It's a common trait among good football teams that they never want to look past their next opponent, but with Neuqua Valley preparing to host winless East Aurora on Friday night, the Wildcats allowed themselves a little peak at the upcoming schedule before going out and posting a 48-0 Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division victory over the Tomcats.
"We might not have been playing the strongest team, but we still had a great week of practice," said senior linebacker Sam Norgaard. "We know we've still got good teams down the road to play, so we can't take a step back. There are teams all over the state getting better, and we need to do that, too."
The win was the second straight shutout for the Wildcats (5-0, 2-0 Upstate Eight Valley), who entered the game ranked eighth in the latest Class 8A poll.
For his part, coach Bill Ellinghaus was not worried that his team would get caught looking past the Tomcats (0-5, 0-2).
"I feel real good about our group right now," he said. "We've got great leaders who really want it. They really work hard during the week to come out and produce on Fridays."
The Wildcats began producing points on the game's second play when Tyler Speich recovered a Tomcats fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Neuqua's first two offensive possessions also resulted in scores, the first a 30-yard pass from Dylan Andrew to Mikey Dudek followed by Joey Rhattigan's 30-yard run for a 21-0 lead after the first quarter.
The Tomcats did have one scoring threat as the running of Jamario Littleton and David Fonseca, along with a 19-yard pass from Fonseca to Kwinten Smith, helped take the ball to the Neuqua 3, but an incomplete pass on fourth down ended the drive.
The Wildcats then marched 97 yards in 8 plays with T.J. Scruggs' 24-yard run and Dudek's 42-yard catch helping set up Rhattigan's 1-yard sweep for a 28-0 halftime lead.
"I thought we played well," Ellinghaus said. "We started out fast with the defense getting the turnover right away and getting the defensive touchdown. On offense we were working on things we know we need to work on and they came out and played well."
Dudek opened the second half with an 85-yard kickoff return for a TD, and when Scruggs burst in from 4 yards out three minutes later, the score was 41-0 and a running clock was guaranteed for the game's final 21 minutes. With Ellinghaus substituting liberally, sophomore Nolan Dean closed the scoring on a 20-yard run with three minutes to play.