St. Charles East (5-2, 3-1 Upstate Eight Conference River) at Batavia (6-1, 4-0 UEC River), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: St. Charles East beat Streamwood, 42-27; Batavia beat St. Charles North, 44-7.
The skinny: St. Charles East started the season 3-0, including a Week 2 win against a Jacobs team that has won five games in a row since. Yet Saints coach Mike Fields said “your head spins as a coach” about some of the inconsistency the Saints have exhibited since, including trailing winless Streamwood at halftime last week. “It’s a great group of kids, but where’s our identity? We haven’t found that yet,” Fields said. “Every week we try to find it.” Injuries have certainly factored in, especially on the defensive side, where would-be key linebackers Michael Candre, Pat Frio and Parker Vidmich remain sidelined, Frio likely for the season. In addition to Jon Finn – an expected starter – Ramon Lopez, Vince Locasio and Nick Lombardo are being pressed into action at linebacker. “We’ll just do our best, put our best guys out there and try and give the Bulldogs the best we’ve got,” Fields said. East’s best, Fields realizes, will be needed to be competitive with a Batavia team that has rolled since its lone loss, Week 2 against Richards. About the only thing that went wrong in the Bulldogs’ thumping of St. Charles North last week was a season-ending knee injury to offensive guard Mitchell Krusz, a junior. But like most spots on the field, Batavia is deep up front. “We’ve used about eight offensive linemen all year long,” Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron said.
“At this point, it sure is a good thing that we did that and had the chance to develop that depth throughout the year.” Piron called East’s receiving corps among the best the Bulldogs have seen this year. Fields said the Saints will continue their late-season pattern of playing two quarterbacks, Jimmy Mitchell and Mitch Dupuis.
Extra point: After Geneva won the inaugural UEC River title in 2010, Batavia is in position to clinch a three-peat in the seasons since. “That would be, I think, a pretty good accomplishment for our program, coming to a new conference a couple years ago,” Piron said. “I’d be pretty proud of that. I know we’re going to give [East] our absolute best.”
Geneva (5-2, 4-1 UEC River) at Metea Valley (4-3, 4-1 UEC Valley), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: Geneva beat Elgin, 42-20; Metea Valley beat East Aurora, 52-28.
The skinny: Geneva coach Rob Wicinski’s team is in for a sneak peek of playoff intensity tonight from Metea Valley, which must win one of its two last games to become playoff-eligible. The Mustangs have another difficult foe, Waubonsie Valley, to deal with next week. “I told my guys [Wednesday], you haven’t seen anything like that this year, where someone’s back’s against the wall,” Wicinski said. “They’re in playoff mode now.” Offensively, the Mustangs spread the field but still run quite a bit, reminding Wicinski of old Western Sun Conference foe Sycamore. Dynamic Metea running back Jay Parker “is a little bit of a bowling ball,” Wicinski said. “He just runs people over.” The Vikings seek their fifth straight win in what shapes up as their last tough test before the playoffs. “I think this is a great game,” Wicinski said. “This is a a great opportunity. You have to be able to survive the first gut shot ... and then just be able to grind it out. That’ll be real important.” Metea is Geneva’s UEC crossover foe for a second straight season, with the Vikings winning a shootout last year, 61-48.
Extra point: Geneva’s offense has been hampered in practice by multiple illnesses this week but Wicinski is enthused to welcome defensive back James Carroll back to the mix in the aftermath of a broken hand.
St. Charles North (3-4, 2-3 UEC River) at Larkin (3-4, 2-2 UEC River) at Memorial Field, 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: St. Charles North lost to Batavia, 44-7; Larkin lost to Bartlett, 20-7.
The skinny: North’s murky playoff hopes are on the line as the North Stars seek to bounce back from a deflating showing against Batavia. A win against Larkin would extend what has been a loss-win-loss-win pattern for the North Stars throughout the season. North coach Rob Pomazak said after the Batavia game that he planned to stick with Erik Miller at quarterback after going to Nathan Didier during the third quarter last week. “Erik was coming off a concussion, it was 31-0, I don’t want his confidence to be down more than it maybe already is,” Pomazak said. “Let Nathan get an opportunity. Nathan deserves a chance to go out there and play. I thought it was a good opportunity to put him against a first unit that was still out there.” Senior Kat Stutesman is on the verge of setting North’s program mark for PATs.
Extra point: This could be North’s last Friday night game of the season, with the regular season finale at South Elgin set for 1 p.m. Oct. 26.
Marmion (6-1, 4-1 Suburban Christian Conference Blue) at Aurora Central Catholic (5-2, 3-2 SCC Gold), 7 p.m. today
Last week: Marmion beat St. Francis, 26-20; ACC beat Guerin, 45-14.
