Neuqua Valley knocked its first down but has goals to go.
The Wildcats claimed at least a share of the DuPage Valley Conference football title with a 38-12 victory over Lake Park on Friday in Roselle. Neuqua Valley (8-0, 7-0) could be the DVC's first unbeaten champion since Glenbard North in 2013 with a win next week over that very team.
"We always say that we have to win the game on Monday and Tuesday," said Wildcats receiver Isaiah Robertson, who caught a highlight-reel touchdown that, with Stephen Ruiz's kick, gave Neuqua a 21-0 lead at 6:58 of the second quarter.
"We're going out to practice, coming out ready to compete and ready to get our minds right, and we were able to come out and do our thing," said the Notre Dame recruit.
"I'd like to see us win next week, that's what I'd like to see us do," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus. "I'd like to see us go 9-0. Right now we're trying to position ourselves for the playoffs, and certainly you're going to position yourself much better if you go 9-0 as opposed to being 8-1."
Lake Park coach Chris Roll is a believer.
"They're one of the most balanced teams I've seen," said Roll, whose Lancers dropped to 2-6, 1-6.
Neuqua receiver Donny Navarro caught a 52-yard Jake Eskoff touchdown pass to open the scoring. Owning early field advantage behind Anthony Ippolito, Jon Rhattigan and a run-stopping defense, Neuqua led 14-0 after one quarter when tackle Jackson Keating blocked a punt, caught the bounce and ran 14 yards to score.
Coming off a 51-0 loss to Glenbard North, Lake Park showed heart. R.J. Krause intercepted the football after Christian Cestone batted a pass at the line, and Jackson Behles hit Danny Spejcher from 24 yards out to pull within 21-6 at 1:03 of the second quarter.
Navarro returned the kickoff for an apparent touchdown, brought back by penalty. Instead, Navarro's 36-yard catch helped set up Ruiz's 31-yard field goal, Neuqua up 24-6 at halftime.
"We've dealt with adversity, and we dealt with one on that call there," said Navarro, who caught 7 passes for 137 yards. "But we were able to bounce back, not take no for an answer and come back and put 3 on the board, which helped us a lot."
Behles, who passed for 188 yards, took a knock on a scramble and had to leave the game late in the third quarter. The Lancers still made it 24-12 on Yanni Zepeda's touchdown at 11:53 of the fourth.
Neuqua countered on Cameron Raupach's 27-yard touchdown run. Ippolito scored with 1:44 to play, recovering a fumble in the end zone in a heavy run set.
"I think in all honesty we played pretty hard against them," said Roll, down 11 players who've started this season. "That's an outstanding team. We're not happy with the loss, but we're happy with the physical play that we showed."