High School: Neuqua Valley

Ugly good enough for Neuqua vs. Harlan

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
10:37
PM CT


ELGIN, Ill. -- Neuqua Valley junior Darien Miskel had no misconceptions on how his team’s 39-34 win over No. 16 Harlan looked for anyone watching Tuesday’s game at the Elgin holiday tournament.

It was ugly, and he was OK with that. Not that he and his teammates were proud of winning in that fashion, but it didn’t really matter to them.

[+] EnlargeNeuqua
Scott Powers, ESPNChicago.comHarlan's Anthony Knight shoots against Neuqua Valley on Tuesday at the Elgin holiday tournament.
Their only care all week has been winning and advancing, and that’s exactly what they did again on Tuesday.

Neuqua Valley (6-5) will play again in the tournament semifinals on Wednesday.

“In a tournament, it’s no matter what it takes,” Miskel said. “That’s what they told us before we even played our first game. No matter how you win, whether it’s bad, it’s ugly, we still just need to advance to the right. We’re trying to get to the championship.”

While its offense struggled for most of the game, Neuqua Valley’s man-to-man defense was its saving grace against the previously undefeated Falcons (4-1). Neuqua Valley came out and held Harlan scoreless in the first quarter. The Falcons didn’t score on 13 first-quarter possessions and went 0-for-15 from the field.

Neuqua Valley kept Harlan under wraps in the second quarter, too, and extended its lead to 21-6 by halftime.

“I thought we were in good position, good helping position,” Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said. “I thought we fronted the post well. I thought we boxed out and hit the boards very well. That’s been a problem for us.”

The Wildcats appeared they were going to win with ease, taking a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, but that wouldn’t be the case. Harlan’s full-court defense along with Neuqua Valley’s struggles at the free-throw line created a closer game than Sutton would have liked.

Neuqua Valley committed seven turnovers and shot 4-of-11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Harlan closed within 38-34 with 22.6 points left before holding on for good.

“We got to make some free throws,” Sutton said. “It would be a blowout if we had made some free throws, but we didn’t. We have some things to work on.

“[Winning] is the only goal. We won ugly [in the first round.] We won ugly tonight. We want to play, move to the right and keep playing.”

Harlan’s Deonte Johnson (six points) and Blaine Goodall (12 points) combined for 11 points in the fourth quarter. Anthony Knight had six points, eight rebounds and two steals for Harlan.

Tyler Sutton (10 points) and Miskel (nine points) led Neuqua Valley.

Mount Carmel edges Neuqua Valley in OT

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
4:32
AM CT
video
NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Michael Banks chose to attend to Mount Carmel after graduating from grammar school because he felt it was where he had the best opportunity to win a state football championship.

His future varsity coach, Frank Lenti, had already captured nine state titles, so Banks figured he was a lock to win one during his four years.

Now a senior, Banks has yet to fulfill that dream, and on Friday, he almost saw it disappear.

With their backs against the wall, the Caravan rallied from a touchdown deficit with an 80-yard drive, tying the game with 1:11 remaining, and Banks provided the heroics in overtime with a 10-yard touchdown run as Mount Carmel pulled out a 21-14 win over Neuqua Valley in a Class 8A second-round football playoff game in Naperville.

“I’ve been on varsity since I was a sophomore, and I’ve never seen a state championship,” Banks said. “This is what I came to Carmel for. Nothing else, but to win a state championship. This is it. After this, I can never do it again. This is the world to me. This is the time. If we want to get there, we got to win. Every 48 minutes allows us to play another 48 minutes.

“You did kind of [see] it slipping away. But as a senior and a captain, I had to keep the guys composed. I had to tell them, ‘If there’s time on the clock, we can win.’ Thank God it happened.”

Trailing 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Mount Carmel’s defense forced Neuqua Valley (7-4) to punt, and the Caravan took over on their 20-yard line with 6:15 remaining. After two short runs, Mount Carmel faced a third-and-8 on its 22, and quarterback Chris Sujka connected with Jason Gasser for a 15-yard first-down pass. Later, facing another third down, Banks broke off an 11-yard run for a first down.

