No matter how hard a team avoids kicking to Neuqua Valley's Mikey Dudek it seems inevitably he'll hurt you.
The Illinois-bound receiver started the separation from Waubonsie Valley with a 77-yard kickoff return for touchdown to begin the second half. Add Broc Rutter's 3 touchdown passes and a pair of T.J. Scruggs touchdown blasts and Neuqua Valley won the Indian Prairie Classic 40-25 on Friday in front of about 8,000 fans at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville.
Including last year's playoff win, Neuqua Valley (6-1, 4-0) holds a 12-4 series lead over Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division foe Waubonsie Valley (5-2, 3-1).
His team leading 13-7 at the half, Dudek scooped up a short kickoff near the right hash mark. The 4.4 sprinter veered left and broke down the sideline, Warriors strewed in his wake.
"Our special teams coordinator (J.R. Niklos) just told us it's going to be choppy out there because squibs are never easy to get," said Dudek, who opened the scoring on a quick and easy 7-yard out pattern. He finished with 7 catches for 97 yards and 103 yards on kickoff returns.
"So he said, whoever gets the ball, people in front of him, just light up whoever you can. When I got the ball my teammates did a great job of blocking for me, I found a crease and ran down the sideline for a touchdown."
"Anything but that," said Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy. "I thought we were going to come back and win it, and you could just see our heads go down when he returned that for a touchdown."
Neuqua Valley enjoyed superb third-quarter field position courtesy of Warriors penalties and short punts. The Wildcats took over at the Warriors 28. Scruggs capped a 4-play drive with the first of two 1-yard touchdown runs. He finished with 116 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Waubonsie Valley rallied within 27-13 on its next possession. Tony Durns, who ran for a team-high 57 yards, took an inside handoff 29 yards and followed the blocks of Jon Harris and Hugh Griffin.
Late in the quarter Neuqua Valley had the ball at the Warrior 13 yard-line. Aided by two Waubonsie penalties, Scruggs soon bulled in again to widen the lead to 33-13.
"Our defense did a great job, our special teams did an awesome job tonight," said Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus. "Mikey with special teams, I mean we had tremendous field position on kickoffs. It was an all-around win, it really was."
Demario Webb added his own 1-yard touchdown blast to pull Waubonsie within 33-19 with 7:44 to play. Scruggs led Neuqua downfield, and Rutter hit Ryan Kuhl on a 40-yard touchdown pass to make it 40-19 with 3:35 left.
"Teams just can't lock in on Mikey," said Rutter, who went 10-of-12 passing for 137 yards and hit Alex Teresky on a 28-yard scoring strike late in the first half. "Other kids stepped up tonight and played very well."
Waubonsie quarterback Jack Eddy threw for 182 yards, 54 of them to Christian Gibbs, but they couldn't connect on the long ones.
"They brought the heat and we just couldn't handle it tonight," Eddy said. "It happens. I thought we came out well, we just beat ourselves. We had too many mistakes. All I can say is we beat ourselves."