Breaking It Down: Joey Rhattigan’s coach likened his running style to that of a train. Folks on the sideline in the second half of Neuqua Valley’s 44-33 victory over Bolingbrook in the second round of the Class 8A football playoffs on Friday night were comparing him to A-Train. That’s what fans called Mike Alstott during his collegiate heyday at Purdue.
Alstott went on to become an All-Pro with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Where is Rhattigan headed? To places Neuqua Valley never has been to before, that’s for sure.
Rhattigan rushed for 345 yards on 26 carries and scored five touchdowns in the Wildcats’ thrilling fourth-quarter comeback win over Bolingbrook. He also tossed a two-point conversion pass to Dylan Andrew as Neuqua Valley set a single-season record for victories (11) and advanced into the third round of the IHSA football playoffs for the first time in school history.
Patch’s MVP: Joey Rhattigan, 6-0, 201, senior, running back. He rushed for 345 yards on 26 carries. He scored on runs of 22, 84, 7, 5 and 53 yards. His 5-yard TD run put Neuqua Valley ahead 34-33 with 3:14 remaining. Then, he tossed a two-point conversion pass to Dylan Andrew to up the margin to 36-33. Rhattigan carried Bolingbrook defenders on his back much of the night.
Neuqua Valley Stat Pack: Joey Rhattigan (345 yards rushing, 26 carries, 5 TDs), Dylan Andrew (2-for-7 passing, 59 yards, 1 touchdown), Dennis Thurow (interception with 2:21 left), Mikey Dudek (2 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD).
Bolingbrook Stat Pack: Aaron Bailey (210 yards rushing, 31 carries, 3 TDs; 7-of-17 passing, 75 yards, 1 TD), Jaden Huff (17 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD), Brandon Lewis (2 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD).
Quotable I: “I know,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said of the Wildcats running Rhattigan again and again and again. “He’s really good. It makes my job easy.”
Quotable II: “We got a little out of synch, to be honest with you, in the first half,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said. “We came out and threw that one pick. And we wanted to get right back to running Joey (Rhattigan) again. He was feeling it.”
Quotable III: “We felt like our line was (moving Bolingbrook's defensive front) straight up the middle, and, then, our counter was real big for us,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said, noting how Rhattigan carried tacklers, too. “I coached him up on that on Tuesday. I said, ‘Carry those guys in.’ He’s an absolute tank. They called him the bus when he was growing up. And I call him a train right now. He’s tough to stop.”
Quotable IV: “I think it goes with our team motto—and that’s finish,” Neuqua Valley running back Joey Rhattigan said. “If you get close to the end zone, I’m going to give it all I’ve got to get in there. And I know my teammates are helping, pushing me through that pile.”
Quotable V: “I know exactly who he is,” Neuqua Valley’s Joey Rhattigan said of Mike Alstott. “He was a tough runner. I actually grew up watching him. He was one of my idols. To be compared to him is pretty overwhelming to me. It seems like it was just a blink of an eye and I was that freshman coming in, and I could never have dreamed of this. So, it feels good.”
Quotable VI: “He’s a powerful runner,” Bolingbrook linebacker Emile Wisdom said of Rhattigan. “He keeps his feet going. You think he stops like he’s taking a break, but he’s not taking a break. I tried to tackle and strip the ball out. But he holds the ball like no other. That was his baby.”
Team Records: Neuqua Valley is 11-0. Bolingbrook finished 8-3.
What’s Next: Neuqua Valley faces Waubonsie Valley or Oak Park-River Forest in Round 3 of the Class 8A playoffs on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10. Waubonsie takes on Oak Park at 1 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 3).
Scores of Interest: Mount Carmel 41, Simeon 6; Downers Grove North 29, Thornton 13; Benet Academy 28, Oswego 13. For more football playoff results, go to IHSA ScoreZone.