[+] EnlargeMount Carmel-Neuqua Valley prep football
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comMount Carmel's players celebrate their overtime win over Neuqua Valley.
All together, the Caravan used 12 plays to go 80 yards, and Sujka put the finishing touches on the drive with a two-yard run with 1:11 left. After the made extra point by Nikko Rodriguez, the game was tied at 14-14.

“We told the kids there’s no reason to quit, because with our style of offense you can score two touchdowns in two plays,” said Lenti, whose team improved to 9-2. “Neuqua Valley did a nice job, but it wasn’t what they were doing, it was more of what we weren’t doing. We weren’t executing on offense, and we were stopping ourselves with foolish plays. On that last drive, we didn’t have any bad penalties and made two big third-down plays. We executed.”

In overtime, Mount Carmel was given possession first. On the opening play, Banks raced around the right corner and scored. Rodriguez again connected on the extra point, and the Caravan led 21-14.

After three unsuccessful plays, Neuqua Valley’s final pass attempt went incomplete.

Immediately, the entire Mount Carmel team raced into the end zone and celebrated its victory by lifting each other up, hugging and yelling.

“I’m still a loss for words,” Banks said. “The adrenaline is running through my body. The last play when we saw the incompletion, I was ecstatic. I can’t put it into words.”

On the other end of the field, Neuqua Valley’s players were in shock. Senior Dan Menendez stood by himself in the end zone for minutes after all of his other teammates had left the field.

“We should have won, and they shouldn’t have won,” Neuqua Valley coach Bryan Wells said. “Not because of the effort that they gave, but that game was ours. We outplayed them the whole stinking football game, and it upsets me. I’m not upset at my kids. I love those kids. This is a fantastic group, and I’m sorry this is the last time I’ll be out on the football field with them.”

Neuqua Valley’s Trent Snyder rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Rhattigan scored his team’s other touchdown with a 1-yard run at 11:55 of the fourth quarter.

Sujka scored Mount Carmel’s first-half touchdown with a 69-yard run.

Top 20 football preview

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
9:44
PM CT
ESPNChicago.com previews all of the top-20 games.

No. 13 Wheaton North (8-2) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (10-0) on Saturday
The story: This will be the second time these DuPage Valley foes meet this season. The first time around Wheaton Warrenville South ran away with a 42-14 win. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole threw only one incompletion in the win. Wheaton North was within seven points at half, but will need to put together a full game against the top-ranked Tigers.
Wheaton North player to watch: Quarterback Reece Butler is the key to the Falcons flying. He needs to have another off-the-charts game for Wheaton North to have a chance.
Wheaton Warrenville South: Wide receiver Travis Kern has emerged as a playmaker this season. He and Titus Davis have been major targets for O’Toole.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Wheaton North 17

No. 2 Simeon (10-0) at No. 16 Schaumburg (8-2) on Saturday
The story: Simeon’s path to the Chicago Public League’s first state championship becomes more difficult starting with this game. The question is whether the Wolverines can turn it on again against another top team. They haven’t been truly challenged since the season-opener against Mount Carmel. Schaumburg is coming off a big win over Elk Grove. The Saxons will have to contain Simeon’s big-play offense to pull off the upset.
Simeon player to watch: Offensive lineman Chris Bryant is a major reason the Wolverines have had so much offensive success. He’s 6 foot 3, 330 pounds and is being recruited by a number of schools.
Schaumburg player to watch: Shepard Little has been one of the state’s top running backs this season. Schaumburg will need to score in this game, and Little is the man to do it.
Prediction: Simeon 46, Schaumburg 42

Hononegah (9-1) at No. 3 Carmel (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Carmel has been consistently good offensively and defensively this season. The Corsairs were especially impressive on the defensive side in last week’s first-round win. Hononegah has put some points this season, and its only loss was to undefeated Boylan. Hononegah is coming off a 51-7 win over Taft.
Prediction: Carmel 31, Hononegah 13

Sterling (8-2) at No. 4 Joliet Catholic (9-1) on Saturday
The story: There are few teams in the state playing as well as Joliet Catholic right now. The Hilltoppers have scored 45-plus points in their last six games. Big Ten-bound running backs Malin Jones and Josh Ferguson have been piling on the yards. Sterling defeated Morton 28-21 last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 63, Sterling 10

