Like all great running backs, Joey Rhattigan made sure to personally recognize the teammates who played an instrumental role in his successful night.
The junior running back's 161 yards rushing on 32 carries made up the bulk of the Neuqua Valley rushing attack en route to a 37-23 win over Naperville North in the season opener for both teams.
After the game Rhattigan singled out offensive linemen Andrew Geers, Ryne Baker, Brendan Keyes, Jeff Borghesi, Doug Kindt and Kyle Bryant, along with fullbacks Drelyn Hunt and Sam Norgaard for their work in helping the Wildcats gain 298 yards on the ground.
"I'm running as hard as I can, but it's up to these guys," Rhattigan said of his teammates. "I can't take all the credit."
Rhattigan wasn't the only 100-yard rusher as junior running back Danny Dudek gained 133 yards on 13 carries en route to the victory.
"All of our guys are unselfish," Neuqua Valley coach Bryan Wells said. "They know they're going to get their touches and they know they have to stick their nose in there and do some blocking as well. Joey had some nice blocks for Dudek."
Neuqua Valley benefitted from a quick start Friday. After a fake punt on Naperville North's opening drive failed to convert a first down, the Wildcats took over on the Huskies' 39-yard line and two plays later, Rhattigan found the end zone on a 39-yard sweep right for a 6-0 lead.
After a defensive stop, Neuqua Valley took over on its second possession and looked to have another quick score. Quarterback Nate Boudreau found Dudek for what looked to be a 60-yard touchdown pass. But a block-in-the-back call pushed the ball back to the Naperville North 16.
However, the Wildcats would get the seven points back as Rhattigan carried five straight times, eventually scoring on a 1-yard run to put his team up 13-0.
Naperville North got on the scoreboard with 3:07 left in the first quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by Danny Puknaitis.
After a Naperville North safety cut the Neuqua Valley lead to 13-9, the Huskies used a 14-play, 57-yard drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown run by Dominic Imburgia. That gave Naperville North its only lead of the game at 16-13.
Another Rhattigan scoring run from 3 yards out and a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Mulhern just before halftime gave Neuqua Valley a 23-16 lead at the break that it would never relinquish.
Rhattigan scored his fourth and final touchdown of the game with 4:20 left in the third quarter and Boudreau threw his only touchdown pass of the game from 36 yards out to Jeff Evak to put his team up 37-16 with 11:53 to play.
"They were physically better than us," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. "They tackled better than us and they blocked better than us. They did a great job."