The Neuqua Valley football team completed its second consecutive undefeated season in Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division play on Friday night, but it didn't come easy against host Bartlett.
The Hawks (3-6, 2-4) battled back from a 20-0 deficit after one quarter to pull within 26-20 in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats (8-1, 6-0) held on for a 34-20 win at Millennium Field in Streamwood.
Without starting quarterback Broc Rutter in the second half, the Wildcats stuck to the ground as Nolan Dean gained 96 of his 124 rushing yards in the half and Mikey Dudek's third touchdown of the night on a 56-yard run with 4:42 left in the game sealed the win.
"We battled, and we never quit," Dudek said. "We're taught not to quit, and we made sure to finish that game."
Bartlett gained 202 total yards in the second half after only 38 in the first two quarters, and quarterback Jordan Flint (19-for-37) threw for 158 of his 202 passing yards in the second half.
Flint threw an 11-yard TD pass to Nolan Bernat and Hurshel Ross III added a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter as the Hawks pulled to within 20-14. After a 6-yard run to the end zone by Dean gave the Wildcats a 26-14 lead early in the fourth, Flint capped a 64-yard drive with a 27-yard TD pass to Clint Zierke to make the score 26-20 with 7:20 left to play.
The Hawks then recovered an onside kick, but the Wildcats' defense stopped the momentum by forcing a turnover on downs near midfield setting up the game's final scoring drive.
"We're really proud of how the battled in the second half, and even in the first half we didn't allow much in the second quarter after they put up 20 in the first," said Hawks coach Tom Meaney. "We're really proud of the intensity and leadership from the seniors."
Rutter was injured in the first quarter after both teams traded interceptions. He missed only one possession in the opening half and was left out in the second half for precaution according to Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus.
Before that injury, Rutter threw a 43-yard TD pass on his team's first play from scrimmage to Dudek and added a 4-yard TD pass to Dudek later in the quarter. Dean added a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
"We had a fast start but just struggled offensively after that," Ellinghaus said. "We battled through some adversity with our quarterback going down, and I'm proud of my team.
"Bartlett came out strong in the second half, and they were tough. They did a really nice job bouncing back in the third quarter, but we bounced back in the fourth and finished."