HOPE ACADEMY (6-2, 6-2 NORTHEASTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE) AT HIAWATHA (3-5, 3-5 NAC)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Hiawatha 14, Hope 13, in Week 2 of the 2012 season
Scouting the Eagles: It has been a quick rebuild for Hope. The Eagles were 2-7 with an inexperienced roster in 2012. But Keandro Murphy and Lafayette Gray are the capable playmaking duo who lead a solid offense. Hope has won four straight games and looks to enter the playoffs on a high note.
What’s at stake: A speech Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly is all to familiar with will urge players to begin the 2014 season in Week 9 and to honor the dedication of a senior class that has come close in consecutive seasons to snapping the Hawks’ playoff drought that started in 1987.
It’s the last home game for multidimensional quarterback Mike Mercado, who has been an offensive leader and catalyst for Hiawatha. For the Hawks to return to the form that resulted in a 3-1 start, Mercado has to be a force on the ground and through the air.
– James Nokes, email@example.com
GENOA-KINGSTON (4-4, 4-1 BIG NORHERN CONFERENCE EAST) AT MARENGO (1-7, 1-4 BNC EAST)
Game time: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Location: Marengo High School, 110 Franks Road, Marengo
Last meeting: Genoa-Kingston 14, Marengo 0, in Week 9 of 2012 season
Scouting the Indians: Marengo snapped a 15-game losing streak last week with a victory over Rockford Christian. The Indians turned the ball over seven times, but still managed a 42-7 win.
Dakota Kissack leads the Indians with 427 rushing yards on 89 carries. Quarterback Zach Knobloch had his best performance of the season in Week 8, throwing for 198 yards and a touchdown. He’s completed 64 percent of his passes on the season, but has more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (four).
What’s at stake: Playoffs. G-K would be in the postseason for the first time since 2010 with a victory. The Cogs would get to five wins and already have accumulated enough playoff points to ensure they will be above the cutoff for the postseason.
– Ross Jacobson, firstname.lastname@example.org
ROCHELLE (5-3, 1-3 NORTHERN ILLINOIS BIG 12 EAST) AT DEKALB (4-4, 1-3 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Rochelle 44, DeKalb 31, in Week 9 of 2012 season
Scouting the Hubs: Rochelle has lost three of its past four games, but a 5-1 start to the season made the Hubs playoff-eligible for the 15th time in the past 16 years.
Like DeKalb’s past several opponents, the Hubs run often and throw sparingly. Running backs Marquez Felix and Evan White shoulder most of the load for a rushing attack that generally owns time of possession. On the other side of the ball, Rochelle has had some trouble defending the rush. In their past two games combined, losses to Sycamore and Morris, the Hubs have given up more than 500 yards on the ground.
What’s at stake: This game is a must-win for DeKalb. Should the Barbs pull out the victory, a 5-4 record with a high strength of schedule most likely would be enough to put them in the playoffs. As for the Hubs, they’re most likely in, but without a guarantee of a playoff berth, they probably won’t be holding anything back. A big run or a crucial turnover could be the difference in this matchup.
– Luke Srodulski, email@example.com
SYCAMORE (8-0, 4-0 NI BIG 12 EAST) AT YORKVILLE (5-3, 2-2 NI BIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Location: Yorkville High School, 797 Game Farm Road, Yorkville
Last meeting: Sycamore 44, Yorkville 0, in Week 9 of 2012 season
Scouting the Foxes: Yorkville is playoff-eligible for the first time since 2002, but a lack of playoff points because of an easy nonconference schedule could keep the Foxes out of the playoff picture. An upset win over the Spartans would guarantee Yorkville a spot in Week 10.
The Foxes feature a run-heavy offense – they had 47 rushing attempts in last weeks’ win over DeKalb, totaling 168 yards on the ground. Malcolm Levy led Yorkville with 26 carries for 93 yards.
What’s at stake: With a win, Sycamore wins the NI Big 12 East outright and likely would find itself as the top seed in one of the Class 5A playoff brackets.
Spartans quarterback Devin Mottet left last week’s game against Kaneland with an injury. If he can’t go, Nick Feuerbach, who went 10 of 13 for 123 yards in Mottet’s place, will start.
– Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
KANELAND (7-1, 3-1 NI BIG 12 EAST) AT MORRIS (3-5, 1-3 NI BiIG 12 EAST)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 33, Morris 30, in Week 9 of 2012 season
Location: Morris High School, 1000 Union St., Morris
Scouting the Redskins: This game means nothing to Morris in terms of postseason implications – the Redskins suffered their fifth loss two weeks ago. Last week, they certainly didn’t look like a team with nothing to play for in a 31-28 win over Rochelle. Morris forced five turnovers against the Hubs, and running back Jake Walker ran for 215 yards. As always, the Redskins like to run, but the Knights have plenty of size up front to stop them.
What’s at stake: Unless Yorkville upsets Sycamore, the NI Big 12 East is out of reach, but this game could have playoff seeding implications. The Knights aren’t used to rebounding from a loss, but that’s exactly what they’ll have to do after their 35-game winning streak came to an end last week against Sycamore. A second straight loss could have negative implications heading into the playoffs, and Morris showed last week it’s no pushover despite suffering its first losing season since 2000.
– Anthony Zilis, email@example.com