The buzz in the stands
Whether St. Charles East can treat the home crowd to anything resembling the scoring bonanza the Saints staged in the second half last week, when East scored all 41 of its points in surging past Jacobs, 41-26.
“Whether they scored 41 or they scored 1, we’re going to prepare the same way,” North coach Rob Pomazak said. “Each week is independent of the next.”
The marquee matchup
North’s offensive line vs. East’s defensive line.
Having digested film from North’s overtime loss to Elk Grove and blowout win against Plainfield Central last week, East coach Mike Fields said the North Stars’ line-play is as advertised this season, meaning it’s awfully good.
North had to retool its plans at the center position, but with Stephen Bancroft now settled in there, a brawny unit led by Michigan State-bound tackle Chase Gianacakos will look to build on a robust Week 2 performance.
Athletic Saints D-ends Luke Spicer and David Mason will attempt to keep North’s line from making North running back Evan Kurtz’s job easy.
“We think [the line of scrimmage] is going to be where the first battle is going to be and where the last battle is going to be this Friday,” East coach Mike Fields said.
Speaking of line-play, the Saints’ offensive line will be challenged with starting offensive guard Jake Schultz out indefinitely with a knee injury, an injury that Fields said could sting.
East’s depth at cornerback also took a hit in Wednesday’s practice when Matt Dorsey – who rotates in at a relatively deep position for the Saints – went down with a knee injury.
Best-case scenario for the North Stars
North steamrolled Plainfield Central with 300-plus rushing yards, and the North Stars won’t hesitate to play a power game against the Saints or anyone else.
Still, Pomazak and Co. would like to see the passing game make strides to have the capability to punish teams for stacking the box. Senior quarterback Erik Miller made better decisions last week than in a mistake-prone opener but still has room to grow.
“I still think his best [play] is ahead of Erik,” Pomazak said. “I think he’s going to be one of the best quarterbacks in our conference when it’s all said and done. He’s extremely physically talented, and every day he’s getting better.”
Best-case scenario for the Saints
Make North chase a deficit.
If East carries a lead into the fourth quarter, the North Stars likely would feel compelled to deviate from their strength offensively, and ball-hawking Saints defensive backs led by two-way stalwart Brannon Barry could help the Saints win the turnover battle.
East quarterback Jimmy Mitchell’s confidence has to be at an all-time high after the Jacobs game, though a North defense led by do-it-all linebacker Reece Conroyd and surprise performers Mitchell Riggs (two interceptions) and defensive tackle James Glavin will ensure the Saints earn what they get.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Fields said. “They’ll be the best of the three teams that we’ve faced. We’ve got to play our best game to get that ‘W.’ “
Jay Schwab’s prediction: St. Charles East 21, St. Charles North 19
This has the potential to be a sensational game, with two teams that likely are both playoff-caliber coming off uplifting Week 2 wins. It could certainly go either way, but the Saints’ knack for big special teams returns and Mitchell’s emergence makes East awfully tough to pick against at home.