Halloween is still a few weeks away, but Neuqua Valley found itself in a giving mood during Thursday's DuPage Valley Conference finale against visiting Naperville North.
The Wildcats weren't giving out candy though, but a couple of Christmas presents on set plays, which resulted in a 2-1 loss.
"We love to do that," Wildcats coach Arnoldo Gonzalez said. "We love to give Christmas presents in October. It's like an early Black Friday."
Gonzalez said he talked to his team before the game about how dangerous the Huskies are on restarts and reiterated it at halftime with the Wildcats leading 1-0. Regardless of his stern warning, the Wildcats proved incapable of stopping those set pieces.
"We knew it was just going to happen," he said. "They were too casual on the ball and putting it out of bounds. One thing we talked about was let's not be too casual playing the ball out of bounds."
Naperville North (20-1-1, 7-1-0) secured its 25th conference title with the victory.
"We've had a great year," Huskies coach Jim Konrad said. "I think we've had five or six teams in school history win 20 games and these guys did it in the regular season. So that's an accomplishment; however, we have not done it in a blaze of glory."
The Huskies always seem to find a way to win and such was the case Thursday.
Midway through the second half, Jack Barry's throw-in found Colin Iverson, whose header drew the Huskies even.
"We always know no matter how much we're down by, we always know we can come back," Iverson said. "It doesn't matter if it's restarts or booting it up top, we're always in it. The ball was slippery today, but I always trust Barry can get the ball in there."
Another throw-in from Barry once again went to Iverson with 16:45 remaining, but this time his flick went out to Ethan Harvey, who booted in for the game-winner.
"In the second half it felt like everyone was on key and focused and dialed in," Barry said. "Our mantra is just that everyone goes out and does their job 1 percent better. We did that and we came out better as a team in the second half."
Neuqua Valley (14-6-0, 5-4-0) received a goal from Jason Benjamin with 29:38 remaining in the first half and held onto that 1-0 lead for nearly 50 minutes.
"A cross was played in (from David Kuhn) and they weren't focused on the back line," Benjamin said. "I saw the opportunity and tapped it in."
Both teams now turn their attention over to next week's Class 3A Lockport regional. If both win their semifinal games, they'll meet again, this time for a regional title next Friday.
"Neuqua Valley is a great team that's super athletic," Konrad said. "Their center backs are great kids and they play hard. Obviously, we're not looking forward to a rematch, but we're hoping to get them next Friday night."