Neuqua Valley football coach Bill Ellinghaus had predicted a new "hero" would emerge in the annual "Indian Prairie Classic" against Waubonsie Valley. Last Friday, his name was Alex Teresky.
The 6-foot junior's leaping catch of Broc Rutter's laser pass for a 28-yard touchdown with 35.3 seconds before halftime had Neuqua (6-1, 4-0 Upstate Eight Valley) taking momentum into halftime. It was Teresky's third catch of the year and first touchdown.
"I trusted him to make a catch no matter where I threw it," said Rutter, who completed 10 of 12 passes in the Wildcats' 40-25 win. "I put it in a place where only he could catch it, I think."
Mikey Dudek dominated Neuqua's reception totals with 7 for 97 yards with a score, but Rutter also tossed a touchdown to one of the heroes from last year's 35-34 overtime win, Ryan Kuhl.
"We've had confidence in them all year," Rutter said. "We have confidence in all six of our receivers. They can do whatever we need and they help us out a lot."
Lisle (4-3, 3-2 Interstate Eight Small) is in its usual predicament. The playoffs essentially start well before Week 10.
Carrying 29 playoff points with games against Peotone and Sandwich out of the Large Division, the Lions may need 6 wins, not just 5, to reach the postseason. Last year they were among 16 teams statewide, along with St. Francis, to go 5-4 but miss the playoffs.
For Lisle the playoffs "started two games ago," coach Dan Sanko said.
"You've got to get six wins, there's no way with our opponents (to make it with five)," he said. "You've got to go 6-3."
Lisle lost in Week 6 to Wilmington but notched a needed rivalry win last week against Westmont, 28-0. The Lions did it with sophomore Alec VanVolkenburg at quarterback, subbing for starter Griffin Huba -- clocked on his throwing shoulder by Wilmington though not badly enough to keep him from playing linebacker.
"He managed the game well," Sanko said of VanVolkenburg, who threw a pass that Cliff Krause ran in for a 70-yard touchdown.
Lisle will need all hands on deck to beat its next two opponents, including a Peotone team Sanko said is "on fire." Peotone is 5-2 with three straight wins, including a 13-0 shutout of Sandwich and a win over typically strong Coal City.
"We just never play good against Peotone, and we've just got to somehow break through that trend," Sanko said.
Last week was a forgetful one for Naperville Central, one that end with a tough 40-34 loss to Glenbard North.
Two of the Redhawks' top players -- receiver Ben Andreas and running back Tyler Joyce -- didn't practice at all. Two other offensive starters -- Illinois State-bound quarterback Jake Kolbe and receiver Tyler Schmit -- missed practice time with illness.
Starting linebacker Jack Wooldridge also didn't practice all week, leaving the Redhawks (5-2, 3-2) thin at multiple key positions while preparing for Glenbard North.
To top it off, school was out last Thursday and Friday and disrupted the normal weekly routine.
From the moment game week began, coach Mike Stine knew something was off.
"I could tell the difference heading into last week and this week," Stine said. "There's just a different bounce in their step."
Andreas, Joyce and Wooldridge all returned to practice Monday to begin preparation for another key DuPage Valley Conference matchup against Wheaton North. The flu bug also seems to be done causing havoc.
Naperville Central's nursing a two-game losing streak in the midst of traversing the DVC gauntlet. The Redhawks will play Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard North, Wheaton North and Naperville North all in a row to close the season.
Strong practice weeks are a must.
"It's not an excuse but having a different routine kind of messes you up," Stine said. "Hopefully, from here on out it's a little better."
Speaking of the gauntlet:
Lake Park (1-6, 0-5), in its first year competing in the DuPage Valley Conference, just emerged from the league gauntlet that saw the Lancers play Naperville Central, Glenbard North, Wheaton North, Naperville North and Wheaton Warrenville South in consecutive weeks.
Although the Lancers lost all five games, coach Chris Roll sees plenty of reason to be encouraged.
"I'm an eternal optimist, and my goal all along has been to just get better every week," Roll said. "Everyone wants to win, but this is about playing football and improving."
The improvement through the five-week span was evident in the Lancers' last three weeks. They led Wheaton North 17-13 in the third quarter before losing 42-17, then led Naperville North 17-14 at halftime before losing 28-24.
Finally last week, Lake Park kept the game scoreless at halftime against WW South before falling 28-0. With games against Glenbard East and West Aurora remaining, Roll hopes to build some momentum heading into the off-season.
"That first half against Wheaton South may have been our best half all season," he said. "With the way we've competed, now there's going to be expectations about where we can get to."
After last week's Neuqua Valley-Waubonsie Valley game, Waubonsie receiver Christian Gibbs was asked about the back-and-forth on social media.
"There was a lot of talk," he said. "We're used to it, to be honest. The football-team players, they kind of stay away from it and not get involved."
Duchon Field at Glenbard West is one of the few grass surfaces remaining in the area.
It took quite a hit on Saturday.
Early in the Hilltoppers' West Suburban Silver game against Proviso West, the skies opened and a downpour muddied the field. The sun emerged by the end of the game, but the damage already had been done.
"It was in pretty good shape until then," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said of the field conditions. "It was a sloppy game, but we got through it."
The Hilltoppers (6-1, 5-0) clinched at least a share of the Silver title with a 34-6 victory, but now the field conditions will remain a concern the rest of the regular season and beyond. While playing at Duchon Field is certainly an advantage for Glenbard West, it's also not ideal during adverse conditions.
In last season's Class 7A quarterfinal game against Wheaton North, a downpour just before pregame warm-ups turned the field into a mud bowl where neither team could get anything going offensively. The result was a 3-0 Glenbard West win.
In the following week's semifinal game against Lake Zurich, the teams played on the artificial surface of nearby Glenbard South. Hetlet's hoping that's not necessary this postseason.
"Hopefully, we don't get anymore rain on Saturdays and the field holds up," Hetlet said.
Learned their lesson:
Look for Waubonsie Valley to be more disciplined on the line this week against East Aurora.
Late in the third quarter at North Central College, Neuqua Valley led 27-13 and was knocking again with great field position. After gaining possession at the Warrior 13-yard line, however, the Wildcats took a 5-yard penalty, then threw an incomplete pass.
On second-and-15, Waubonsie was called for a hit after the whistle. The Warriors held, but on fourth-and-2 they encroached to give Neuqua first-and-goal from the 2. Two plays later it was 33-13.
"At times we played as good as you could play," Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy said. "But you can't make those mistakes."
He vowed they wouldn't again especially on a retaliation-type penalty.
"The second guy always gets caught in a shoving match, always gets caught," Murphy said. "First guys gets away with it, the second guy always gets caught. You can talk to them until you're blue in the face but until they make that mistake they don't learn. I guarantee we'll learn after today."
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