For the sixth time in his nine seasons coaching Bartlett, Hawks coach Tom Meaney will be celebrating an Upstate Eight Conference football title.
Bartlett absorbed Joey Rhattigan's quick, long touchdown run by on Neuqua Valley's first play from scrimmage then scored 34 unanswered points for a 34-7 victory in UEC Valley play in Naperville.
Bartlett (6-2, 5-0) clinched at least a co-championship, but with winless East Aurora up for the Hawks in Week 9, it appears the outright title will be theirs.
"They come to play every time," Meaney said. "We're lucky over at Bartlett that we have great kids, good parents. We're just happy to be on the coaching staff and contributing as coaches."
Those coaches may have been a heated debate after Rhattigan's 80-yard touchdown run, but not to fret.
"That was a fluke," said Bartlett three-year linebacker Mike Partyka, who capped the scoring early in the fourth quarter when he recovered a fumble in Neuqua's end zone, thanks to defensive end James Chang's quarterback sack and caused fumble.
"We knew that wasn't our style of defense," Partyka said of Rhattigan's ramble. "We weren't worried at all."
The Hawks defense limited Rhattigan to 128 yards overall and sacked Neuqua quarterback Nate Boudreau 5 times. And the offense kicked into gear.
Quarterback A.J. Bilyeu hit Lorenzo Mitchell on a play-action pass for a 72-yard touchdown, and Ian Dobek's kick tied the score 7-7 with 8.2 seconds left in the first quarter.
While Neuqua Valley struggled with field position, Bartlett sophomore running back James Butler scored on a 4-yard run and Dobek added a 30-yard field goal for a 17-7 Hawks lead at halftime.
"We were in bad field position all night long," said Neuqua coach Bryan Wells, whose Wildcats dropped to 5-2, 3-2.
"Credit to their defense, they stepped up and got us stopped. It's somewhat fortunate it wasn't worse than what it was in terms of the scoreboard."
Butler hit the Wildcats right out of the box in the second half. Bartlett's Nick Andreucetti intercepted a pass and on the next play Butler followed left guard Tyler Bernat through a hole, 58 yards for a 24-7 lead at 11:05 of the third.
"It was there right away," said Butler, who gained 129 yards on 23 carries. "I saw the opening and just took it. I don't think I was touched. My line did awesome that play. It was great, a great way to start the third quarter."
Dobek added a 40-yard field goal to close the third-quarter scoring, and after Partyka's fumble recovery touchdown it was all over but the celebrating.
"This is huge," said Bartlett offensive coordinator Eric Ilich, a Neuqua Valley graduate and former Wildcats quarterback. "This is our third conference championship in four seasons, and each one has had to come through Neuqua Valley. Neuqua Valley's a first-class program.
"It's just a hardworking group of kids who has a goal together, and we've really meshed well as a team. It's been a lot of fun. And our goal doesn't end here."