We’ve got quite the match up at Neuqua Valley tonight as the 2-0 Wildcats welcome the winningest football team in Illinois history to their stadium, the East St. Louis Flyers. A team that has won 8 state titles, the most recent being in 2016.
We pick things up halfway through the 2nd quarter, flyers already up 8-7. Tyler Macron drops back and finds Dominic JuJu Lovett wide open for the TD, extending their lead 16-7.
Next possession for Neuqua, QB Mark Gronowski calls his own number and somehow breaks through the scrum to find pay dirt. Neuqua with the quick answer, trailing by 2, 16-4.
Still in the second, 4th down from their own 9 yard line. Juju Lovett is not only a receiver, but also the flyers kicker and punter, fakes everyone out and takes the snap and starts running with it… going 89 yards for the touchdown. ESL goes for 2 but it’s no good as they lead 22-14.
2 minutes left in the 2nd quarter and the Wildcats look to stay in the game. Gronowski throws a screen pass to Sean Larkin who does the rest. Both offenses seemingly not being able to be stopped as Neuqua trails only but 1 again.
Just a minute before the break, and of course, East St. Louis isn’t ready to go in to half time just yet. Tyler Macrow finds Lawuan Poweel for the diving catch and the flyers again up by more than a touchdown, 30-21.
But there is still time. 13 seconds to be exact. Neuqua Valley attempts a hail-mary to end the half… and seriously… I know you can see it but I can’t believe it. Garrett Stare makes the catch and Neuqua keeping ESL on their toes going in to the half trailing by 2!!!!!
With all this action, doesn’t seem like it can only be the third quarter, but hold on tight because a lot more football has to be played. After a touchdown to kick off the third, ESL gets another as Macrow connects with Lovett. 44-28.
End of the third quarter now, Neuqua down and in need of a scoring drive. Gronowski takes matters into his own hands again, making the amazing run and reaching the end zone! Wildcats trailing 9, 44-35.
To the fourth and final stanza, but don’t think either team is letting up. After a big defensive wildcat stop. Neuqua looks to pull closer. Gronowski takes it to the air this time, connecting with Larkin in the corner for another touchdown. NV down just 2, 44-42.
But of course, ESL has an answer. 3 minutes on the clock and after a strong drive Damonta Witherspoon scores the touchdown but they fail on the 2 pt attempt, Neuqua still has a chance, down 8.
So here we go. Wildcat ball with a minute left, 4th and 8. They are in need of a conversion to keep the game alive and they end up drawing a passing interference penalty… their chances live to see another play as they get a new set of downs.
17 seconds ticking down on the clock… we know the blackhawks can score twice in that amount of time but can the cats get what they need? Gronowski finds Larkin! Yet again! His third touchdown of the game, to put neuqua within two!!! Can you believe it!?
So the wildcats go for the tie… needing the two point conversion to send the game to OT, but Gronowski’s pass goes just beyond Patrick Hoffman’s reach and Neuqua Valley falls to the East St. Louis Flyers but what a game it was on both sides of the ball.
Check out how the other area football teams performed on Friday night in our Boys Sports Highlights!