Neuqua Valley on wrong end of DeKalb's 'statement' win
DeKALB - DeKalb coach Derek Schneeman called Friday's 14-0 win over DuPage Valley Conference leader Neuqua Valley a "statement" win.
DeKalb defensive back Austin Martin said the statement was a simple one as the Barbs (5-3, 3-2) became playoff eligible for the first time since 2019.
"We made a statement that we're still a great team," said Martin, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the win. "The last couple losses we've had against (Naperville) Central and (Naperville) North, we might not have been prepared for. But I promise you we were prepared for this one, and we're going to be prepared for all of them that come after."
The Barbs had lost to Naperville North (38-21) and Naperville Central (26-0 last week) in games against teams the Wildcats (6-2, 4-1) had beaten. And Neuqua was playing with quarterback Mark Mennecke, who had been missing since Week 2 with an injury.
But DeKalb kept pressure on him throughout the first half, and a hit from Aiden Sisson eventually knocked Mennecke out of the game.
The Wildcats had won five straight with Ryan Mohler at quarterback.
"We didn't put a point on the board, so obviously when you can't put points on the board you didn't play well," Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghuas said. "We didn't execute, that's the bottom line. We have to do a better job executing. Defensively, we played our butts off. We gave up a couple early scores, and then we just battled [our butts] off in an outstanding second half."
Neither team scored in the second half. Neuqua Valley had a long third-quarter drive that got inside the DeKalb 10-yard line, but a holding penalty backed things up, and the defense kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard.
After Neuqua Valley got the ball back, the Wildcats marched to the DeKalb 24, but facing a fourth-and-7, Ethan Tierney broke up a pass play to get the Barbs the ball back.
"We've won a lot of football games with Mohler back there," Ellinghaus said. "[Mennecke] was running around back there, doing what Mark does. He's a great athlete and I feel bad for him. I'm anxious to see what happened. He left the field and went home to get some treatment. We'll see where that's at. My No. 1 concern is his health. We've had Moeller back there before. I'm confident we'll regroup and we'll be better next week."
The Wildcats forced a three-and-out, then got to the DeKalb 15. But Hoard made three plays on the next set of downs to force a turnover on downs; a 5-yard loss on a run first-down attempt, a pass breakup at the line on third-and-15, and a sack on fourth down.
On the next drive, Talen Tate had the biggest play of the second half for the Barbs, a 22-yard on third-and-6 into Wildcats territory to keep the clock running, eventually going under a minute by the time Neuqua got the ball back.
"We struggled to run the ball at times and credit them - defensively they're really, really good," Schneeman said. "They haven't given up a ton of points. We knew it was going to be tough sledding coming in. That run from Talen was huge."
DeKalb scored on its first possession of the game. After quarterback Adrian McVicar found Ethan McCarter for a 32-yard reception, Tate punched it in from a yard out. The Barbs added a touchdown early in the second when McCarter made a leaping catch on third-and-14 from the 19 for the first down.
Neither team scored for the remainder of the half, but both teams had their chances. The last three Neuqua Valley drives ended on turnovers, all forced by Martin. But DeKalb was unable to capitalize on any of them including one when they got down to the 20 of the Wildcats but moved backward because of penalties.
"It's a statement win in a tough conference," Schneeman said. "It wasn't pretty and it wasn't easy but I couldn't be more proud of our guys. Every time they needed to they answered the bell tonight. It was a complete team win."
Mennecke started the game at quarterback for the first time since suffering a Week 2 injury. He was pressured all half by the Barbs' front line and especially Sisson, who tackled Mennecke on the end of a 7-yard run on third-and-15.
Mohler then came back in at quarterback after starting since Week 3. Neuqua Valley marched down to the DeKalb 9, but Martin recovered a fumble. The next two Neuqua drives didn't get deep into DeKalb territory, and both ended with interceptions by Martin.
"I knew had to clear my mind," Martin said. "Yes, I had a couple great plays, amazing plays, but we still had a half of football left. I had to put those behind me and focus on the next half."
DeKalb finished with 178 yards of offense, led by 64 yards on 14 carries by Tate and three catches for 67 yards by McCarter. The Wildcats ran 31 more plays than the Barbs and finished with 291 yards but had four turnovers - the three by Martin and an interception of Mennecke by Tierney.
Martin said the win was a long time coming.
"It's amazing. We've played this team since we were 8 years old," Martin said. "Every year we've lost to them up until this point. This was our last year to get this win, and we came out ready to pound them."