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DeKalb facing another defensive stalwart as Neuqua Valley comes to town – Shaw Local

DeKALB — Last week was the first time in 13 years an opponent shut out the DeKalb football team in the regular season according to IHSA records.

This week, the Barbs are facing an even tougher defense.

Naperville Central topped the Barbs 26-0 last week, the first time the team was shutout since the first round of the playoffs in the 2018 season and the first time in the regular season since 2009. Now the Barbs look to snap a two-game skid when Neuqua Valley comes to DeKalb on Friday.

“We certainly didn’t play our best last Friday but I still feel good about where we’re at,” second-year DeKalb coach Derek Schneeman said. “We’re continuing to improve and get better. We learned a lot from Friday night and hopefully it will help us move forward.”

As good as the Naperville Central defense has been all year, the Wildcats’ has been even tougher. They’ve allowed seven total points in their last three games, including two shutouts in a row. Neuqua Valley (6-1, 4-0 DuPage Valley Conference) hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this year.

Schneeman said he felt like the Barbs (4-3, 2-2) had the ability for some big plays last week but couldn’t execute, amassing just 105 yards of total offense. Talen Tate ran for 56 of those yards and had a 40-yard run called back because of a penalty on the first play of the game.

Tate also had a 30-yard run later in the game negated due to a penalty.

“When big plays are available we have to make them,” Schneeman said. “We can’t leave opportunities on the table. I thought we got out-physicaled up front. Naperville Central is certainly good on defense, especially their front seven, but we could certainly play a lot better in that regard.”

Tate said he’d like to see the receiving corps more involved in the offense. That group includes senior Ethan McCarter, who has returned four kicks for touchdowns this year.

“I think we have to open up our playbook a little more,” Tate said. “I feel like if we incorporate some of our receivers we’re going to be way better off and it’s going to be a better game.”

The Wildcats’ offense has been consistent this year but hasn’t crossed the 40-point mark yet. DeKalb has scored 60 more points on offense this year than Neuqua Valley.

Neuqua Valley quarterback Mark Mennecke was injured earlier in the season during a 10-7 overtime loss to Wheaton Warrenville South. Ryan Mohler has started in his place and the team hasn’t lost since.

“Nothing they do on offense is pretty necessarily but they execute pretty well,” Schneeman said. “It’s pretty traditional Neuqua, what they’ve done in the recent past. … They do what they do and they do it well.”

Given how well they run their offense, defensive back LaBrian Carrington said the Barbs need to pounce on any opportunity the Wildcats give them.

“We need to take advantage of any crack we see,” Carrington said. “We have to play physical football almost for all four quarters.”

The Barbs need a win in one of their final two games to become playoff-eligible for the first time since 2019. They close the year against Waubonsie Valley, which they beat 49-13 in Week 6.

Whether it happens this week or next, Tate said a playoff berth will mean a lot to him and the team — especially since the Barbs have already won as many games this year as they had in the first two years of Tate’s career.

Carrington said he felt a lot of teams slept on the Barbs this year and is excited to help the team not only qualify for the playoffs, but make a postseason run as well.

“It’s a big thing because last year we didn’t really do so well,” Carrington said. “I felt a lot of teams were looking down on us, which we know we’re way better than that. So it would feel good to get five wins and get to the playoffs.”

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