NO. 9 HARVARD (7-0, 4-0 BIG NORTHERN EAST) AT GENOA-KINGSTON (4-3, 4-0 BNC EAST)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Harvard 36, Genoa-Kingston 7, in Week 8 of 2012 season
Scouting the Hornets: Harvard, the No. 9 team in The Associated Press’ Class 4A poll, might have a gaudy record. However, the Hornets’ opponents so far this season have won only 10 games combined as Harvard was dealt an easy Big Northern Conference crossover schedule. Harvard is leading the BNC East, but still has to play the second- and third-place teams in the league – Genoa-Kingston and Richmond-Burton.
The Hornets move the ball on the ground with Jose Mejia, who has rushed 100 times for 580 yards and nine touchdowns. Justin Nolen is the team’s leading receiver, with 35 catches for 496 yards and three scores.
What’s at stake: The winner clinches a share of the BNC East title. If Genoa-Kingston gets a victory, the Cogs would become playoff-eligible for the first time since 2010, with a chance to clinch a playoff spot next week at Marengo.
– Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
HIAWATHA (3-4, 3-4 NORTHEASTERN ATHLETIC) AT ROCKFORD CHRISTIAN LIFE (6-1, 6-1 NAC)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Rockford Christian Life 14, Hiawatha 12, in Week 4 of the 2012 season
Scouting the Eagles: One of two Northeastern Athletic Conference teams that have secured a playoff berth, Christian Life is a team familiar with postseason play. The Eagles have bounced back from a 3-6 2012 campaign, the first year they failed to qualify for the playoffs since 2008.
The Eagles run a 4-4 defense with a single safety. They crowd the line of scrimmage and look to win the battle up front by getting 10 defenders in the box. On offense, RCL has a few offensive formations out of which it runs an option attack.
“They are a solid team that doesn’t make many mistakes,” Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “They don’t turn the ball over and they execute. They aren’t unbeatable. But are a very good team.”
What’s at stake: One last chance to meet the team’s goal of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1987. Hiawatha has to go 2-0 in its last two regular-season games.
Chris Schuck is expected to return to the Hawks’ lineup after a lower body injury. Levi Novotny will make his first appearance all year. The junior has battled back from a dislocated knee and will be an extra playmaker at the offensive skill positions.
“If we go out and execute, we know we can give ourselves a chance to come out with the win,” Donnelly said. “Everyone knows they have to go out and leave everything they have out on the field.”
– James Nokes, email@example.com
NO. 2 KANELAND (7-0, 3-0 NORTHERN ILLINOIS BIG 12 EAST) AT NO. 3 SYCAMORE (7-0, 3-0 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 30, Sycamore 7, in Week 8 of 2012 season
Scouting the Spartans: If Dion Hooker is back for Sycamore, the Spartans’ offense might be a whole lot more dynamic than it has been in previous weeks. The speedy junior was out with a stress fracture in his ankle. Hooker plays cornerback, too, so the Sycamore defense also will receive a boost if he returns.
If not, the Spartans once again will rely on power running back Riley Hurley and quarterback Devin Mottet to pick up rushing yards, and the virtually unstoppable Ben Niemann should catch at least a few passes.
Scouting the Knights: The Knights are big and athletic on the offensive and defensive lines. NCAA Division I prospects Joe Komel and Justin Diddell man the tackle positions, so Sycamore will have a difficult time up front.
Look for Isaac Swithers to get the load of the carries for the fifth consecutive week after Jesse Balluff suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3.
Quarterback Drew David leads the area in passing yards, so expect him to find Brandon Bishop, John Pruett and Dylan Nauert plenty. He also has nine interceptions, so turnovers could be a deciding factor.
What’s at stake: The Northern Illinois Big 12 East crown and an undefeated regular season hang in the balance for both teams. Barring a massive upset, each team should win its final game of the season, so Friday’s tilt is virtually a conference championship game.
This might not be the last time the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in Class 5A see each other, either. A playoff meeting is quite possible, so look for this game to be a preview of a November matchup.
– Anthony Zilis, firstname.lastname@example.org
DEKALB (4-3, 1-2 NI BIG 12 EAST) AT YORKVILLE (4-3, 1-2 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Location: Yorkville High School, 797 Game Farm Road, Yorkville
Last meeting: DeKalb 47, Yorkville 0, in Week 8 of 2012 season
Scouting the Foxes: Yorkville, which has lost three of its past four contests, was held to only 54 yards of total offense in a 41-0 loss to Kaneland last week.
Henry Imburgia gets most of the work on the ground for the Foxes. Quarterback Cameron Van Boekel doesn’t throw often and he had three interceptions against the Knights, including one in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown.
What’s at stake: Playoff eligibility for both teams is up for grabs in Week 8. Although the Barbs essentially would clinch a postseason berth because of their strength of schedule, Yorkville still would be on the edge with a fifth win because of a weaker nonconference schedule. The Foxes haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002.
With a victory, DeKalb would get its first playoff berth since 2010 and would have a chance in Week 9 to get to six wins for the first time since 1989.
– Ross Jacobson, email@example.com