Another week, another dominating performance for Joey Rhattigan and the Neuqua Valley offense.
South Elgin became the latest victim of the Wildcats and their relentless ground attack as Neuqua Valley continued its best start in school history with a 42-20 Upstate Eight Valley conference victory Saturday afternoon.
The visiting Wildcats (3-0, 1-0) racked up 363 rushing yards on 59 carries, and once again it was Rhattigan leading the way. The senior ran 27 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns and added an 85-yard kick return for a touchdown for good measure.
“It’s always nice to be able to run the ball,” Rhattigan said. “We really worked the tempo of the game with our offense. When we play fast, it’s hard to stop us when you have guys going both ways.”
It wasn’t wire-to-wire domination as the teams battled through a scoreless first quarter, but with a number of South Elgin players contributing on both offense and defense, it was only a matter of time before Neuqua Valley’s punishing running game took its toll.
Rhattigan provided the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with 6:48 left in the second quarter. He added another 1-yard scoring run with 22 seconds left in the first half to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead at the break.
TJ Scruggs got in on the fun with a 17-yard touchdown run on Neuqua Valley’s first drive of the second half. South Elgin’s ensuing drive ended in a blocked punt, setting up a short field for the Wildcats, who took advantage two plays later when Rhattigan scored on a 10-yard run to put the Wildcats up 28-0 midway through the third quarter.
Scruggs finished with 85 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and Iby Amedu added 87 yards on 12 carries for Neuqua Valley.
“With the running game they have, once they cross the 50 they’re in four-down territory,” South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said. “It’s tough to ask kids to stop a team four downs. (Neuqua) just has a ton of good athletes and good players.”
While the Wildcats took a while to fire up the engine on offense, their defense was running full throttle from the start.
South Elgin (1-2, 0-1) had to rely heavily on the pass with senior running back Jeff Broger sidelined with a leg injury he sustained in Week 2. Neuqua Valley was ready, holding the Storm scoreless until late in the third quarter.
“We knew they were going to throw the ball,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said. “Our defense just did a great job of dropping back into coverage and then bringing the pressure.”
The Storm finally found some consistency on offense in the second half, scoring three touchdowns in the final 17 minutes.
Junior Tyler Christensen produced a pair of touchdown catches, including a 57-yard reception from quarterback Rob Cuda, and finished with 125 yards on five catches.
Cuda completed 19 of 33 passes for 252 yards and was intercepted once. Backup quarterback Joey Balaja provided the Storm’s final touchdown on a 6-yard scamper.
NEUQUA VALLEY 42, SOUTH ELGIN 20
Neuqua Valley 0 14 14 14 – 42
South Elgin 0 0 6 14 – 20
NV – Rhattigan 1 run (Mulhern kick), 6:48
NV – Rhattigan 1 run (Mulhern kick), 0:27
NV – Scruggs 17 run (Mulhern kick), 9:29
NV – Rhattigan 10 run (Mulhern kick), 7:15
SE – Christensen 11 pass from Cuda (kick failed), 4:41
NV – Scruggs 1 run (Mulhern kick), 9:42
SE – Christensen 57 pass from Cuda (Marotta pass from Cuda), 8:32
NV – Rhattigan 85 kick return (Mulhern kick), 8:15
SE – Balaja 6 run (pass failed), 6:16
Team stats NV SE
First downs 24 17
Comp.-att.-int. 5-8-1 19-33-1
Passing yards 21 290
Rushing att.-yards 59-363 15-58
Total yards 384 348
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-40 4-30
NV — Rhattigan 27-173, Amedu 12-87, Scruggs 12-85, Meier 3-15, Patino 2-6, Dudek 1-3, Marzette 1-(-2), Andrew 1-(-4).
SE – Cager 5-29, Balaja 2-28, Bingham 1-3, Rodriguez 4-2, Cuda 3-4.
NV – Andrew 5-8-1 21.
SE – Cuda 19-33-1 252, Balaja 3-3-0 38.
NV – Dudek 4-18, Rhattigan 1-3.
SE – Christensen 5-125, Stanko 8-70, Cruz 3-51, Crivolio 4-25, Marotta 2-20.