As the calendar flips over to the second week of July, the countdown to the first football Friday is now at 53 days. And, while the COVID-19 pandemic has made for a great deal of uncertainty, Christmas came this week with the release of the 2020 football schedule.
Without further ado, let's break down the top games in Kendall County for the upcoming season, week by week.
Week 1: Neuqua Valley (9-2 in 2019) at Oswego (9-2), Aug. 28, 7 p.m.
With the Southwest Prairie Conference reducing its number of crossover games, Oswego needed to fill its opening-night spot. It didn't need to go far to find an opponent with plenty of pizzaz. Defending DuPage Valley Conference champ Neuqua, like Oswego, is coming off a 9-2 season, as the programs meet for the first time since 2004. Neuqua graduated star quarterback Mark Gronowski, but there's plenty of talent left with running back Armani Moreno and linebacker Trey Borske. Oswego brings back quarterback Cole Pradel, and stellar bookend defensive linemen in Matt Egly and Anthony Cikauskas. Also on the same night, Oswego East plays at Waubonsie Valley in an intriguing nonconference game.
Week 2: Harvard (4-5) at Sandwich (4-5), Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m.
These two teams played a doozy of a second-week game last year, Harvard's last-second field goal attempt falling short as the Indians held on 20-18. Both teams are coming off 4-5 seasons, so should be hungry to build off that. With Sandwich's rugged Interstate Eight Conference slate looming, the Indians would be well-served to get off to a fast start.
Week 3: Joliet West (4-6) at Oswego (9-2), Sept. 11, 7 p.m.
The Steelmen have proven a sticky opponent for the Panthers in recent seasons. Last year, Oswego pulled away for a 23-14 win. The Panthers' stout defense figures to have its hands full with big Joliet West running back Trenten Howland, an Indiana recruit. The Steelmen sneaked into the playoffs last year by winning the SPC East with a 4-5 record, and could be Oswego's toughest crossover matchup.
Week 4: Oswego East (5-5) at Joliet West (4-6), Sept 18, 6:30 p.m.
The Wolves just did get into the playoffs last year with a 5-4 record, so they need to take care of business in their crossover games. Oswego East did well in shutting down Howland in last year's 31-7 win, and he'll be a focus again of a defense led by Gianni Cammarata. Oswego East's offense struggled at times in 2019, but does bring back playmakers in quarterback Michael Ford and receiver Jack Allison.
Week 5: Oswego (9-2) at Plainfield North (6-4), Sept. 25, 7 p.m.
The Tigers have been as tough an SPC opponent for Oswego as any in the last decade, and last year's 14-13 Panthers' win that came down to the last minute was no different. Plainfield North returns nine starters on defense from last year's 6-4 team, a group led by Danny Nuccio. Speedster Marcellus Moore is now at Purdue, but senior Adam Smith is back at quarterback. A good Plainfield secondary will be tested by Oswego wideout Nik Hampton.
Week 6: Yorkville (8-3) at Oswego East (5-5), Oct. 2, 7 p.m.
The Foxes last year made it back-to-back playoff appearances, making an impressive SPC debut in winning their first six games and finishing 8-3. Yorkville's special teams and defense was strong in a 30-7 win over Oswego East. The Foxes did graduate a stellar senior class, but will bank on the likes of running back Dougie Burson and lineman Jarek Slavin to keep the momentum going into 2020. Keep an eye on touted Oswego East junior linebacker Jared Badie, who has an offer from Kent State.
Week 7: Oswego (9-2) at Oswego East (5-5), Oct. 9, 7 p.m. and Plano (2-7) at Sandwich (4-5), Oct. 9., 7:30 p.m.
Rivalry night in Kendall County. Oswego has never lost to its district rival, taking a 14-3 defensive slugfest last year. Both teams have some talent on the line of scrimmage to watch, Boston College recruit Otto Hess and Aidan Tweedy on offense and Egly and Cikauskas on defense for Oswego, big Coran Woods for Oswego East.
Sandwich got the upper hand in the Rt. 34 rivalry game last year with Plano, 36-7. The matchup has as much history as any in the area, dating back to 1903.
Week 8: Yorkville (8-3) at Oswego (9-2), Oct. 16, 7 p.m.
Neighboring schools met for the first time last year since 1994, and it was a good one, as Oswego rallied from 10 points down in the first half for a 28-20 win. Cole Pradel completed his last 10 passes and Jack Lemke had big plays on both sides of the ball.
Week 9: Oswego (9-2) at Minooka (11-1), Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
Oswego will surely have revenge in mind after Minooka snapped the Panthers' SPC championship streak last season in a 28-21 slugfest decided in the last minutes. Minooka graduated the lion's share of its key contributors from last year's Class 8A quarterfinalist and has a new coach. Matt Harding, previously defensive coordinator, takes over for John Belskis.