Conference race could go to end
The DeKalb Barbs won the Northern Illinois Big 12 East at 7-3 last season.
In 2012, coach Brent McIntosh thinks it will take a little bit more to repeat.
“I think it’s going to take maybe an 8-2 record, maybe even 9-1, but I think that those teams that are below the 9-1 team are really going to fight for that and have a say.”
Teams that weren’t in the race have stepped up to be major players this year, including Morris and Yorkville. Add Rochelle and Kaneland to the mix, and the NI Big 12 East race should go down to the end.
“This year, there’s even more parity. Yorkville has stepped up quite a bit, Morris has stepped up quite a bit, they’re very good road teams, they play on a smaller pitch on their football field,” McIntosh said. “Rochelle is again beating teams handily. Kaneland, DeKalb, Yorkville, Morris and Rochelle, all five teams there are going to have a say in who’s going to be the champion.”
Kaneland has made it a theme of posting come-from-behind victories over the past two weeks. And they did so again Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Rochelle.
While Kaneland coach Scott Parillo says he’s quickly getting older because of the consistent late-match drama, he likes the potential long-term benefits of these types of games.
“I’d prefer not to come from behind, but that’s good,” Parillo said. “It’s better than blowing out teams. We’re playing tough games so it’s going to help us. Whether we win conference or we don’t, it’s going to help us in the playoffs.”
Last year Hiawatha dealt Hinckley-Big Rock one of its worst losses of the year, beating the Royals, 7-1.
“It was a game-changer for us to really look at ourselves and ask what we want,” H-BR coach Paul Taeuber said. “We were humbled.”
H-BR used it as motivation and would go on to win a Class 1A sectional championship before losing to Lisle, 1-0, in the Super-Sectionals.
This year, Hiawatha will be hoping for a similar bounce-back after the Hawks lost at H-BR, 10-0, their worst loss of the season to date.
VIEWS: H-BR better when Conley doesn’t dominate
Hinckley-Big Rock forward Bernie Conley’s goal-scoring prowess is well-documented.
Earlier this season, the senior has netted his 100th career goal, becoming only the fifth player in school history to pass the century mark. His stepdad, Justin Stiles, is one of the other four.
But Conley’s future goal-scoring exploits may not directly correlate to H-BR’s success this season. In fact, H-BR coach Paul Taeuber says it’s almost the opposite.
“Our best games that we’ve played over the past two years have been ones where [Conley] does not dominate,” Taeuber said. “He facilitates because he makes the pass, makes the run, keeps the ball.”
At no time was that more evident than In H-BR’s 10-0 win over Hiawatha on September 12. Four different players scored in the first half for H-BR as the Royals climbed out to a 6-0 halftime lead over their conference rival.
The first three came from senior forward Zach Michels, who has been a revelation for H-BR after moving up front at the middle of last season.
Conley eventually netted a second-half hat trick, including two on penalty kicks. But those goals came after the game was largely out of reach.
“Bernie knows it and Bernie will get his goals,” Taeuber said. “Bernie’s such a talented player that he’s always been someone who could finish, but sometimes he can take that burden on too much.”
H-BR is now 11-3 on the season, including a 3-1 mark in the Little Ten Conference. Outside of a loss to Somonauk, the Royals seem to have everything rolling midway through the season.
“Once we moved Zach up front midway through last year going through a little reorientation, it was interesting,” Taeuber said. “We changed a lot of things up and we started playing like we are now at the end of last year.”
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. Contact him by email at email@example.com.
SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Hinckley-Big Rock, senior
Michels scored the first three goals of the Royals’ 10-0 win over Hiawatha at home Sept. 12.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kaneland at Yorkville, 4:30 p.m., Thursday
Another crucial conference matchup for the Knights who have gotten off to a nice start in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East.
Harvard at Genoa-Kingston, 4:30 p.m., Monday
The Cogs wrap up the first round of conference play in the Big Northern with a home game against Harvard.
1. Kaneland (7-1-2, 2-0-1 Northern Illinois Big 12)
The Knights rallied past Morris in the second half to win their first conference game of the season.
2. Hinckley-Big Rock (11-2, 3-1 Little Ten Conference)
The Royals may have played their best game of the young season against Hiawatha on an emotional night in Hinckley.
3. Genoa-Kingston (8-4, 3-3 Big Northern Conference)
The Cogs split a pair of games in conference, losing to Richmond-Burton and defeating Marengo.
4. Hiawatha (2-2)
Hiawatha tries to bounce back after a lopsided loss at Hinckley-Big Rock.
5. DeKalb (4-1-4, 2-0-1 NI Big 12)
The Barbs rolled past Yorkville for their first conference victory last week.
6. Indian Creek (5-9, 1-4 LTC)
Little Ten Conference play has not been kind to the Timberwolves in the early going.
7. Sycamore (2-9-1, 0-3 NI Big 12)
The Spartans are going to have a tough time recording wins in the deep NI Big 12 East.