Neuqua Valley notches win vs. Glenbard North
Revenge, it's said, is a dish best served cold -- and, apparently, rainy and windy.
In unseasonable October-like conditions, Neuqua Valley got a measure of payback for being kept out of the 2017 playoffs by Glenbard North with a convincing 27-6 season-opening victory on Friday night in Naperville.
"As soon as we found out we were playing them in Week 1, especially after they ended our season last year; it was something that motivated everyone all summer," said senior running back Will Chevalier, who had missed last year's season-ender with a hamstring injury. "Not being able to play, watching the team fall without my cleats on -- I really wanted this one.
"We weren't sure about the weather, but the game plan all week was to run it down their throat. That's what they always do to us and we were able to do it to them."
Chevalier showed early that he was fully healed as he carried five times for 56 yards on Neuqua's opening drive, including a 17-yard run to paydirt that gave the Wildcats (1-0) a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. Jake Boumans' fumble recovery at the Glenbard North 38 then set up Chevalier's 2-yard scoring plunge eight plays later that made it 13-0 after the first quarter.
Boumans then found the end zone himself late in the first half when he snared a Mike Vazquez pass that was tipped by Patrick Hoffmann and scooted 24 yards for the score that made it 20-0 at halftime.
"I just did what coach told me to do, hustle to the ball, keep my eye on it and take it to the house," Boumans said.
Also driven by last year's disappointment, the first half was a tour de force for the Neuqua defense. It held the Panthers (0-1) to 7 total yards, intercepted a pair of passes, recovered a fumble and sacked Vazquez twice.
"Losing to them last year kept our fires burning all summer," Boumans said. "The whole team was looking forward to this game. Everyone played their hearts out; we were sick of losing to them."
Chevalier's 49-yard punt return set up Neuqua's final score, a 17-yard run by Armani Moreno midway through the third quarter that made it 27-0. The Wildcats also got a strong performance from junior quarterback Mark Gronowski, who completed 8 of 11 passes for 127 yards in his first varsity start.
After struggling offensively for nearly three quarters, the Panthers finally found a spark when Mike Wellman hauled in a 34-yard pass from Vazquez that eventually led to Angelo Cusumano's 1-yard touchdown sweep on fourth down 50 seconds into the fourth quarter.
"We were never really able to run the ball," said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens, who saw his team total minus-4 yards rushing on 27 carries. "They did a nice job, and we just need to get better offensively. We need great improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, that's it."