Moreno, Neuqua Valley run past Waubonsie
The way Neuqua Valley running back Armani Moreno sees it, he had some catching up to do when he finally made his return to the football field Saturday against rival Waubonsie Valley.
First the Grand Valley State University recruit was sidelined in the fall along with every other player in Illinois due to the pandemic. Then he missed the Wildcats' first game this spring with a hamstring injury, which was followed by a COVID exposure within the program that erased the last two weeks of action.
Moreno didn't look rusty at all, however, gaining 120 yards and scoring three touchdowns as Neuqua Valley improved to 2-0 this spring with a 34-12 defeat of the Warriors (1-3). Moreno capped the Wildcats' opening drive with a 26-yard dash into the end zone and added touchdown runs of 5 yards and 1 yard while doing all of his damage in three quarters of play.
"I was expecting more but at the same time it was not too bad," said Moreno, who had two scores as the hosts jumped ahead 20-0 after one quarter. "Next week I should be healthy and 100 percent ready to go. Today it was awesome to come out here and play Waubonsie for the last time. It was a great feeling to be here playing at home again."
With Moreno gaining 74 yards in the opening quarter and sophomore quarterback Mark Mennecke throwing a 28-yard touchdown to Grant Larkin, Neuqua Valley pounced on the Warriors. While the offense was clicking, the defense was just as sharp with Palmer Domschke picking up an interception and senior linebacker Trey Borske helping keep Waubonsie off the scoreboard until a pair of late touchdowns after the Wildcats had built a 34-0 lead.
"That was an awesome start. We thought we were going to be able to pound out a couple more scores in the second quarter but we weren't able to do that," Moreno said. "This might be the last home game for me. I'm just taking it all in and enjoying every moment of it."
Mennecke, meanwhile, is just starting his varsity career. The young quarterback passed for 143 yards and one score in the rain, but also had a pair of long touchdown throws wiped out by penalties.
"I think the offense is clicking pretty well," said Mennecke, whose uncle his Gary Goforth, the athletic director and former football coach at Benet Academy. "Getting the chemistry together has really helped. And the defense, they're locked in and they do a great job."
For the Warriors, Jabron Lee led the ground attack with 71 yards on 14 carries, and Joseph Griffin and Charles Hobbs each had short touchdown runs late.
"That first quarter we just didn't get it going offensively," Waubonsie Valley coach Tom Baumgartner said. "We moved the ball a little better in the second quarter but that's a great defense. We'll keep working these next two weeks. With this group we're trying to finish strong."