KCChronicle.com/preps Game of the Week: ST. CHARLES NORTH (3-3, 3-1 UPSTATE EIGHT CONFERENCE RIVER DIVISION) AT BATAVIA (6-0, 3-0 UEC RIVER), 7:30 p.m. today
What the crowd will be buzzing about:Batavia’s bid for a second straight unbeaten season and UEC River title faces a threat in St. Charles North, which has rallied from an 0-3 start to return to .500 for the first time since Week 8 of 2010.
St. Charles North will have it rolling if...Quarterback Ryan Fischbach establishes an early rapport with wide receiver Zach Kirby and tight end Garrett Johnson. The Bulldogs have handled more run-first offenses than not in recent weeks, and Fischbach’s steady emergence after starting the season as a backup to Erik Miller could be dangerous as several key components on Batavia’s defense jell.
North has returned to many I-formation sets after aspiring to a spread offense in preseason, and mixing carries from George Edlund and Evan Kurtz with the passing game will be crucial.
The North Stars also want to mix up their defense, though Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron is especially enthused about trying to attack the team’s base 4-4.
“We’re seeing a few more odd fronts than normal, than we used to, so a four-man front is kind of nice,” Piron said. “A good, old-fashioned 4-4 is kind of fun to go against. It’s challenging and represents some issues with eight guys kind of right up there in your face.”
What a fly on the wall in St. Charles North’s locker room might hear:“This has started to become a special game for you guys since Batavia joined the conference. It might not get the kick-a-thon and the golf carts out like when we play East, but it’s a good rivalry, and it’s fun playing here.
“We know what’s at stake for them and we know what’s at stake for us. We haven’t lost in almost a month, fellas, and I know you’d just as soon forget what that feeling’s like. We’re improved across the board and we’re confident, and that’s a pretty good base. So let’s get out there and give this one a run.”
Batavia will have it rolling if...
North senior defensive back Nick McCullough is limited as a kick and interception returner.
While Bulldogs quarterback Micah Coffey has been efficient in his debut season under center, throwing 13 touchdowns against just three interceptions, McCullough seems to have a knack for big plays. Batavia favors a wealth of formations, but the objective is to get its playmakers in space.
“It’s amazing. It really is amazing how much stuff they do and how many people they can do it with,” North Stars coach Mark Gould said. “They are so varied and deep in talent, it’s scary.”
North hopes it won’t have to tangle with running backs Anthony Scaccia (7.45 yards per carry) and Anthony Thielk (7.28) much beyond the line of scrimmage. The elusive Scaccia has averaged just over 15 carries a game, another testament to Batavia’s offensive depth.
“If there’s no hole inside, he is quick and he can bounce it outside quicker than anyone we’ve seen this year,” Gould said. “Hopefully we can contain him. That’s definitely one of our goals.”
What a fly on the wall in Batavia’s locker room might hear:
“Coach Gould has always been a great defensive coach, and so their kids are always flying to the ball. They’ve gotten better every single week. They’ve been tough to get big plays on, and we’ve harped on you guys with that in practice. The kids in coverage are quick, the linebackers are real aggressive to the football, and they’re going to want to take that ball right from you.
“They’re also wanting to spoil our zero in the loss column, so be smart and aggressive like you have been, and don’t let them.”
Kevin Druley’s prediction: Batavia 31, St. Charles North 17
An opportunistic Bulldogs linebacker – or three – spurs a key turnover as North drives late in the game. Overall, the North Stars do their city proud as Batavia begins a two-week stretch against STC teams, but the Bulldogs’ depth and firepower make the difference.
ST. CHARLES EAST (4-2, 3-0 UPSTATE EIGHT CONFERENCE RIVER DIVISION) AT STREAMWOOD (2-4, 1-2 UEC RIVER)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: St. Charles East defeated Geneva, 34-27; Streamwood fell to St. Charles North, 31-14.
Key for the Saints: East gambled with its share of run blitzes against Geneva, and will need to be smart about when to stay at home against capable Sabres backs Kyle Strong and Lenard Brown. Saints linebackers Joe Hoscheit, Pat Frio and Jon Finn had their moments against Vikings bruiser Bobby Hess, but Hess also reached the secondary more than once. “We were trying to read it, and then we started sending our weak-side linebacker a little bit to try and mess them up a little bit and try to give us a little bit of advantage on them,” East coach Mike Fields said. “That game very easily could have gone the other way, but our kids hung in there and fought through it.”
