Judging by the message Waubonsie Valley football coach Paul Murphy had for his team in the days leading up to Friday night's "Indian Prairie Classic" (and Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division contest) against Neuqua Valley at North Central College, if he ever decides to give up trodding the sidelines, he has another career as a psychic or perhaps Hollywood screenwriter waiting for him.
"I told the kids all week to expect overtime, and they were fully prepared," Murphy said. "I told the defense, 'If we win the toss, you're going to go out on defense and you're gonna have to hold them.' "
The scenario played out exactly as he predicted as six Warriors (6-1, 3-1) combined to stuff Neuqua's Joey Rhattigan on fourth-and-2 on the first possession of overtime to set up quarterback Dylan Warden's 6-yard scoring sweep that gave Waubonsie a 27-21 overtime victory over its District 204 rival.
"That was a tough play they were right there, but it worked out," Warden said of his game-winning keeper. "The really big play was when they were close and the defense stepped up and stopped them on fourth down."
The stop of Rhattigan, who had torched the Warriors for 240 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, occurred as Wildcats coach Bryan Wells was frantically trying to call a timeout.
"I was gonna do a different play because I didn't like how that had it flanked; they had more numbers than we did on that side of the field," Wells explained. "That's not an easy call when you know they can come out and line up and kick it on first down if they want."
Warden's OT winner came after he had directed a 9-play, 78-yard blood-and-guts touchdown drive in the final five minutes of regulation that was kept alive by a 16-yard hookup with Austin Guido on fourth-and-11 from the Neuqua 31. On the next snap, Warden faked a handoff to Guido and skated untouched around right end for the game-tying 15-yard score.
"Dylan and Guido stepped up in the fourth quarter; that's the first time all year Dylan found him on the check-release. If we don't make that, then we're in a lot of trouble," said Murphy. "We just had to execute. We had to believe and Dylan had to trust his eyesight. He grew up here in the fourth quarter."
Those types of big plays were common in the contest, especially when everyone least expected them. The Warriors were having all kinds of trouble finding an offensive rhythm through the game's first 17 minutes and found themselves trailing 7-0 thanks to Rhattigan's 24-yard burst. With less than seven minutes left in the opening half, Waubonsie had run all of 13 plays and totaled 19 yards when Warden suddenly hit Demitrius Gray with a 77-yard touchdown pass to knot the score.
Then, after Neuqua (5-2, 3-1) missed a field goal, Guido sprinted 80 yards to give the Warriors a 14-7 halftime lead.
Rhattigan broke one of his own, along with three tackles in front of the Waubonsie bench, on the way to an 87-yard score that tied the game at 14-14 with 10 minutes to play.
Neuqua went ahead on its next possession when Rhattigan had 56 of 66 yards on a 6-play drive, capped by his 21-yard scoring burst that put the Wildcats momentarily ahead.