No, Neuqua Valley won’t be seeing double when it faces No. 8 Homewood-Flossmoor in a first round game in the Class 8A playoffs.
The Vikings (7-2) feature twins Deante and Devonte Harley-Hampton in the backfield and a dynamic quarterback in Bryce Gray.
If there’s one thing the Wildcats (6-3) have been strong at all season it’s been in stopping the run.
The only two players that really tried to run against Neuqua constantly were Naperville Central’s Kevin Clifford (31 rushes, 95 yards) and Metea Valley’s Bryson Oliver (32 carries, 123 yards). Both only had modest success.
Neuqua had its way with most of the other talented running backs the Wildcats saw this season, limiting Waubonsie Valley’s Tony Durns (19 carries, 52 yards), South Elgin’s Kyle Ware (12 carries, 39 yards) and Bartlett’s Nolan Bernat (12 carries, one yard) during Upstate Eight Valley play.
Linebackers D.J. Warkenthien (93 tackles, five sacks) and Liam Bunge (71 tackles, including 11 for loss) will look to continue to lead Neuqua’s defensive effort.
What goes around
The ball doesn’t always bounce your way. Just ask Naperville Central.
Last Friday, No. 21 Wheaton Warrenville South’s Jonathan Johnson fumbled the ball away in the final minute, only to have it bounce off the turf and into the hands of teammate Keishawn Watson, who ran it in for the game-winning touchdown.
Wasn’t that scoop and run incredibly similar to the play of the game in last year’s Class 8A title game between the Redhawks and Loyola Academy?
As all Central fans will never forget, Loyola was lining up for a field goal in the fourth quarter and looking to cut the Redhawks’ lead to 6-5 when Dillon Grooss blocked the attemp that, rebounded off the turf and took it in for an 83-yard TD.
Welcome to the club
Benet (6-3) will make its 8A playoff debut when the Redwings travel Saturday to No. 13 Hinsdale Central (7-2).
The Redwings have qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons, something they haven’t done as a program since 1984-1986.
They’ll need a strong effort once again from their defense as they’ll need to disturb 6-8 Red Devils quarterback Matt Rafferty.
Notes, quotes and nuggets
- No. 10 Naperville Central’s loss last Friday was just its second at home in two years. The Redhawks haven’t lost at home by more than seven points since falling 45-0 to Wheaton North on Oct. 5, 2012.
- Waubonsie’s Zack Bennema only averaged eight pass attempts and 44 yards in the Warriors’ first seven games. During the past two weeks, he’s attempting nearly 17 passes and throwing for 214 yards. In the previous meeting against Metea Valley, he was 2-for-5 for 77 yards and a touchdown.
- “I don’t think our record really reflects on what type of team we are. We’ve had some tough losses. I don’t think we’ve played a full, complete game yet. I think we could go out there and play a very good team and stick with them,” Metea Valley quarterback Kyle Mooney said.
- If it seems strange that you don’t see Naperville North scheduled for a playoff game this weekend, well, you have reason to feel that way. The Huskies (2-7) got off to a great start with a 14-13 win over Neuqua Valley (6-3) in their season opener but ended up losing their final seven games. This is the first year the Huskies haven’t made the playoffs since 1996 and their first losing season since 1983.