Neuqua Valley senior running back Joey Rhattigan rushed for 365 yards on 26 carries and scored on runs of 22, 84, seven, five and 53 yards Friday night to power the Wildcats to a wild 44-33 victory over defending champion Bolingbrook in the second round of the Class 8A state playoffs.
“He keeps his feet going,” Raiders senior linebacker Emile Wisdom said of Rhattigan. “He’s not ever going to take a break.”
Wisdom then paid Rhattigan the ultimate compliment.
“That was (Joliet Catholic back) Ty Isacc when I played in little league football with him,” he said.
The return of Bolingbrook senior quarterback Aaron Bailey meant the two superstars were on the field.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the one wearing the Neuqua Valley road uniform refused to be stopped.
Rhattigan ran behind a monster offensive line that averages 240 pounds and decidedly won the battle in the trenches.
“We were just physically overmatched size-wise,” Raiders veteran defensive coordinator Bob Corra said. “Their offensive line blew us off the ball.
“Then there were a couple of times we hit him (Rhattigan) in the backfield and he broke free. That last touchdown, he was stopped and broke free and went 50-some yards.”
Bailey, though, was not to be outdone.
The Illinois-bound quarterback had not played suffering a right knee sprain on the second snap of Bolingbrook’s loss to Lincoln-Way East in Week 6. Only the insiders knew for sure that they would be watching Bailey on Friday rather than sophomore Quincy Woods, who filled in admirably after Bailey’s injury.
Although not at 100 percent, Bailey rushed for 210 yards in 31 carries, scored touchdowns on runs of 14, 1 and 20 yards and opened the scoring with a 10-yard pass to Brandon Lewis on a fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line. He completed 7-of-17 passes for 76 yards and siffered a late interception. He also was victimized by a couple of drops, one a long throw over the middle that may have resulted in a touchdown had it been caught.
Bolingbrook (8-3) finished with 371 yards of offense and 23 first downs, numbers usually good enough to win.
If only Neuqua (11-0) had not brought Rhattigan to the party.
“This is a tough pill to swallow,” Corra said.