Neuqua Valley gains momentum for playoffs
Looking for a nice sendoff into the state playoffs, Neuqua Valley didn't need much time to accomplish its mission Friday night at Metea Valley.
After the host Mustangs turned the ball over on downs on the night's opening possession, Neuqua Valley quarterback Mark Gronowski hooked up with wideout Pat Hoffman on a 63-yard touchdown on the visitors' first play from scrimmage. It was the first of Gronowski's three first-half TD passes as the 8-1 Wildcats built a 28-0 lead at the half on their way to a 41-20 nonconference victory over the Mustangs.
"Mark just saw an opportunity on the outside right out of the gate and we got off to a great start," said Hoffman, a senior who also hauled in a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter for his first multi-TD game. "I feel like we've been playing really good the last couple weeks and we're confident we can go far in the playoffs. We know what we have to do."
When the two rivals met earlier this season in what was considered a DuPage Valley Conference battle -- unlike Friday -- the Mustangs had scored early and the Wildcats needed to counter. This time around the DVC champs blanked the Mustangs in the first half and built a comfortable lead.
"Our offense has been clicking," said Gronowski, who was 7 for 8 for 176 yards and 3 scores before taking the second half off. "When our No. 1s are out there we haven't been stopped lately."
With Armani Moreno scoring on a 3-yard run and Carter Sessa hauling in Gronowski's third touchdown pass, the lead was 28-0 before Metea Valley got its offense going in the second half. The Mustangs' C.J. Wilcox had a touchdown run and a touchdown catch to give him 17 scores on the year, but it was too little against a Wildcats squad with high hopes for the postseason.
"We're feeling great right now and excited to find out who our next opponent is," said Gronowski, who will be with his team when the playoff pairings are announced Saturday night. "We had 11 guys return on offense from last year and we're expecting the offense to keep clicking in the playoffs."
Gronowski's backup, Colin Blazek, added a touchdown pass to John Feddor in the second half, while Metea countered with two Wilcox scores and a 3-yard touchdown run by senior captain Austin Frederick, who took a direct snap and made his way into the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Mustangs coach John Parpet liked the grit his young team showed this season and loved what he saw from Wilcox, whose 17 touchdowns may be the most ever by a Mustang.
"(Wilcox) was fun to watch this year and I'm proud of all of our seniors," Parpet said. "We'll have some offensive linemen back and our quarterback and also a real talented receiver. I truly believe we'll take that next step next year."