Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/7/2016 9:07 PM

For Waubonsie Valley, it's good to be home

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  • Week -2- Photos from the Waubonsie Valley vs. Glenbard North football game on Friday, Sept. 2, in Carol Stream.

      Week -2- Photos from the Waubonsie Valley vs. Glenbard North football game on Friday, Sept. 2, in Carol Stream.
    Paul MIchna | Staff Photographer


Paul Murphy is in his 12th season coaching football at Waubonsie Valley. Friday will be the first time since he took the job that the Warriors will host Neuqua Valley.

The Indian Prairie Classic between the two District 204 and DuPage Valley Conference rivals was held at North Central College from 2003-14. Neuqua Valley hosted 2015 regular-season and playoff games against the Warriors, and a 2012 playoff game.

The last time the game was in Aurora, Neuqua won 27-7 in 2002. Overall the Wildcats lead the series 13-6, winning seven of the first eight games beginning in 1999.

Hosting means gaining game-day revenue that for 12 years instead went to North Central College -- and more.

"You get your home atmosphere, you get your music when you're at home, you get your announcer when you're at home," said Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus. "You get a college feel at North Central College, but you don't get your home environment."

Seemingly unimportant details such as the pregame meal and familiar locker room and warm-up areas comprise the home-field advantage that for years neither Waubonsie nor Neuqua enjoyed.

"A little bit of a sense of consistency," Ellinghaus said.

Murphy would agree on all these points. He also seeks to maintain perspective.

"It's our home opener, that's what it means. It's nine games, you can't make it any bigger than it is. It's a long season, it's one of nine," he said.

"Our goal is to get playoff eligible, so we've got to take it one week at a time and play one game at a time."

On the run:

Glenbard West's biggest question entering the season -- and one of the biggest questions in the entire state -- concerned the Hilltoppers' ability to replace graduated record-breaking running back Sam Brodner, who's now at Wisconsin.

After only two weeks the Hilltoppers are producing answers.

"You have to play games to figure things out, but we're getting there," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "Everyone's working hard to get there."

In last week's 14-6 win over Hinsdale South, the Hilltoppers rushed for 255 yards. Senior D.J. Ficarella, an integral part of last year's Class 7A title team, carried the ball 22 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. Dre Thomas added 12 carries for 86 yards and the Hilltoppers' second touchdown.

If not for a handful of penalties, Glenbard West would have rushed for well more than 300 yards. That's more than enough to win a lot of games.

"Ficarella is a great running back and (Thomas) is good, too," Hetlet said. "We've got a lot of inexperience on offense, and it'll take some time to get to where we want to be. I like where we're at right now."

The case of the missing fingertip:

In Wheaton Academy's 23-14 win over West Chicago to start the season, receiver-defensive back Mikey Alfano may well have become a Warriors legend.

A high-speed collision cost Alfano the tip of the ring finger of his right hand, nearly up to the knuckle.

"It was the talk of the school," said Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton.

Part of it was the fact that Alfano and a trainer went to the hospital without the fingertip. It wasn't found on the field that Friday night, but when Wheaton Academy returned on the morning of Aug. 28 for the junior varsity game there it was, cleaned off by the rain.

Alfano, who missed half of the 2015 season with a shoulder injury, got a cast on the hand. Thornton said Tuesday the senior hopes to return for the last three or four regular-season games, though he may strictly play cornerback.

"It's an interesting story," Thornton said. "You think you've seen everything in football, then this happens. My goodness, it was crazy."

Bad rerun:

By Week 2 of last season, Wheaton Warrenville South lost its starting quarterback and running back for an extended period of time due to injury.

The same thing happened again to the Tigers.

Quarterback Matt Dohse missed last week's 28-20 DuPage Valley Conference loss to Lake Park while running back Luke Foster was injured in the first quarter and missed the remainder of the game.

Tigers coach Ron Muhitch knows his team must be healthy to recover from an 0-2 start.

"Dohse played through it in the opener, and he could have played last week but we didn't want to push it," Muhitch said. "It'll help to have him back this week (against Glenbard North)."

The good news for WW South was that backup quarterback Jack Maher had varsity experience from last year and made a seamless transition behind center. The better news was the emergence of junior running back Ryan Young, who had 13 carries for 89 yards and a 36-yard touchdown run.

Still, the Tigers need all hands on deck to turn around their season.

"You take the quarterback and running back off any team and it's a big loss," Muhitch said. "Every team counts on those guys."

Streak snapped:

Glenbard South's 28-25 nonconference win over Glenbard East was its first over the Rams in 22 years.

A streak that existed since 1994, Glenbard East had won the last four meetings, in 1995, '97, '98 and 2015. Overall, Glenbard East still holds a 12-7 advantage against the Raiders.

"It was a great win, a big boost in confidence for the program in general. It was just nice to play the way we should play," said Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey.

Regardless of the loss, Glenbard East coach John Walters saw improvement from Week 1.

"We cleaned up a bunch of stuff, not enough to be successful," he said.

Another Anthony:

When Wheaton North decided to add a fourth linebacker to its lineup against Joliet Catholic, the coaching staff knew where to turn.

The Falcons inserted junior Brayden Anthony -- the younger brother of starting quarterback Luke Anthony -- to play alongside Erik Mueller, Danny Walker and Bo Neidballa. The move helped the Falcons dominate in a 37-7 win over the Hilltoppers.

"He did a nice job for us," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski. "He was out there making plays."

Anthony was the Falcons' junior varsity player of the week in the season opener against Wheaton Warrenville South and he's a consistent contributor on special teams.

"It's a great example for the rest of the team," Wardynski said. "It's nice as a coaching staff to be able to point that out and show what that kind of hard work can do."

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