Neuqua Valley steps up, beats WW South
On most nights Neuqua Valley receiver Donald Navarro III gets a little lost on a deep and talented Wildcats receiving core. Friday was not most nights.
With the team's top two receivers sidelined for the DuPage Valley Conference contest with Wheaton Warrenville South, Navarro III caught a pair of touchdown passes. Neuqua Valley improved to 4-0 on the year with a convincing 48-19 defeat of the visiting Tigers.
"We obviously missed No. 1 and No. 2 on the field, but other guys stepped up and we were able to put it together tonight," said Navarro, who was referring to the team's 1-2 receivers, Isaiah Robertson and Owen Piche, who also wear jerseys 1 and 2. "They're both very good leaders, but we were able to bounce back and it's a solid team win. It's next man up, that's what it is."
It was indeed a solid team effort as the Wildcats controlled the line of scrimmage, had plenty of success running the ball early, and totally stuffed the Tigers' ground attack.
Neuqua Valley running back Cameron Raupach broke off a 41-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the night and added a 20-yard run on a fourth-and-1 as the Wildcats took a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. It was 21-0 after one quarter following a 2-yard scoring run by Tyler Cristofaro, and two TD catches by Navarro in the second quarter helped the hosts take a 35-6 lead at the half.
"Our kids just came out … we had a lot of adversity this week, we had a couple guys injured and so on," Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said. "The fact that our kids were able to just come out and play fast from the start was something that we talked about all week long. And they were able to do that. I was extremely pleased with the way we came out. I thought we clicked tonight a little bit."
The Wildcats clicked on both sides of the ball, with linebacker Jon Rhattigan leading a defense that didn't allow a first down in the first quarter and just 110 yards all night on the ground, with 57 of those coming on an option touchdown by speedy wideout Cam Moore.
"That's our main focus stopping the run, and I think we really got after it tonight," said Rhattigan, who led the team with 9 tackles and a sack. "Missing Owen and Isaiah, two big studs, and also having some injuries, we were down five starters today, but we don't let it faze us. Adversity comes our way and we'll rally. Next man up."
For Wheaton Warrenville South, it was a fourth straight defeat as injuries and tough competition have made matters tough so far this season. Moore, however, was a bright spot once again, catching 11 passes for 139 yards and rushing twice for 76 yards, while scoring once on the ground and once through the air.
"They are a really good team," WW South coach Ron Muhitch said. "They did whatever they wanted to do and we're struggling with our run game right now. My quarterback's on one leg, and we're just struggling to run our offense because of injuries.
"But that's a better football team. Even with their two guys out they still pushed us around pretty convincingly."