Keaton Casey’s catch carries Waubonsie Valley past Neuqua

SHARE Keaton Casey’s catch carries Waubonsie Valley past Neuqua

Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley went back and forth at each other as anticipated during Friday’s crucial Upstate Eight Valley game at North Central College in Naperville.

Each team converted its fair share of big plays, but it was the Warriors that made the biggest one late in the fourth quarter to escape with a thrilling, 34-28 victory.

With the victory, Waubonsie Valley (7-1, 5-1) is tied with the No. 23 Wildcats for the conference lead, but hold an edge by winning the head-to-head meeting.

Waubonsie Valley scored the game-winning touchdown on a 32-yard pass from Zack Bennema (14-for-21, 260 yards, three TDs) to Keaton Casey (eight catches, 138 yards, two TDs) with 1:18 remaining to break a 28-28 tie.

“We knew our best receiver was Casey and we just threw enough hitch routes on them,” Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said. “We knew we’d eventually get the hitch-and-go.”

Neuqua Valley (5-3, 5-1) made a few tremendous plays on third and fourth down to tie the game and then take the lead late in the third quarter.

The first one came on their own 15-yard line as the Wildcats converted a third-and-23 on a 79-yard catch-and-run from Isaiah Robertson (six catches, 158 yards). Quarterback Broc Rutter (15-for-29, 244 yards, three TDs) later connected on a 1-yard pass to Evan Moore to tie the game at 21-21.

The next one came on a fourth-and-10 on the Waubonsie Valley 21 as Rutter found Charlie Hunter for a 16-yard reception up the middle. A couple plays later, Rutter found Moore again, this time for a 9-yard TD and first lead of the game.

“We had the momentum at the end of the third quarter and that was about it,” Rutter. “It was a game of big plays and they just made more than us.”

Because the Warriors have run the ball so well this season, they’ve rarely turned to the pass. That changed considerably and proved to be the difference.

“We’ve known since last year that with the way they play this 3-5 defense you’ve got to pass on it,” Murphy said. “If you watch any of the game film, there are big plays that they gave up against the pass.”

Bennema, who entered the game with just 311 passing yards, was happy to oblige.

In the first half, he converted a pair of third downs with big passing plays, a 44-yard strike to Jake Schroeder and a 39-yard pass to Casey.

Bennema also connected with Buford for a 6-yard TD on the first play of the second quarter and then on added a 12-yard TD pass to Casey midway through the quarter for a 21-7 lead.

“We knew we had the personnel, the great receivers,” Bennema said. “Keaton Casey, Will Buford, Justin Rich and (Jake) Schroeder and Rodney Gee are all great receivers that just haven’t been used much because our running game has been so good.”

Neuqua Valley bounced back, getting a great 29-yard TD reception from Rutter to Owen Piche with 3:31 left in the first half and then used that momentum when it took a brief lead in the third quarter.

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