Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch has seen this story unfold before.
"We've played great first-half football for four games until the last minute of the second quarter," he said. "It is like a storyline that keeps repeating itself. It's hard on the kids because they're giving us everything they have in preparation then come out and play really well.
"Then it happens again," Muhitch added. "They (Neuqua Valley) score at the end of the first half and now the kids are demoralized. We have to find a way to get them to believe they can finish against a good team and complete four quarters of play. But it's a struggle right now."
WW South, nursing a 7-0 lead with just less than two minutes remaining in the first half, watched Neuqua Valley march 72 yards in 12 plays to score with 1.5 seconds remaining on a pass from Jake Eskoff to Noah Herdman in the back of the end zone.
The Wildcats then scored 28 unanswered points in the second half, including a highlight reel 76-yard run by Cameron Raupach on Neuqua Valley's second play of the third quarter, to claim a 35-14 victory Friday in Wheaton.
Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus wasn't surprised that WW South put up such a good fight despite its 0-3 record coming in.
"They're a good football team," he said. "They do fundamentals very, very well. We knew we'd have to come out, check out some things and see what we feel like they're giving us. They're very stout upfront. We felt it was going to take four quarters to beat those guys."
Raupach's mesmerizing run after Neuqua Valley forced a three-and-out on WW South's opening possession of the second half seemed to be the straw that broke the Tigers' backs.
"I had amazing blocks," Raupach said. "I just did my job. I'm supposed to take the ball to the house. The boys up front … it was basically all them. We knew if we just kept pounding, pounding, we'd break a big one."
Raupach finished with 194 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries for Neuqua Valley (3-1, 3-1 DuPage Valley Conference). Will Chevalier added a pair of touchdowns on a 34-yard pass from Eskoff and a 12-yard run.
WW South quarterback Zach Harris threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Ross to open the scoring with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter, and the Tigers' Ryan Young closed the scoring with a 4-yard run with 20.3 seconds left.