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GENOA-KINGSTON (2-3, 2-1 BIG NORTHERN CONFERENCE EAST) AT WINNEBAGO (4-1, 2-1 BNC WEST)
Game time: 7 p.m. today
Last meeting: Winnebago 32, Genoa-Kingston 28, in Week 7 of 2010 season
Directions: Head west on IL-72 before going north on IL-39/US-51. Take that for 17 miles and merge on US-20 West. After eight miles, make a left on Elida Street and the school will be on your right.
Scouting the Indians: Winnebago has lit up the scoreboard, averaging 45.6 points a game this season. Winnebago’s only loss came against unbeaten Rockford Lutheran last week.
The Indians can beat teams with the run or pass, and have a number of players who can carry the ball.
Keys to victory: With four games remaining in the regular season, G-K needs at least two victories to become playoff-eligible. The Cogs will be challenged the next two weeks, with this crossover game and next week’s game against a North Boone team that’s currently unbeaten.
If G-K stays turnover-free and gets its running game going, the Cogs have a chance to pull off the upset.
– Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
DEKALB (1-4, 0-1 NORTHERN ILLINOIS BIG 12 EAST) AT NO. 5 KANELAND (5-0, 1-0 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 49, DeKalb 38, in Week 6 of 2011 season
Keys to victory for DeKalb: After DeKalb’s 42-6 win over Streator, the Barbs regained the belief that a win against Kaneland is possible. If they hang with the undefeated Knights early, expect their chests to puff a little bigger. Jack Sauter had an outstanding performance last week, so if he gets involved with the ground game early like he did against Streator, he’ll add an extra dimension to the DeKalb offense. Injuries are a concern as Dre Brown may not play for the second straight week after suffering a concussion, but the Barbs gave Kaneland a close game last year, and a similar result could be in store in 2012.
Keys to victory for Kaneland: The Knights fell behind last year and the Barbs led, 31-14, in the third quarter. If Kaneland can step on DeKalb early and assert its dominance, as Sycamore did by taking a 35-0 lead in Week 3, it can crush any confidence DeKalb is carrying over from last week’s victory. The Barbs are talented, so if Kaneland lets them stay in the game like they did last year, there’s a chance for an upset. Sycamore quarterback Devin Mottet gave the Barbs’ defense fits early in Week 3, so another solid performance from Kaneland quarterback Drew David should lead the Knights to another victory.
– Anthony Zilis, email@example.com
No. 1 MORRIS (5-0, 1-0 NI BIG 12 EAST) AT NO. 9 SYCAMORE (4-1, 1-0 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Morris 43, Sycamore 19, in Week 6 of 2011 season
Scouting the Redskins: Morris certainly has lived up to the billing as one of the top teams in the state. The Redskins have a strong running game led by a trio of running backs, including Reese Sobol, who gained 108 yards on nine carries last week against Yorkville.
But Morris also will take to the passing attack at times and quarterback Zach Cinnamon is more than capable of making big plays.
Morris’ defense has been impressive to say the least, allowing a combined 43 points over five contests, including a shutout of Geneseo.
Keys to victory: Sycamore’s defense has been outstanding against the run, and the Spartans will have to be at their best again against Morris. Much like Ottawa, Sycamore needs to consistently force third-and-long situations. The Spartans didn’t force a turnover against Ottawa, but likely will need one or two to have a chance against Morris.
Offensively, the Spartans will have to get back to the balanced attack they exhibited against DeKalb in Week 3. A couple of big pass plays from Devin Mottet to Ben Niemann wouldn’t hurt the cause, either.
– Ross Jacobson, firstname.lastname@example.org
HIAWATHA (2-3 NORTHEASTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE) AT MOOSEHEART (4-1 NAC)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last meeting: Mooseheart 42, Hiawatha 0, in week 6 of the 2011 season
Scouting the Ramblers: Explosive plays are the norm from the speedy Mooseheart playmakers. The breakaway speed of running backs Oumaru Abdualhi and Sahr Mahoney make them a threat to score on every possession.
“They do a great job of utilizing their skill players,” Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “Abdualhi might be the fastest player we see all season. We’ve got to hit their running backs often, converge and swarm after initial contact. We’ve got to avoid 1-on-1 situations.”
When defenses overload the box to stop the Ramblers’ running game, quarterback Jon Hart and receiver JJ Odusni can stretch the field vertically. Mooseheart lost, 35-21, last week to NAC leader Ottawa Marquette.
Keys to victory: A win at the Ramblers’ homecoming game would keep the Hawks out of dubious must-win situations to qualify for the playoffs. Hiawatha has found success with its spread offense and will operate out of the shotgun while still using some wishbone motion.
“Our offensive line blocking has been unbelievable,” Donnelly said. “We’ve also been able to get our sophomore wide receivers more playing time, which has kept other players fresh. We no longer have as many guys playing both ways.”
– James Nokes, email@example.com