Neuqua Valley evens the score against Naperville Central

Neuqua Valley's win at Naperville Central Friday night wasn't for the DuPage Valley Conference championship.

It might have felt that way, however, to the Wildcats.

Naperville Central had already clinched the league crown with a stellar 5-0 record, a mark that included a 21-7 victory over Neuqua Valley on Sept. 22.

Friday's game was considered a nonconference affair pitting the top two teams in the league, as the Wildcats were second with a 4-1 record.

Sort of a "DVC Bowl" as it were, and it was visiting Neuqua Valley that got a measure of revenge for the earlier loss, locking down on defense in a 26-14 triumph.

The Wildcats took a 20-14 lead into halftime, then allowed the Redhawks zero points and just 96 yards of total offense in the final 2 quarters.

"Our defense was amazing," said Neuqua Valley junior running back William Beaman, who rushed for 119 yards in the contest.

"They've been playing absolutely ballistic this year, and I'm glad our offense has stepped up in the last couple of weeks."

Cooper Lehman of the Wildcats said it was the energy the team brought to Naperville that led to the win.

"It all starts up front," Lehman said. "Naperville Central has a great defensive line, and (our offensive line) was able to handle them tonight."

Naperville Central (7-2) scored twice in the first half, on a 5-yard run by Aiden Clark and an 82 yard pass play from quarterback Jack Cook to senior receive receiver Chris Bern.

Neuqua Valley (6-3) answered with three scores; two rushing TDs by quarterback Ryan Mohler, from 1 yard and 5 yards out, and a 2-yard plunge by Beaman.

Beaman's touchdown came after his 70-yard run from scrimmage to give the Wildcats first and goal.

"I had the right guys blocking for me," Beaman said, "and once I saw the hole break I just made a run for it. Then I heard someone growling behind me and tried to make a cut.

"That didn't work out and they caught me at the 10-yard line."

Neuqua Valley added on to it's advantage in the 3rd quarter on a 23-yard pass reception for a score from Mohler to a wide open Lehman.

Meanwhile the Wildcats' defense kept shutting down the Redhawks, the biggest stop coming on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter.

"We weren't prepared enough tonight, we didn't execute enough, and we didn't play physical enough," said Naperville Central coach Mike Ulrich.

"We kind of had a feeling what (the Wildcats) were going to do to take away our pass game and our run game. We just didn't have a chance to make the right adjustments and make plays."

Naperville Central, buoyed by another long pass play from Cook to Bern for 32 yards drove deep into Wildcats territory late in the final period.

But Neuqua Valley ended the threat when senior Miles Miskel made a clutch interception with just two minutes remaining.

"I knew they were going to run a corner or a post," Miskel said. "I felt the ball was coming my way, I just had to get in the right area and pick it up."

The Wildcats recorded 3 interceptions for the game, with Jacob VanderLaan and Andrew Hoffman getting the other 2.

Miskel added that the win gives Neuqua Valley momentum heading into the playoffs.

"This gives us a big boost," he said. "We're on a streak right now and we hope to keep that streak going, because it's win or go home."

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