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Almost literally, Neuqua Valley's football team was unstoppable Friday night.
The key was stopping Naperville North.
The Wildcats did just that in the second half, dominating the final 24 minutes of a 56-20 victory over visiting Naperville North in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
After winning a rematch of the season opener against the Huskies, Neuqua Valley (10-0) faces another rematch in the second round. The top-seeded Wildcats will play at defending 8A champion and No. 9 seed Bolingbrook (8-2), which knocked out Neuqua Valley in the first round last year.
"We played them first round last year and they really took it to us," said Neuqua Valley senior safety Spencer Donahue, who recovered a fumble and picked off a pass Friday. "We're all looking forward to getting a second chance at them."
Naperville North (5-5) held leads of 6-0 and 13-7 before trailing 21-20 at the half. The only time Neuqua Valley didn't score in the first half was on a missed field goal in the waning seconds that bounced off the right goal post and then off the front of the crossbar.
It was the first of only two possessions without a touchdown for the Wildcats on the night.
Trailing 28-20 midway through the third quarter, Naperville North finally forced Neuqua Valley to punt on its only fourth-down situation of the game. The Huskies couldn't take advantage, however, turning the ball over on downs in their last trip inside Wildcats territory.
Neuqua Valley scored on its next three possessions to seize command.
"We figured we were going to stop them," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel. "I think our offense in the second half kind of sputtered because we were maybe trying to be too perfect, knowing that we're having a tough time stopping them."
While Joey Rhattigan plowed his way to 228 yards and 4 touchdowns on 33 carries, Neuqua Valley quarterback Dylan Andrew burned the Huskies on several occasions. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Ervin started the second half, and Andrew added a 60-yard touchdown strike to Mike Dudek to close the third quarter with a 35-20 lead.
After Donahue recovered a fumble on Naperville North's next possession, Rhattigan scored two plays later to put the Wildcats safely ahead 42-20 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Andrew, who also had a 29-yard touchdown pass to Dudek in the second quarter, finished 10 of 13 for 268 yards and the 3 touchdowns. Naperville North quarterback Johnny Brown, who scored 2 first-half touchdowns, ran for 86 yards and threw for 91 yards as the Huskies amassed 234 rushing yards.
"We just fed off each other," Andrew said. "Our defense did a good job getting a couple of stops and a couple of turnovers, and our offense used that to our advantage."
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