Waubonsie-Neuqua: A neighborhood rivalry
By Rick Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2012 9:04PM
Waubonsie Valley (10-1) at Neuqua Valley (11-0), 6 p.m.
Winnebago (9-2) at Aurora Christian (10-1), 6 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:26AM
Maybe last summer Waubonsie Valley defensive standout Austin Lacke should have seen this District 204 rematch with archrival Neuqua Valley coming.
“(Warriors running back) Austin Guido and I were workout partners at Extreme Speed in Plainfield along with (Neuqua Valley RB) Joey Rhattigan and (SS) Spencer Donahue,” said Lacke, a three-year starter at middle linebacker who has been named Defensive MVP of the Upstate Eight Valley.
Kevin Kaster, the players’ trainer, would pair the teammates in various strength and speed drills in head-to-head competition.
“We’d have drills like a relay race pushing a sled across the parking lot and he’d be screaming and pushing us, asking, ‘Who’s gonna win, Waubonsie or Neuqua? The winners would get an extra water break,” Lacke (pronounced lay-key) said.
“Austin and I would win sometimes and Joey and Spencer would win sometimes. It was pretty competitive and pretty even.”
Just like their football teams.
They played through two overtimes in Week 7 of the regular season before a standing-room-only crowd at North Central College before the 11-0 Wildcats claimed a 35-34 decision. Each won twice in the IHSA Class 8A playoffs and meet Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Neuqua Valley in a quarterfinal.
Apparently those summer workouts did the trick. All four were named all-conference, and Guido and Rhattigan shared Offensive MVP honors after rushing for 2,236 yards and 1,891 yards, respectively, with 30 TDs each.
This will be the first time Lacke and his senior teammates have played at Neuqua Valley.
“We were undefeated as freshmen and played them at Waubonsie and lost, by one point,” he said. “All the other times we’ve played have been at North Central.”
It won’t be new to Lacke.
“I live right across the street from Neuqua Valley,” he said, noting that he, Guido, tight end Troy Fumagalli and nine other Warrior starters would have attended the rival school before Metea Valley was built.
“I went to a lot of middle school summer camps there and played on that field a lot. We all played for Patriots teams in youth football, too.”
Getting Lacke has been a big plus for Waubonsie Valley.
“He’s got a great nose for the football and he’s a great leader,” coach Paul Murphy said. “The kid always has a smile on his face, is always upbeat and just loves to play. Probably the greatest beneficiary is Hugh Griffin.”
Griffin, a junior OLB, leads the team with 106 tackles (77 solo), just ahead of Lacke with 94 (61 solo) — who has led the team the past two seasons.
“We’re great friends,” said Lacke. “We have a friendly competition over who gets the most tackles and push each other, in games and every day in practice. He’s a great player.
“I like playing in the middle because you’re never out of a play. You’re always involved and never held out for a play if it goes to the other side.”
They team with senior OLB Jake Bennema, third on the team with 76 tackles, to give the Warriors a formidable linebacker corps.
“(Lacke) is our captain and he really leads the defense,” said Bennema. “We play better with him.”
Murphy said Griffin has the tackles lead only because Lacke missed the East Aurora game.
“I was excused so I could attend a scholarship college fair at the University of Chicago,” Lacke said. “I had to pay the price for it in practice the next week but it was worth it.
“It was a scholar dinner. They invited 100 African-American kids who had a 3.5 grade point average and 25 or higher ACT score and we had dinner with Ivy League, Big Ten and Pac 12 schools. It was only for academics, though, no athletics.”
Lacke, whose father and an older brother are engineers, wants to pursue dentistry in college but can’t imagine not playing football at the next level. He is being wooed by Harvard, Cornell, Pennsylvania and Dayton.
“Football has been a big part of my life since fifth grade. I can’t imagine being without it,” he said.
But first there’s the rematch.
“Defensively, we’ve got to do our best to hold (Rhattigan) in check,” he said.
“A couple of my teammates have even deleted their Twitter accounts this week to get away from any distractions.”