After the first half ended with a West Aurora score, it was Neuqua Valley’s chance to respond Friday night.
The Wildcats came out and atoned for giving up a last-second touchdown before intermission, taking control and coasting to a 48-35 Upstate Eight Valley victory.
It may be the first and only time the two schools meet, with the Wildcats moving to the DuPage Valley next season.
Dominick Muoghalu scored three rushing TDs and quarterback Broc Rutter threw three scoring strikes to help the Wildcats (4-2, 4-0) stay unbeaten in the conference.
It was a physical game. For West Aurora (1-5, 1-3), two players sustained injuries — Zack Vatta suffered a neck injury, and T.J. Jackson was involved in a helmet-to-helmet collision.
Neuqua Valley never trailed and was in control throughout. But the Blackhawks got life at the end of the first half.
After calling timeout with a second left, Johnathan Doyle hit Jackson over the middle. The 6-1 senior running back broke a tackle against Neuqua’s prevent defense and scored from 43 yards out to cut the halftime lead to 34-22. Jackson added another TD in the fourth quarter.
“We could have had our heads down after that play, but we talked to our kids about responding,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said. “It’s always about the next play for us. Our defense responded and our offense played well. Pretty good four quarters, minus a few big plays.”
The Wildcats’ first possession of the second half was a two-play, 47-yard drive highlighted by a 24-yard pass from Rutter to Evan Moore and finished by Muoghalu’s two-yard run.
Rutter’s 26-yard pass over the middle to Brett Borske gave the Wildcats an insurmountable 48-22 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Rutter completed 10 passes for 189 yards for the balanced Wildcats, who also gained 169 yards rushing.
Outmanned on the line, West Aurora relied on the big play. After the Blackhawks got down 14-0 in the first 2:06, Drake Spears returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score. And DaQuan Cross swept around left end for a 35-yard TD to close the gap to 21-14.
The Wildcats held West Aurora to 142 yards rushing, many of which came from a scrambling Doyle late (16 carries, 68 yards). And Doyle completed 14 passes for 202 yards.
“We couldn’t get our running game going, but Johnathan played a heck of a game,” West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. “That is probably the best group of (Wildcat) linebackers we’ll see all year.”
Muoghalu led Neuqua with 95 yards on 18 carries. Isaiah Robertson had 68 receiving yards and several long kick returns.