Neuqua, Mount Carmel quarterbacks take center stage
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media November 17, 2012 10:48PM
Neuqua Valley's Mikey Dudek dives for a catch against Mount Carmel. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 1:07PM
Given Mount Carmel’s rich tradition of running the veer-option en route to winning 10 state titles and Neuqua Valley’s senior running back Joey Rhattigan’s season-long exploits, running was the name of the game entering Saturday’s Class 8A state semifinal between the third-seeded Caravan and top-seeded Wildcats.
But someone forgot to tell that to the teams’ senior signal-callers — Mount Carmel’s Don Butkus and Neuqua Valley’s Dylan Andrew.
With the defenses paying attention to the rushing attack produced by Butkus and his two lieutenants in the Caravan’s backfield — junior Matt Domer and senior Draco Smith — along with Rhattigan for the Wildcats, it was the quarterbacks’ arms that played a big role in Mount Carmel’s 26-21 victory over Neuqua Valley.
The Caravan extended its winning streak to seven games and earned the program’s 16th trip to a state title game next week against 12-1 Glenbard North in large part behind the exploits of Butkus through the air.
In the first half, Butkus connected on seven-of-10 passing for 87 yards and two TDs, both of which went to senior Jason Gasser.
Butkus kept his aerial momentum going in the second half by finding Gasser for a seven-yard score with 8:17 remaining in regulation that gave Mount Carmel (12-1) its first lead of the game at 20-14.
“We really focused on the run concept this week and we figured if we could shut that down … we were going to give up things in the passing (game),” Neuqua Valley safety Spencer Donahue said. “We knew that coming in we were gonna give up some in the pass (game) and they took advantage of it and it worked out for them and we couldn’t get back to it.”
Domer ran for 157 yards and a TD on 25 carries on his night, but it was the night Butkus enjoyed — 10-of-15 passing for 127 yards and three TDs, all to Gasser — that ultimately proved to be the Wildcats’ undoing.
Doing his best to match Butkus throw-for-throw, especially with the Caravan’s front seven geared to stop Rhattigan, Andrew did his best to keep his teammates in the game.
Completing 11-of-20 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, it was Andrew that gave his teammates what would turn out to be their final lead of the game at 14-7 after finding junior Mikey Dudek for a 10-yard score and a 14-7 Wildcats’ lead with just under two minutes remaining in the first half.
“(Butkus) is a great quarterback. He came out and made some plays and I had to come up with some answers,” said Andrew, who completed eight of his nine first-half passes for 155 yards and a TD.
“I think we did a good job of that for the most part. It’s just making plays. That’s all it is and they made more than we did (Saturday) night.”
Following Andrew’s connection with Dudek, Neuqua Valley (12-1) watched Mount Carmel’s offense put up 19 unanswered points en route to taking a 26-14 advantage following a failed two-point conversion attempt. On the play Butkus was injured and needed help just to get off the field with 1:10 remaining in regulation.
Rhattigan saw his stellar high school career end on a sour note.
Limited to 25 yards on 11 carries by Mount Carmel’s defense in the first half, Rhattigan finished with 77 yards on 20 carries — marking just the second time all year he was held under 100 yards.
“Dylan played very, very well (Saturday) night. Our passing game was working,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said.
“Unfortunately, I felt we just ran out of time a little bit. We had a 99-yard drive and then stall out on the one-yard line, so you can look back on a million plays in a course of a game.
“They made a couple extra, a couple more plays than we did (Saturday) night.”