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Neuqua Valley tailback Nolan Dean said he considers every opponent to be a rival. Having a personal-best night against fellow District 204 school Metea Valley made it all the better.
Dean ran 12 times for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns and backfield mate T.J. Scruggs added 123 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns in Neuqua's 65-28 Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division win over Metea. Neuqua's prior high was 63 points, done in both 2004 and 2005.
"The game plan was just to run the ball and set a statement," said Dean, whose 2- and 53-yard touchdown runs gave Neuqua a 14-0 lead after a quarter. He added an 81-yard touchdown run late in a first half that Neuqua finished leading 58-14.
"They were 3-0 in their conference," Dean said. "and we just wanted to leave no questions asked who was the best team in between the lines."
Physicality was a theme addressed by Dean, Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus and defensive coordinator Rodney Jones as well as Metea Valley coach Ben Kleinhans.
"We just didn't play physical enough on defense," Kleinhans said. "When we've had success on defense it's because we've played with a forward lean and played physical and made plays and were aggressive. We played on our heels tonight, you can't do that against them."
Jones said linebacker Derrek Warkenthien's blitz of Mustangs quarterback Blaise Bell, after Metea (3-3, 3-1) zipped 34 yards on its first two plays, got the ball rolling.
"They were moving the ball a little bit that first drive and that sack really kind of stalled it out and it really kind of propelled us to go on and play a really good game," Jones said.
The Wildcats also held Metea tailback Jay Parker to 84 yards rushing, his first time below 100 this season. Neuqua Valley (5-1, 3-0) scored on its first seven possessions and on eight of 10 overall. The Wildcats scored on defense when on a Metea fake punt Andrew Fraczek poked the ball right to Evan Cherney for a 36-yard fumble return touchdown.
Dean and Scruggs repeatedly attacked the perimeter, especially to the right side where guard Tommy Cwiok and tackle Jon Bylak operated.
"We were trying to show that we are the stronger team, and we proved that tonight by running the ball," Bylak said.
Neuqua star receiver Mikey Dudek didn't need to be a factor. Instead two other receivers showed their stuff — Neuqua's Ryan Kuhl, who caught Broc Rutter touchdown passes of 45 and 3 yards; and Metea's Nick Dodson, who caught 7 passes for 115 yards with touchdowns of 22 and 15 yards.
Dodson's first touchdown had the Mustangs within 14-7 early in the second quarter, but Neuqua's 44-point barrage ensured a running clock the entire second half.
"We talked about how this is a learning experience and we have to grow off of it, and just look forward to next week and just put this in the past," Dodson said.