Elgin (1-5, 0-3 UEC River) at Geneva (1-3, 0-3 UEC River)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: Elgin blanked East Aurora, 35-0, for its first win of the season; Geneva struggled on special teams in a 34-27 loss at St. Charles East.
Key for the Vikings: Though guaranteed of its first losing season since 2002 and the program’s first non-playoff campaign since 2003, Geneva can do little wrong in thinking like a contending team during the stretch run. The next three opponents all are below .500, and given the way the Vikings stayed with St. Charles East behind running back Bobby Hess and wide receiver Kyle Brown, it’s feasible for this team to make a run at 4-5. Linebacker Colin Griffin and company still will be tested on the Vikings’ homecoming – Elgin recently welcomed back Jaylen Clemons (school-related issue), who flanks emerging sophomore runner Malik Dunner in the backfield.
Kaneland (6-0, 2-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) at Yorkville (3-3, 0-2 NI Big 12 East)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: Kaneland raced past DeKalb, 66-23; Yorkville was edged by Rochelle, 44-41.
Key for the Knights:Staying grounded – figuratively, anyway – is a week-to-week emphasis of coach Tom Fedderly, whose Knights are aiming for a third straight unbeaten run through the NI Big 12. Wide receivers Zack Martinelli (eight touchdowns) and Dylan Nauert (five) have snagged all but three of quarterback Drew David’s 16 scoring passes. Yorkville’s secondary proved especially susceptible in last week’s closing minutes, as Rochelle switched from its traditional power-running style to strike for the go-ahead TD via the passing game.
Marmion (1-5, 1-3 Suburban Christian Conference Blue) at St. Francis (3-3, 1-3)
When: 7 p.m. today, College of DuPage
Last week: Marmion was defeated by Aurora Christian, 38-14; St. Francis dropped its third straight game, 28-8, to Marian Central.
Key for the Cadets: See if they can finish. Marmion contained Aurora Christian through the first half last week and also played Montini tough until the late stages in Week 5. With St. Francis scuffling, an upset could be in the offing if Marmion puts together a complete game.
Key for the Spartans: It’s against coach Greg Purnell’s Wing-T protocol, but the Spartans may be wise to lean more on the pass tonight. Marmion is coming off a stretch of aerially-adept Marian Central, Montini and Aurora Christian in three straight weeks. Catching a secondary that might be thinking the tough nights are over could produce a crucial big play.
Immaculate Conception (4-2) at Aurora Christian (6-0)
When: 7 p.m. today
Last week: Immaculate Conception was routed by Montini, 49-0; Aurora Christian handled Marmion, 38-14.
Key for the Eagles: After switching to a three-man defensive front in the second half against Marmion – Josh Kok and Jonah Walker at ends and Nick Larson at noseguard – look for the Eagles to create havoc by keeping Immaculate Conception guessing in the SCC crossover.
Richmond-Burton (4-2, 2-1 Big Northern Conference East) at Burlington Central (5-1, 4-0 BNC East)
When: 7 p.m. today
Last week: Richmond-Burton whipped Rockford Christian, 42-0. Burlington Central dealt with Marengo, 28-6.
Key for the Rockets: Battling fellow conference unbeaten North Boone for the BNC East title, BC can keep pace by slowing R-B running backs Chris Vlasak and Adam Kinsella, who both have hovered around a 9 yards per carry average this season.
Guerin (1-5, 0-4 SCC Gold) at Aurora Central Catholic (5-1, 3-1 SCC Gold)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: Guerin absorbed its fourth straight shutout loss, falling, 56-0 to Wheaton Academy; Aurora Central Catholic shut out Walther Lutheran, 42-0.
Key for the Chargers: Maintaining their focus. A week removed from becoming playoff-eligible for the first time since 1997, ACC must keep its running game in tune to avoid a letdown – and enjoy the fruits of a locked-up playoff berth.
St. Edward (2-4) at Wheaton Academy (2-4)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last week: St. Edward beat Chicago Christian, 43-26; Wheaton Academy thumped Guerin, 56-0, for its second straight win.
Key for the Warriors: Don’t let up on the offensive throttle – and lobby for more day games. Wheaton Academy has scored 56 points in successive weeks, both Saturday afternoon affairs.