WINNEBAGO (5-0, 3-0 BIG NORTHERN WEST) AT GENOA-KINGSTON (3-2, 3-0 BNC EAST)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Winnebago 28, Genoa-Kingston 7, in Week 6 of 2012 season
Scouting the Indians: Winnebago has really come around in recent years, with four straight playoff appearances under seventh-year coach Mark Helm. Last season, the Indians made it to the Class 3A quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Aurora Christian.
Winnebago is averaging a whopping 42 points a game, and is led offensively by running back Michael Pate, who has 493 yards rushing and five touchdowns while averaging nearly 10 yards a carry.
What’s at stake: Winnebago just might be be the toughest team G-K has left on its schedule. A win tonight would go a long way toward the Cogs’ playoff hopes with a tough slate ahead.
G-K’s offense was rolling in last week’s shutout win over Burlington Central – the Cogs rushed for 246 yards, and Winnebago can be scored on. The Indians have given up an average of 29 points over their past three contests.
– Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
LUTHER NORTH (2-3 NORTHEASTERN ATHLETIC) AT HIAWATHA (3-2 NAC)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Luther North 40, Hiawatha 20, in Week 9 of the 2012 season
Scouting the Wildcats: Space is at a premium in the Luther North version of the Wing-T offense. Eleven offensive players line up within 10 yards of each other with splits so tight the possessions are guaranteed to be a grueling, physical affair.
“They pack it in tight,” Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “They just come at you.”
What’s at stake: A bold film-room statement didn’t draw a flinch from Hiawatha.
“Watching the film from last week’s loss at Ottawa, I told the team [it] wouldn’t face an opponent that good until the playoffs,” Donnelly said. “The kids have bought in as well. They are excited for the situation we are in and believe in our goals.”
The return of two starters begins the Hawks’ playoff push, as a victory over Luther North would put Hiawatha within one victory of a potential postseason berth. A fourth win also would better last season’s victory total of three.
Running back/safety Nick Doolittle returned to practice Monday. His presence will be a huge lift as his offensive versatility gives the Hiawatha offense another talented playmaker on homecoming night. Offensive and defensive lineman Bart Hall also returns and bolsters a line struck by attrition the past two weeks.
“We are getting healthy at the right time,” Donnelly said. “Getting Nick and Bart back is almost like getting four starters back because they play both ways. I’m proud of what we did without them. The guys really went out and busted their tails even though we were outmanned.”
– James Nokes, email@example.com
KANELAND (5-0, 1-0 NORTHERN ILLINOIS BIG 12 EAST) at DEKALB (3-2, 0-1 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 66, DeKalb 23, in Week 6 of 2012 season
Scouting the Knights: Under the spread offense, the Knights have put up more than 40 points in each of their past four games, with most of their firepower coming through the air. Quarterback Drew David already has thrown for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Scouting the Barbs: DeKalb has fared well out of conference, but it’s tough to judge how well it can do inside NI Big 12 East play when Matt Weckler’s team has only played Sycamore. In the first half against the Spartans, however, Dre Brown and the offense showed they can match a fast-paced offense, even if the Barbs’ defense had its struggles.
What’s at stake: For DeKalb, this game is about maintaining an overall winning record and avoiding a 0-2 conference start, but Kaneland will be expected to win and remain perfect. A win for the Barbs would be huge for playoff hopes, but a loss wouldn’t be the end. As for the Knights, it’s all about keeping its 33 regular-season game winning streak alive.
– Luke Srodulski, firstname.lastname@example.org
SYCAMORE (5-0, 1-0 NI BIG 12 EAST) AT MORRIS (2-3, 0-1 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Location: Morris High School, 1000 Union St., Morris
Last meeting: Morris 13, Sycamore 0, in Week 6 of 2012 season
Scouting the Redskins: It’s been a historically rough season so far. The Redskins lost to Minooka for the first time ever at home and, last week, Morris lost to Yorkville, 14-6, for the first time since 1962.
When Morris has done well, it’s been when the Redskins have proven they can run the ball. Jake Walker is the team’s best rusher, but the running game in general has been feast or famine. Junior quarterback Griffin Sobol has had an up-and-down season to this point. The Redskins return only one starter (lineman T.J. Layne) from last year’s Class 5A state runner-up team.
What’s at stake: Sycamore can clinch a playoff berth with its sixth win. The Spartans have lost two in a row to Morris, but will look to end that streak with a road win.
Kaneland and the Spartans are the only two remaining undefeated teams in the NI Big 12 East, and Sycamore can hold up its end of a potential matchup of 7-0 teams in Week 8 with another victory tonight.
– Ross Jacobson, email@example.com