Joey Rhattigan of Neuqua,center, is puled doen by Brock Westwood and Connor Ihry during the Neuqua Valley vs. Waubonsie Valley game at North Central College Friday in Naperville.
Paul Michna | Staff Photographer
In the Class 8A football quarterfinals on Saturday, No. 1 seed Neuqua Valley and No. 4 Waubonsie Valley play the biggest game either team has had since 1992, when B.J. Lukes Waubonsie Warriors lost to Naperville North in the Class 6A semifinals.
Itll be an event for the ages, hopefully, said Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus.
To District 204 students its always a huge deal when their teams clash. Its happened 14 times never before in the playoffs with the Wildcats owning a 10-4 series lead. The games have gone to overtime three times, including the last two meetings.
A great game looms Saturday at Neuqua but first, a look back at some of the rivalrys key contests.
1999, Neuqua 14, Waubonsie 6: The first game in the series. Bryan Wells Wildcats win in their second year as a varsity program. Neuqua tailback Bryen Johnsons 2 second-quarter touchdowns prevail.
2001, Waubonsie 7, Neuqua 0: The first of the series overtime games and the Warriors first win, three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Andrew Block atones for a fumble on Waubonsies last possession in regulation with a 7-yard touchdown run in overtime.
2003, Neuqua 28, Waubonsie 7: Notable for the series debut at North Central College and four injured players, including Waubonsie quarterback Paul Blalock and tailback Larry Russell. Neuquas Mike Genslinger runs for 3 touchdowns.
2004, Neuqua 63, Waubonsie 21: Neuqua scores on its first six possessions in the series first blowout. Wildcats quarterback Ken Rice sets a program record with 244 yards passing. We didnt want to just beat them we wanted to show they cant play with us, he said.
2005, Neuqua 22, Waubonsie 3: Waubonsie coach Paul Murphys first series game. Rich Tronolones 20-yard field goal give him a 3-0 lead, but Neuqua scores 22 unanswered points, Alan Smith and Jonn The Train Haywood combining for 265 yards rushing.
2008: Waubonsie 28, Neuqua 26: The Warriors enter the game 0-3 but win the quarterback showdown between Waubonsies Tyler Castro (268 yards passing) and Neuquas Alex Lincoln (265 passing).
2011: Waubonsie 27, Neuqua 21: Dylan Wardens 6-yard touchdown run in overtime is the difference. That, and a defensive stop of Neuquas Joey Rhattigan on fourth-and-2.
2012: Neuqua 35, Waubonsie 34: The best of all 14 meetings and the first with Bill Ellinghaus as Wildcats head coach. Both teams enter at 6-0, 3-0 in the Upstate Eight Valley. Waubonsies Austin Guido rushes 37 times for 255 yards and the Warriors survive 2 interceptions and a lost fumble to reach overtime. After overtime touchdowns by Waubonsies Guido and Warden and Neuquas Rhattigan and Mike Dudek, Neuquas Ryan Mulhern kicks the decisive extra point in the second overtime and Waubonsies 2-point conversion run fails.
Which sets the stage for Saturday.
For the seniors on both sides of the ball this will be a game theyll remember for the rest of their lives, Murphy said.
Heart and soul:
Last week Glenbard North managed to edge Stevenson despite the absence of linebacker Mario Rodriguez because of a knee injury. After a stellar regular season, Rodriguez was named the DuPage Valley Conference defensive player of the year.
The reason Mario was DVC defensive player of the year is because he plays every single play like its his last, said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens after his teams win in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs. We told the guys, thats what we expect from all of them.
A nice effort by the defensive line helped overcome the loss while Nick Maxwell, normally a safety, stepped up to fill the void at linebacker. Hurt at times during the season, Maxwell brings a similar physical style of play as Rodriguez.
Heading into Saturdays semifinals at top-seeded Maine South (11-0), look for Maxwell to get a bunch of playing time for the No. 4 Panthers (10-1). Quarterback Brian Murphy and running back Justin Jackson remain integral parts of the secondary.
That was a big blow for us, but we need some guys to step up, Wilkens said.
When Class 7A top seed Glenbard West (11-0) plays host to No. 5 Wheaton North (10-1) Saturday afternoon, the Hilltoppers will enjoy more than just a home-field advantage.
Playing at Glen Ellyns Duchon Field will mark Wheaton Norths first game on grass this season. Given the wear and tear on the field, Falcons coach Joe Wardynski is trying his best to prepare his team for the natural surface.
We havent practiced on the grass all season because we havent had the need to do it, Wardynski said. It gets dark so early now, but were trying to get as much work done on the grass fields as we can. The kids just arent used to playing on it.
While acknowledging his teams experience on grass is an advantage, Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet believes the Hilltoppers own an additional advantage by playing in Glen Ellyn. Wheaton North, like many of Glenbard Wests opponents, has not played a Saturday game or a day game all season.
For teams that havent played on Saturday before, it can be hard to figure out what to do on Friday night, Hetlet said.
For his Saturday afternoon home games, Hetlet said he typically brings the team in for breakfast and then allows them to be on their own until they come back to school at 11:45 a.m. to prep for a 1:30 p.m. game. Even though this weeks game has a 1 p.m. start time, its still a routine that increases the comfort level for the players.
Theres something about playing on Saturdays that weve always enjoyed, Hetlet said. Weve seen teams come in here and just be a little different than they are on Fridays.
In addition to their games in the Suburban Christian Conference, Montini and Marian Central have met eight times in the playoffs, each winning four.
This gets to be tiring.
Yeah, Im not going to lie to you, said Montini coach Chris Andriano. Its hard to beat them. Theyre tough.
As he said, Marians players, and success, is a reflection of its coaching staff. Headed by Ed Brucker, the Hurricanes staff features Terry Stanger and his son Dirk, Tim Lawler and Steve Spoden. All have been with Brucker in his 10 seasons at Marian.
Were similar in a lot of ways, Andriano said. Were a little bit old school. We believe in doing things within a system. Discipline is part of your program. Honest effort, hard work. Our kids and their kids are very similar in a lot of ways no excuses, no short cuts, do it the right way.
The coaches are similar also in their general dislike of playing each other so many times in the playoffs. Montini has won the last three meetings against the Hurricanes, who last won the playoff meeting in 2007.
I like the good games, Brucker said. Competitive games are a challenge, but at the same time you get tired of playing the same people. Id just as soon play someone else thats good.
After Saturday one of them will get that chance.
Theyre hungry, were hungry, Andriano said.
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