Mohler's magic helps Neuqua Valley pull out 1-point win
While celebrating a big win over an out-of-state state champion, the Neuqua Valley players chanted "Mohler Magic. Mohler Magic."
It made sense after all as the Wildcats junior quarterback had just made his first varsity start and guided his team to a thrilling 21-20 victory over St. Louis' St. Mary's Friday night in Naperville.
Mohler opened the night's scoring with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Mascari in the first quarter and later scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a 1-yard keeper early in the fourth.
But on this night the Wildcats could just as easily have chanted "Defensive Magic. Defensive Magic" after Nicholas Lendino's interception near the goal line secured the victory. The Wildcats' defense came up huge all night against the Dragons (2-1) who have now lost just two games in the last two seasons, both to Neuqua Valley.
"I knew the coaches all had my back and I knew my teammates had my back," said Mohler, who is filling in for injured quarterback Mark Mennecke, who suffered a right foot injury in last week's overtime loss and who was on crutches and wearing a boot on the sidelines. "We were well prepared, but to be honest it was nerve wracking at the end. I'd rather have the ball in my hands and control, but I have all the confidence in my defense."
The Wildcats (2-1) led 14-12 at the half and after a scoreless third quarter they extended the lead to 21-12 following Mohler's short touchdown run. But St. Mary's answered with a 5-yard scoring run from John Roberts Jr and a 2-point conversion pass to close to within 21-20 with 5:28 left to play.
The Dragons got two more chances down the stretch, but a Cole Dutkovich fourth down stop and then Lendino's pick of a ball that deflected off the Dragons Jamal Roberts' hands near the goal line sealed the victory.
"They've got a ton of talent over there but we knew what we were up against," said Lendino, who also recovered a fumble as the Wildcat defense recorded three takeaways. "We prepared and we had more heart tonight. Every snap we battled."
St. Mary's coach Ken Turner felt his team let too many golden opportunities slip away on Friday. The visitors dropped a touchdown pass in the first half and also had the three costly turnovers.
"We played terrible," Turner said. "We should have had 21 points in the first half. Our defense played pretty well but overall we just didn't play well."