Down after three quarters for the first time this season, Neuqua Valley rallied to remain undefeated.
Trailing Wheaton North 17-10 on sophomore Antowon Tolbert's 2-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, the Wildcats finished with 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points to win 31-17 Friday at newly dedicated Barb Barrows Stadium in south Naperville.
Cameron Raupach touchdown runs of 1, 7 and 17 yards lifted Neuqua Valley to a 7-0 record overall, 6-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference.
"We didn't panic and start coming out throwing the ball," said Raupach, who gained 134 yards on 22 carries and also opened the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run for his first 4-score game on varsity.
"We just knew we could run the ball on them and I love my lineman, they're great, they're the best linemen in the conference and I just ran right behind them," Raupach said of Kevin Luna, Tom Cannova, Doug McKissick, Joe Backe and Jake Zeiler.
Even while holding the lead Wheaton North (3-4, 2-4) lost 3 fumbles and 2 interceptions through three quarters, which dimmed productive outings for Tolbert, quarterback Luke Anthony, and receiver Jack Bennett. Tolbert ran for 74 yards and Bennett caught 4 passes for 129 yards.
"I thought we moved the ball pretty well," said Anthony, who passed for 185 yards and ran a 1-yard sneak to give the Falcons their first lead, 10-7 with 21 seconds before halftime.
"There were just a couple turnovers on their side of the field that really bit us. That just can't happen if you're going to beat a good team like that," he said.
Neuqua senior Donnie Navarro's 57-yard kickoff return helped set up Raupauch's game-tying score with 10:19 left to play.
Next time out Navarro caught passes of 16 and 27 yards from Jack Bastable, the last on fourth-and-8 to continue what was a 91-yard scoring drive. Raupach added his third straight touchdown run from 12 yards out with 1:25 to play.
"When you're bringing an undefeated team in you're going to get everybody's best effort -- and we did, they gave us everything we could handle," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus. "But I'm proud of our guys, it was a little bit of a character builder for us."
Wheaton North now has its back to the wall in the playoff hunt,
"In this league you've got to play more mistake-free football than we did tonight," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski. "But I feel good, I feel like we took a step tonight as a team and I'm ready to go back to work on Monday and start getting ready for Naperville Central."