Broc Rutter steers ship as Neuqua Valley gets best of Bartlett

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Broc Rutter is glowing with confidence these days, and why not.

His Neuqua Valley pitch-and-catch game is on some kind of roll.

Rutter threw five touchdown passes before taking a seat in the third quarter, and Neuqua Valley overwhelmed Upstate Eight Valley rival Bartlett 54-29 Friday in Naperville.

Neuqua (5-2, 5-0), playoff-eligible after its fifth straight win, has averaged 55 points over its last four games. It’s a stunning turnaround from a team that was shut out in Week 2 by Naperville Central.

“The points don’t lie. We’re in a good rhythm right now,” said Rutter, 13-for-15 for 274 yards. “We learned from that shutout Week 2 and we’ve been getting better each week. And we aren’t satisfied, even with this 54 points we put up.”

Rutter completed his first seven passes, throwing TD passes of a yard to Isaiah Robertson and 45 yards to a wide-open Zachary Herdman. Two plays after his first incompletion, he found Robertson on third-and-23, and the talented sophomore raced 77 yards for a TD and 27-7 lead.

Dominick Muoghalu’s second touchdown run set up by a Liam Bunge interception made it 34-7. Neuqua scored TDs on its first five possessions — in fact, the only thing that stopped the eight drives Rutter led was a kneel-down before the half.

“Yeah, we’re starting to click,” Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus smiled. “It’s good to see. Broc was good, and we have very talented receivers.”

Rutter later threw his fifth TD — and 16th of the season — to Alex Teresky. It’s a far cry from an offense which struggled in an 0-2 start against Naperville North and Naperville Central.

“We had some young guys, some sophomores — it was just a matter of time,” Rutter said. “We knew those younger guys would come around and make plays.”

Bartlett (3-4, 2-3) was coming off a big overtime win over Glenbard East, a game in which the Hawks defense forced seven turnovers.

But there was no defense for Neuqua.

Bartlett quarterback Brenner Wallace completed 28 of 45 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns — two of them to Ryan DiCanio. The Hawks also reached into their bag of tricks, completing a fake-punt pass from their own end zone that led to Wallace’s first score. Bartlett also recovered an onside kick in the second half, setting up another TD.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

“They’re a better team than us. They’re coming on,” Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said of Neuqua. “We knew we had to do some different things to mix it up a little bit. You have to grab bag sometimes against better teams.”

Bartlett can still get in the playoffs with two wins, and home games left against South Elgin and East Aurora.

“We have our backs against the wall,” Meaney said. “We have to come out and play better.”

Neuqua, meanwhile, next takes aim at district rival Waubonsie Valley. That the Warriors are no longer undefeated, after an overtime loss to West Aurora, hardly diminishes the game’s significance in Rutter’s eyes.

“It’s Waubonsie.” Rutter said. “No matter who has what record, it’s always going to be a dogfight.”

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