McGee, Neuqua Valley get the game they wanted against Bartlett
Neuqua Valley running back Jaden McGee was eagerly watching the weather forecast leading up to Friday night's playoff opener.
He knew there was rain in the forecast and he knew that meant the Wildcats coaches might just feed him the ball a little more than usual. He was right, and he took advantage of the opportunities he got against Bartlett in the Class 8A playoff opener in Naperville. McGee gained 109 yards and 2 touchdowns -- all in the first half -- as the 9-1 Wildcats pounded the visiting Hawks 60-7 to move onto the second round.
"Yep, this is my weather," a smiling McGee said while standing on the muddy turf at Barb Barrows Stadium. "I've been watching the weather all day. I knew this was my type of night."
Neuqua Valley, which had its eight-game winning streak snapped with a last-second loss to Naperville North last week, jumped ahead 7-0 on a 19-yard run by McGee on its opening possession. The lead grew to 39-7 at the half as the hosts ran for four scores, quarterback Mark Mennecke tossed a 49-yard touchdown to Josh Wenz, and the team added a pair of safeties when Bartlett struggled with snaps into the end zone on punts.
"It was a great way to come off a loss," said McGee, whose 8-yard score in the second quarter gave his team a 23-7 lead. "It was fun seeing everybody play and seeing the guys from the scout team get to run with the ball. Those guys are the ones that help us get better all the time in practice."
Bartlett scored on a 36-yard run by James Knight in the second quarter that was set up by a 37-yard pass from Jacob Scearce to Bryce Kim. But that was all the Hawks could muster against a stout Neuqua Valley defense. Carter Sessa had an interception for the Wildcats and the defensive unit held the Hawks to less than 150 yards of total offense.
"They have a great team and they were the better team on the field tonight," Bartlett coach Matt Erlenbaugh said. "We had some adversity this year and we had some key injuries, but I'm proud of the way our guys battled. But that defense was great tonight. In fact they were great in all facets against us tonight."
Wildcats quarterback Mennecke ran for one score and tossed a pair of touchdowns, while backup quarterback R.J. Cluxton also got in on the fun with a 1-yard touchdown. Reserves Allen Ross and Triston Price also found the end zone for the Wildcats.
"We focused on owning the line of scrimmage and that's what we did today," McGee said.
With the win Neuqua advances to take on the winner of Saturday's game between Palatine and Taft.