No. 5 Loyola (9-1) at Fremd (6-4) on Saturday
The story: If there’s an upset this week, a lot of people are looking at this game as a possibility. It speaks nothing of Loyola’s play, but rather what Fremd has been up to. The Vikings seem like that team of destiny this season. After starting out 1-4, Fremd has won its past five games. Loyola will be a tough match up for Fremd. The Ramblers have also been among the area’s hottest teams.
Prediction: Loyola 28, Fremd 17

No. 6 St. Rita (9-1) at Harlem (8-2) on Friday
The story: St. Rita has to travel to Machesney Park on Friday after Harlem upset Glenbrook North in the first round. Harlem has scored 30-plus points in seven games this season. St. Rita escaped with a narrow win over Highland Park last week. Star running back Jahwon Akui is expected back after missing last week’s game.
Prediction: St. Rita 34, Harlem 17

Lake Forest (7-3) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Lake Forest is one of the sleeper teams in 6A. The Scouts have played well the last quarter of the season with a win over Vernon Hills and a narrow loss to Lake Zurich. As they showed in their 45-25 opening-round win over Shepard, their offense has big-play capabilities. Five of their touchdowns were scored on 50-yard-plus plays. Crystal Lake South is the team to beat in Class 6A and has played consistently.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 27, Lake Forest 21

No. 8 Lincoln-Way East (9-1) at No. 11 Glenbard West (9-1) on Saturday
The story: There are so many potentially great games in the second round, but this one could be the best. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 for most of the season, and both have been among the state’s best defensive teams. While Wheaton Warrenville South is still the favorite in Class 7A, both of these teams are capable of giving the Tigers a game.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Wide receiver J.J. Robertson returned from injury last week and scored two touchdowns. He’s among the area’s best at his position.
Glenbard West player to watch: Do-everything senior Nick Burrello is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He’s coming off a big game.
Prediction: Glenbard West 21, Lincoln-Way East 20

South Elgin (7-3) at No. 9 Stevenson (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Stevenson continues to put it together on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Patriots are led by ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week Brion Wood. Offensively, they’ve used a balanced running and passing attack. South Elgin ended the regular season with back-to-back losses, but bounced back with a win over a tough Warren team last week.
Prediction: Stevenson 24, South Elgin 13

Sandburg (8-2) at No. 10 Lyons (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Lyons has been on a roll. It has out-scored its last three opponents, which included Glenbard West, 143-20. Sandburg’s only losses this season were to Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor, two teams still alive in the playoffs. The Eagles are 3-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or less.
Prediction: Lyons 28, Sandburg 14

No. 12 Lake Zurich (9-1) at No. 15 Prospect (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Prospect puts up a lot of points; Lake Zurich doesn’t allow many. Something will have to give in this game. The Knights have scored more than 40 points seven times this season. Lake Zurich has only given up more than 14 points twice.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Senior Jacob Brinlee became the school’s all-time leading rusher last week. He has more than 3,000 yards in his career.
Prospect player to watch: Quarterback Steve Dazzo can burn a team in so many ways. He’s been phenomenal the past few weeks.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 31, Prospect 28

No. 14 Mount Carmel (8-2) at Neuqua Valley (7-3) on Friday
The story: Mount Carmel’s offense is relentless. The Caravan have scored 30-plus points in eight of their games this season. Only St. Rita was able to contain them. Neuqua Valley is better than its record. The Wildcats’ three losses have come by a combined 10 points. They have an impressive 43-6 win over Waubonsie Valley on their resume.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Neuqua Valley 28

No. 17 Morgan Park (9-1) at Prairie Ridge (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Like Simeon, Morgan Park is out to become the first Public League state champion. Prairie Ridge will have something to say about that. Its only loss came to Crystal Lake South and has been one of the area’s best defensive teams. Morgan Park has scored 30 or more points in six games this season.
Prediction: Morgan Park 33, Prairie Ridge 24

Geneva (8-2) at No. 18 Lemont (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Geneva has been on a tear. The Vikings have scored 69 points in their last two games and are on an eight-game winning streak. Lemont is one of the favorites in Class 6A. The Indians have allowed one opponent more than 21 points this season.
Prediction: Geneva 35, Lemont 27

