Neuqua Valley can't get past Homewood-Flossmoor
When a great season comes to a screeching halt in the postseason, tears and disappointment can take over. That is exactly what happened to the Neuqua Valley football team Saturday night at Homewood-Flossmoor.
The Wildcats took the field for the second round of the Class 8A playoffs with a 9-1 record and dreams of moving on to at least the state quarterfinals. But the host Vikings and running back Sean Allen are the ones moving on. H-F (10-1) prevailed 38-22 behind 346 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns by the talented junior.
"I'm extremely proud of this team. We had a lot of good times and to win the conference title outright and to win a home playoff game was real big," Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus said. "Their running back did a nice job tonight. He's special. We just didn't have enough tonight."
Neuqua Valley (9-2) drove to the Vikings' 15-yard-line on the night's opening possession and were staring at a third-and-1 before a delay-of-game penalty was called. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty followed, and then after a 42-yard field-goal attempt failed, H-F got the ball. The Vikings handed it to Allen, and 80 yards later it was 7-0.
"I elected to receive the ball because I knew we could drive on them right away," Wildcats senior quarterback Mark Gronowski said. "We had a costly penalty and missed a field goal and then they made a big play. But we kept coming back and I'm so proud of these guys. Each and every day we improved.
"These four years of high school football have been great and we accomplished so much."
Neuqua answered the Vikings' quick strike with a 14-yard touchdown run by Armani Moreno to draw even at 7-7 after one quarter. H-F went ahead again 14-7 in the second quarter before Gronowski's 15-yard scoring run made it a 14-14 game with 8:31 left in the half.
But the Wildcats just couldn't contain Allen, who added a 4-yard run late in the second quarter on his way to 183 first-half yards. Allen added the third of his four scores in the third quarter, and the home team took control. The Vikings will play at unbeaten Lincoln-Way East next week looking to avenge their only loss of the season.
"It's hard to take in," said Moreno, who scored his second touchdown late in Saturday's contest. "It doesn't seem real. We worked so hard all summer and have been grinding it out. I love these seniors. I wouldn't trade any of these guys for anybody."
Vikings coach Craig Buzea said his team's game plan featured a lot of Allen runs in large part because if his team controlled the clock, then the Wildcats' potent offense would spend much of its night on the sidelines.
"They have a great offense and we knew that coming in," Buzea said. "So we wanted to control the time of possession and we were able to do that tonight. No. 7 (Gronowski) is not as good when he's on the sidelines."