yard touchdown run late in the first half and Bell would later find senior wide receiver Alex Hagemaster for a 20-yard score.
But with Neuqua Valley taking a 42-12 lead into halftime, the damage had already been done.
“(Our) defense is getting after it. I mean, we bring pressure. We bring pressure from everywhere and (Neuqua Valley defensive coordinator Rodney) Jones has the defense playing very, very well,” Ellinghaus said. “Very excited about what our defense has been able to do.”
Dropping its fifth straight game after opening the season with a victory over Plainfield East, Metea Valley (1-5, 0-4 Upstate Eight Valley) is now eliminated from postseason consideration.
While Wilcox ran for 133 yards and two TDs, Bell went 21-of-35 passing for 300 yards with two TDs and an interception for the Mustangs.
“Our worst nightmare happened in the first quarter. You know, they’ve been doing that to teams all year,” Metea Valley coach Ben Kleinhans said. “Somehow, we couldn’t let them get off to just a start like that where they’re (utilizing) quick plays, big play on offense.”