No. 19 York (9-1) at Naperville North (7-3) on Friday
The story: Naperville North put it all together in last week’s win over Marist. If the Huskies can play a total game again, they have the talent to pull off an upset against York. The Dukes rallied to defeat a tough Lockport team last week 21-14. They’ll need to play at a higher level this week.
Prediction: Naperville North 21, York 17

Bartlett (8-2) at No. 20 Maine South (8-2) on Saturday
The story: Maine South has won its last 11 playoff games, and the Hawks are shooting for their third consecutive state championship. Bartlett lost two close games early in the season and now has won seven in a row.
Prediction: Maine South 38, Bartlett 28

Powers' Week 7 preview

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
12:02
AM CT
Glenbard WestScott Powers/ESPNChicago.com Glenbard West's Nick Burrello has more than 1,500 all-purpose yards this season.
No. 3 Glenbard West (6-0) at No. 20 York (6-0) on Friday
The story: York has been one of the year’s more surprising teams. After going 4-5 last year, the Dukes are off to their best start in school history and are coming off a big win over previously unbeaten Lyons. Despite their success, Glenbard West will still be a grand challenge. The Hilltoppers have been ranked in the top 5 all season and are dominant on both sides of the ball. York should benefit from being at home. ESPN 1000 will be in attendance.

Glenbard West player to watch: Nick Burrello is in the running for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He’s dangerous in the running, passing and return game.

York player to watch: Running back Ryan Kent leads York’s offense. He ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries in last week’s win.

Quotes: “[Nick Burrello] has always had great speed, but now he has the vision to go along with it. He’s played really confident and has had over 1,500 all-purpose yards.” -- Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet

“Ryan Kent is a kid who works hard, and he’ s really matured over the years he has been at York. I think there is a solid cohesiveness within this group that makes them special.” -- York coach Bill Lech

Prediction: Glenbard West 34, York 21

No. 12 Vernon Hills (6-0) at Grant (3-3) on Friday
The story: Vernon Hills has outscored its opponents 290-0. The 290 points scored was expected. The zero points allowed was not. The Cougars look to extend their unlikely shutout streak against Grant in a North Suburban Prairie game. The Bulldogs have put some points up this season. They’ve scored more than 40 twice and have 178 points on the season.

Vernon Hills player to watch: DaVaris Daniels, who is committed to Notre Dame, is among the front-runners for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He does a lot of everything for Vernon Hills.

Grant player to watch: Fullback Steven Niewiedzial has been racking up yards and touchdowns all year. He ran for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a win two weeks ago.

Quote: “Over the years our two programs have been the most consistent in the Prairie and [it] has kind of become our rivalry game. Everyone knows to win the Prairie you have to beat two teams, Grant and Vernon Hills. Two years ago, we beat them in the regular season and then they knocked us out in the playoffs in double overtime. We expect it to be a hard-hitting rivalry game Friday night with a playoff-type atmosphere.” -- Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken

Prediction: Vernon Hills 38, Grant 10

Waubonsie Valley (5-1) vs. Neuqua Valley (4-2) at North Central College on Friday
The story: This is a key game in the Upstate Eight Valley. Waubonsie Valley is still undefeated in the conference, and Neuqua Valley is only a game back. Waubonsie Valley has been faced with a handful of injuries and illnesses over the past few weeks and have handled them well. Quarterback Matt Schapen has filled in for Tom Kolzow (concussion) the past three weeks and has kept the Warriors afloat. Neuqua Valley lost to South Elgin two weeks ago, but bounced back with a 42-0 win over Metea Valley last week. Both teams have quality defenses.

Waubonsie Valley player to watch: Sophomore linebacker Austin Lacke is one to watch for the future. He’s been among the Warriors’ top defensive players this season.

Neuqua Valley player to watch: Safety Sami Khalil is among the Wildcats’ best defensive players. He had two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, in last week’s win.

