Defense ignites Neuqua's comeback win over Naperville North
Last year Andrew Hoffman was playing quarterback for the Neuqua Valley freshman team. This year he's terrorizing quarterbacks on opposing varsity teams.
The Wildcats defensive back picked off two Naperville North passes Friday and helped his team open the DuPage Valley Conference season with a 17-7 win over the Huskies (2-2, 0-1). All told, the Wildcats defense had three picks, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt while rallying from a 7-3 deficit in the third quarter.
Hoffman's second interception came when Naperville North was threatening to close the 17-7 deficit but had just 2:06 left on the clock. He grabbed the errant pass from Carson Marlar, who had taken over at quarterback after Jacob Bell left with an injury.
"Even if they scored there at the end it might not have mattered but coach always tells us not to give up any points," said Hoffman, who has three interceptions already this fall. "The first one I got it just came right to me and it was all the defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback."
On the game-clinching pick, it was more of the same, and afterward a large student section on the visitors' side chanted "He's a sophomore."
"It was great to have our fans out like that for a road game," Hoffman said. "Everyone was doubting us after a 1-2 start but we played three tough teams. We needed this one tonight and we got it."
The Wildcats (2-2, 1-0) opened the scoring when Taylor Easton connected on a 40-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half. But the Huskies went ahead 7-3 on a 46-yard touchdown pass to Luke Williams, whose big night was overshadowed by the loss.
Williams had two interceptions of his own and also caught 10 passes for 120 yards for the Huskies. But on two occasions on Friday the Huskies turned the ball back over to the Wildcats on the very next plays after a Neuqua turnover.
"Those were huge momentum shifts. We got the touchdown and a pick and then we turned it right over," Williams said. "It feels like Neuqua is always good on defense. Everybody brings great energy and they're always well coached."
William Beaman had the Wildcats' third interception and the team did just enough on offense to get the win. Junior Kiet Truong got his first start at quarterback and Ryan Mohler came off the bench to spark the team with a couple key runs, including a 2-yard touchdown. Silvano Spatafora rushed for 60 yards and a score for the Wildcats.
"This defense has been turning the ball over and it's been fun to watch," Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said. "We played great defense tonight and we were just good enough on offense to get a big win."