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Neuqua Valley and South Elgin went into the locker room at halftime having completed an offensively challenged first half of football.
The visiting Storm clung to a 1-point lead at 7-6, before both teams combined for 61 second half points.
A seesaw battle ensued, and it took the Wildcats until the final minute of the game to put South Elgin away.
Illinois-bound receiver Mikey Dudek hauled in a one-handed 35-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Broc Rutter with 41.2 seconds left to give Neuqua Valley a 40-34 Upstate Eight Conference victory Friday night.
"We went to the spread formation, we moved the running back out, (South Elgin) dropped the safety back and it was just a straight go call," Dudek said of the game-winning play. "There was no safety over the top, so Broc threw a great ball and it just kind of stuck."
After racking up over 500 yards of offense, including a 66-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Rob Cuda to Tyler Christensen, and two touchdown runs of more than 70 yards by Shawn Griffin, South Elgin (0-3, 0-1) hung with a Wildcats team that advanced to the Class 8A semifinals last season.
"I'm very proud of the guys," South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. "(Big plays) are what we see in practice all the time. We knew we had it in us. I think we did a nice job of having our quarterbacks and receivers being on the same page. Our timing was a lot better tonight."
Both offenses combined to score on five-straight possessions from the 9:03 mark of the third quarter to 11:32 of the fourth quarter.
By that point, Neuqua Valley (2-1, 1-0) had taken a 26-20 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Nolan Dean, who one play earlier set up the score on a 79-yard run.
A 15-yard run up the middle by Cuda with 4:03 left gave South Elgin its final lead of the night at 27-26 before the Wildcats came right back on a 7-play, 64 yard drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Rutter to Ryan Kuhl with two minutes left. The pair connected on the 2-point conversion that put the Wildcats up 34-27.
But the Storm weren't finished yet as Cuda put his team back on the board quickly on the next possession, connecting with Christensen down the middle for a 66-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 34-34 with 1:37 left.
Neuqua Valley took the lead for good on its final possession, going 3 plays and 57 yards, including a 27-yard pass from Rutter to Dodek that set up his game-winning catch.
"South Elgin is a great team and you have to give a lot of credit to them," Dudek said. "We just kept battling."