NAPERVILLE -- Since the Indian Prairie School District split for the first time in 1998 when Neuqua Valley varsity football debuted, neither the Wildcats nor Waubonsie Valley have reached the state quarterfinals -- until this year.
And the two teams will have to face each other to see who will move on to the Class 8A semifinals. Waubonsie has one semifinal appearance under its belt (1992) while Neuqua is in the midst of the best season in program history, setting a school record with an 11-0 record and reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time ever after knocking off defending state champion Bolingbrook last week.
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The two Upstate Eight Valley rivals renew acquaintances Saturday at 6 p.m. at Neuqua. The game will be shown on CN100, The Comcast Network, at Noon and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11, and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13. You can also find the game throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
"I think it's going to motivate us even further," Neuqua running back Joey Rhattigan said. "I don't think this team wants to be done. We want to keep pushing forward, and I think that's what we're going to do. This game pumps you up and makes you focus."
The two rivals squared off in front of over 5,000 fans at North Central College in Week 7. Neuqua escaped with a 35-34 double overtime win to give Waubonsie its lone loss of the season. As has been the case all season for both teams, it was the running back battle that highlighted the evening.
Waubonsie senior Austin Guido is the Warriors' all-time leading rusher and has posted 2,236 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. Rhattigan ran for 341 yards and five scores in the Wildcats' thrilling 44-33 win over Bolingbrook last week and has put up 1,891 yards and 30 touchdowns. The pair was named co-MVP of the Upstate Eight Valley this week.
Waubonsie's offense also features a solid passing game thanks to athletic senior Dylan Warden under center. Tight end Troy Fumagalli, who has committed to Wisconsin, is his main target. Linebacker Austin Lacke, who is being looked at by Ivy League schools, was named the conference's defensive MVP this week.
"We thought this senior class could be special when they were freshmen," Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy said. "They were special when they were freshmen and sophomores and we were having a special season last year when we had that glitch in the first round of the playoffs (the Warriors were 8-1 when they were upset)."
Waubonsie hasn't won this many games since going 12-1 in 1992. The Warriors have reached the playoffs in each of the past six seasons and eight of the past nine, but hadn't reached the quarters since 1994.
Neuqua can pass the ball as well, with Dylan Andrew leading the attack. Mike Dudek is the Wildcats' main target in the pass game. But Rhattigan was the story against Bolingbrook last week. He helped rally the Wildcats from a 33-28 fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the state champs on their home field.
"I believe it is, I really do," first-year Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said when asked if that was the biggest win in school history. "Past the second round for the first time, beating Bolingbrook, the defending state champs. It's huge, it really is."
The rivalry game is played at North Central College every year, so it's the first time this group of Waubonsie players has played a game at Neuqua. The district has been split a third way in recent years with the introduction of Metea Valley, so the talent in the district has been redistributed yet again.
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- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
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