South Elgin brought in a cannon Saturday used at Northern Illinois University football games to fire off in celebration of scores at this season’s first home game.
Neuqua Valley’s offense and Broc Rutter brought in heavy firepower of their own, however, scoring 37 straight points to break open a 13-13 tie for a 50-28 Upstate Eight Valley victory.
“That’s the best we’ve looked, by far, in practice all week and it led right into the game,” Rutter said of his team’s offense. “We’re starting to come together as a unit.”
Rutter completed 10-of-16 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns and ran in another score, and running back Charlie Hunter delivered three short TDs to help Neuqua Valley (2-2, 2-0) get back to .500.
“I think obviously starting off 0-2, there’s going to be some questions, but no one on our team panicked,” Rutter said. “We all knew what we had. We all knew we had a lot of talent and it was a matter of time before it came together.”
It seemed to all come together in the second quarter after South Elgin (2-2, 1-1) had matched the Wildcats’ big play.
After South Elgin quarterback Hayden Nelson found Nick Menken for a tying 37-yard TD pass up the sidelines with 11:52 left in the first half, the Wildcats dominated. Rutter connected with Isaiah Robertson for 28 yards to set up Hunter’s 2-yard TD run and Neuqua Valley led 20-13. Following a South Elgin punt, Rutter kept the momentum going with a 50-yard completion to Evan Moore to set up Hunter’s 7-yard TD burst.
A third-down pass of 22 yards from Rutter to Owen Piche later started a drive that led to Hunter’s 5-yard TD run and a 34-13 lead at halftime.
“They did a great job defensively,” South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. “Some of the matchups we thought we could take advantage of weren’t there for us.
“Their defensive line did a great job of putting pressure on our quarterbacks. No. 6 (Derrek Warkenthien) played out of his mind at the linebacker position. We had difficulty filling in or protecting against some of the things he was doing with his blitzing.”
The Storm had 164 yards passing from Nelson, including a 32-yard strike to Derek Kumerow in the first quarter. But Neuqua’s defense held him to only 23 more passing yards before Jake Amrhein came on to throw an 81-yard, third-quarter TD pass to Shawn Griffin and also ran one in from 9 yards.
By then, Rutter had already finished things off with his arm, throwing 17 yards for a third-quarter TD to Patrick Cadogan and 11 yards for a TD to Piche.
“This was a very high-powered offense we were going up against and I thought defensively we were playing very well,” Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said. “We had one breakdown. That’s about it.”
Neuqua rushed for 246 yards, including a 47-yarder by Warkenthien for a 13-7 lead.
“Physically, we’ve put in a lot of work to develop that mentality, but we couldn’t hang with them up front,” Pistorio said.