Quote: “Our defense is averaging three turnovers per game. When they give the offense great field position, it is a lot easier to score. Our offense has also been able to get big plays during the games as well. So we basically can score from anywhere on the field, which makes it harder for the defenses to defend us.” -- Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy

“We have been playing well in all aspects of the game. Our defense has shown the ability to stop the run, and our offense has had success running the ball. When a team is able to do both of those things, it will have success.” -- Neuqua Valley coach Bryan Wells

Prediction: Waubonsie Valley 24, Neuqua Valley 21

Bolingbrook (4-2) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way East (5-1) on Friday
The story: The Southwest Suburban Blue will likely be decided by this game. Lincoln-Way East has a one-game lead on Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor. The Griffins have already defeated Homewood-Flossmoor and will now host Bolingbrook. The Raiders will again be without quarterback Aaron Bailey, who also missed last week’s loss to Homewood-Flossmoor with an ankle injury. Lincoln-Way East junior Blake Winkler is quickly becoming one of the area’s better quarterbacks.

Bolingbrook player to watch: Quarterback DJ Pruitt has been making strides since taking over for Bailey. He’ll look to take another step in his progress against Lincoln-Way East.

Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Wide receiver J.J. Robertson had two touchdown catches of 50-plus yards last week. He’s one of the area’s top wide receivers.

Quotes: “Quarterback Blake Winkler has shown tremendous progress. He has stepped up time and time again in crucial situations and made the big plays. Most impressive is the way he responds to adversity or a negative play. He lets it go and usually makes a very positive play soon after.” -- Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar

“No turnovers and being able to run the ball are the keys to the game.” -- Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow

Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 31, Bolingbrook 17

Minooka (5-1) at Plainfield North (5-1) on Friday
The story: Two of the state’s best running games will be on display in this Southwest Prairie matchup. Plainfield North running back Kapri Bibbs has ran for nearly 2,000 yards despite missing the season’s first game and is coming off a state-record 520-yard performance. No one has been able to stop him this season. Minooka has a number of players capable of carrying the ball. Running backs Kalvin Hill and Kyle Banks and quarterback Mitch Brozovich have all been dangerous. Minooka’s only loss was to undefeated Plainfield South. Plainfield North lost in its season-opener against West Chicago without Bibbs.

Minooka player to watch: Indians running back Kalvin Hill rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Oswego East.

Plainfield North player to watch: Kapri Bibbs is putting together an incredible season. He’ll be playing at Colorado State next season.

Quotes: “We won't stop Kapri, but we do hope to limit his touches. We also hope to limit his long plays. Our offense must put long scoring drives together that eats up clock. Special teams must play well. We are a much better football team than we have shown. We are still waiting to throw the ball consistently and kick the ball consistently. We need to improve our third-down defense and reduce the number of big plays on defense." -- Minooka coach Bert Kooi

“We need to find a way to stop their powerful running game. They have four very good weapons in the backfield. Their quarterback does an outstanding job faking and running the ball. Obviously, Minooka will be very aware of Kapri and have a game plan to stop him. We will need to make necessary in-game adjustments to be able to move the ball.” -- Plainfield North coach Tim Kane

Prediction: Plainfield North 55, Minooka 49

No. 4 Carmel (6-0) at Marian Catholic (5-1) on Friday
The story: Carmel faces another difficult test as it travels to face Marian Catholic in the East Suburban Catholic matchup. Carmel is undefeated with a combination of strong offense and defense. The Corsairs lead the conference with 243 points scored and 78 points allowed. Marian Catholic enters the game on a five-game winning streak after losing to Homewood-Flossmoor in Week 1. Spartans coach Dave Mattio has been pleased with his team’s effort, but said it has yet to put together a “signature” win, which he described as a “contest played with 48 minutes of intensity if all three phases of the game.”

Carmel player to watch: Running back Jordan Kos has been a nightmare for defenses for much of the season. He had 168 yards and two touchdowns last week.

Marian Catholic player to watch: Junior running back Jeruel Taylor has a big reason for the Spartans’ success. He had 221 yards in last week’s 31-27 win over Crete-Monee.

Quotes: “We need to run the ball well and prevent Marian from having big plays. We need to be sure their skilled backs do not have 20-yard-or-more plays. -- Carmel coach Andy Bitto

“Carmel plays with a great deal of energy and confidence. It is important for Marian Catholic to play with the same two attributes from the start of the contest. There have been a number of contests this year where the Spartans have shown a resiliency to come back from a deficit or to make big plays to change momentum of a contest.” -- Marian Catholic coach Dave Mattio

Prediction: Carmel 35, Marian Catholic 20

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