High success rate for area football teams
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media November 13, 2012 6:02PM
Neuqua Valley's JP Quinn cleans mud out of running back Joey Rhattigan's helmet during their Class 8A quarterfinal game against Waubonsie Valley. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Players of the Week
OFFENSE—Neuqua Valley RB Joey Rhattigan. The senior carried the ball 40 times and ran for 292 yards and three scores as the top-seeded Wildcats earned a 23-20 victory over No. 4 Waubonsie Valley in a Class 8A state quarterfinal. On the year, Rhattigan has accumulated 2,149 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns.
DEFENSE—Waubonsie Valley DB Christian Gibbs. Despite the sloppy field conditions Saturday at Neuqua, the game was played fairly free of turnovers. Gibbs came through with the game’s only turnover with a second-quarter interception of Neuqua quarterback Dylan Andrew that set up a drive that eventually ended with a missed Warriors’ field goal.
Updated: December 15, 2012 6:25AM
With three local teams entering the postseason with at least eight victories for the first time since 2004, the success the area enjoyed during the regular season has carried into November.
Neuqua Valley, Benet and Waubonsie Valley all began the postseason with at least eight victories and each won a pair of games to reach the state quarterfinals.
For the first time since 1994, when Naperville North beat crosstown rival Naperville Central 21-11 in a Class 6A state semifinal, two area teams sit on the brink of state title game appearances after Neuqua Valley got past Waubonsie Valley and Benet edged Downers Grove North on Saturday.
With three postseason victories, including Saturday’s 23-20 victory over Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley (12-0) participates in its first state semifinal on Saturday when the Wildcats host 11-1 Mount Carmel, which earned a Class 8A second-round triumph in overtime at Neuqua Valley two years ago.
“I make it more about the fact that we’re in the semifinals and less about the team we’re playing,” Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said. “To me, the fact we’re in the semifinals and have a chance to make it downstate; that’s bigger than our opponent.”
Benet will be looking to go somewhere it hasn’t been in 28 years when it hosts undefeated Lincoln-Way East on Saturday night in Lisle.
A sophomore defensive back at Benet back in 1984, New was on the Benet team that lost to Morris in the Class 4A state title game, the program’s only such appearance, and was a senior on the 1986 team that won its first 11 games before losing in a Class 4A state quarterfinal to Crystal Lake South.
But New’s postseason experience extends further.
Fourteen years after experiencing that state-title defeat to Morris as a sophomore, New was on Larry McKeon’s staff at Naperville North when the Huskies made a pair of state semifinal trips in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Benet continues its unexpected run from going 1-8 in 2011 to tying the program’s single-season record for wins with 11. After the Redwings’ last-second, 26-24 victory at Downers Grove North and facing top-seeded Lincoln-Way East in the Class 7A state semifinal Saturday at Benet, New had a message for his team.
“As I’ve talked to my team, too, I was involved in two state semifinal games when I was a coach at Naperville North (in 1998 and 2000),” New said, “and I thought in both of those games, we were the better team and we lost. So anything can happen in the playoffs and I think our guys realize that.”
Neuqua’s and Benet’s semifinal appearances Saturday mark the first time that an area school other than Naperville North or Naperville Central sits one victory away from a state championship game trip since Waubonsie Valley lost to Naperville North, 15-13, in a 1992 Class 6A state semifinal.
Since Naperville North’s two-point victory 20 years ago, which preceded the program’s first state title, Naperville North and Naperville Central have combined to make the area’s last nine semifinal appearances.
But with the way the 2012 season has played out around the Naperville area, New isn’t surprised that the area is well represented heading into this weekend.
“I think it’s a testament to our youth football programs out here. There’s such a tremendous talent pool in the Naperville area and I’m really not surprised by it,” he said. “You know, it’s very competitive in all sports. Our soccer programs out here are great. Our volleyball programs are excellent and there’s just a lot of really top-notch athletes. There’s just such a huge talent pool.”