The skinny: Marmion has seen plenty of teams with winning records this season – teams with bigger reputations than ACC – but Cadets coach Dan Thorpe said the disciplined running game and misdirection employed by the Chargers will be new, making for a tricky week of practice. The Cadets’ defense has seen great success behind a smaller, speed-oriented pass rush – 6-foot-1, 195-pound running back Jordan Glasgow recently added to the mix since he’s now healthy enough to play two ways – but ACC’s brawny offensive line presents a challenge. “If we can … play a little more downhill, I think it allows us to use some of that size,” Chargers coach Brian Casey said. “If we start playing more east and west, we open ourselves to a little more of a concern of letting that speed really come into play. If we can come right at them, we can utilize more of that power inside that we might have.” Speaking of power, rugged Marmion running back Lucas Warren returns from injury this week to fortify the Cadets’ deep backfield.
Extra point: ACC is an underdog tonight against Marmion and next week against Montini, meaning a 5-4 finish is a realistic possibility. Casey said he thinks the Chargers are in decent shape on playoff points but he plans to investigate ACC’s playoff prospects more thoroughly over the weekend if ACC can’t upend Marmion.
Montini (7-0, 5-0 Suburban Christian Conference Blue) at Aurora Christian (5-2, 3-2 SCC Blue), 7 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Montini beat Marian Central, 40-35; Aurora Christian lost to IC Catholic Prep, 48-6.
The skinny: Aurora Christian has plenty of reason to brood, having lost a laundry list of prominent starters in recent weeks. Quarterback Austin Bray, receiver/DB Noah Hagerty, receiver/DB Brandon Walgren, tight end/defensive lineman Jackson Carpenter, receiver/defensive back Noah Roberts, receiver/linebacker/kicker Trevor Hills, fullback/linebacker Chase Tomney, fullback/linebacker Daniel Clapp and two-way lineman Jonah Walker are the nine Eagles who were either hurt before or during last week’s debacle against IC Catholic Prep, accounting for 15 of Aurora Christian’s 22 starting spots. Worse yet, four-time defending 5A champion Montini arrives for what projected as a marquee, Saturday night showdown before the rash of injuries hit the Eagles. Still, Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe said the team is not sulking. “As we go through this week of practice, I’m just seeing this team unite and come together,” Beebe said. “It’s really neat.” The silver lining, Beebe said, is most of the wounded Eagles will be back in time for the Eagles to begin their 3A state title defense at the end of October. “I’m very encouraged, I’m very upbeat about the rest of the season,” Beebe said. “I think we’re going to get kids back at the right time, not all of them, but a good majority of them, and we’re going to try and make a run at this thing in 3A.”
Extra point: Of the numerous Eagles varsity call-ups needed to plug holes, sophomore left tackle Zach Williams arguably has the most dizzying challenge, with Ohio State-bound Montini defensive end Dylan Thompson to account for. Beebe said he’s tried to keep things light with Williams. “I keep telling him, ‘You’re just blocking Ohio State this weekend, don’t worry about it.’ “ Beebe said.
Guerin (2-5, 0-5 SCC Gold) at St. Francis (3-4, 1-4 SCC Blue), 7 p.m. today
Last week: Guerin lost to ACC, 45-14; St. Francis lost to Marmion, 26-20.
The skinny: St. Francis followed last year’s template much too closely for the Spartans’ liking, starting the season 3-0 before dropping four straight once the SCC Blue competition stiffened. Among those four losses are two straight defeats by six points, to Marian and Marmion, with the Spartans blowing an early lead against the Cadets. St. Francis is without two-way contributor Steven Fassnacht, who sprained his neck in the Marmion game. Guerin enters on a five-game losing streak.
Extra point: Provided the Spartans prevail tonight as expected, St. Francis would need to beat St. Edward (5-2) in another home game next week to become playoff-eligible. The Spartans missed the postseason at 5-4 last year but appear better situated on playoff points this season.
Wheaton Academy (3-4, 2-3 SCC Gold) at Chicago Christian (2-5, 2-3 SCC Gold), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week: Wheaton Academy lost to St. Edward, 60-21; Chicago Christian lost to Walther Lutheran, 43-21.
The skinny: Wheaton Academy’s defense is in circle-the-wagons mode after a jarring defeat at the hands of St. Ed. “It’s not what we were expecting going into it,” said interim Warriors coach Brad Thornton, who was counting on a close game with the Green Wave. “Things in that second quarter went downhill pretty quickly for us.” A win would maintain Wheaton Academy’s playoff possibilities leading up to a Week 9 game against powerhouse Marian Central.
Extra point: Tight end Marino Costello had a big night for the Warriors last week, catching all three touchdown passes from Wheaton Academy QB David Thrasher.
Rock Falls (1-6, 0-5 Big Northern Conference West) at Burlington Central (2-5, 2-3 Big Northern Conference East), 7 p.m. tonight
Last week: Rock Falls lost to Mendota, 57-34; Burlington Central lost to Richmond-Burton, 14-13, in OT.
The skinny: Central faces the unenviable task of bouncing back emotionally after a gut-wrenching, OT loss zapped the Rockets’ playoff hopes last week. A blocked extra point in OT doomed the Rockets. Rock Falls has allowed 56 or more points in each of its last four games.
Extra point: Tonight marks Central’s second straight Rocket-on-Rocket matchup after facing Richmond-Burton last week.
– Jay Schwab, firstname.lastname@example.org