McHenry County's top games to watch, week-by-week

There are always uncertainties in high school football in mid-July, although this year has provided bigger question marks than ever. The coronavirus pandemic could change many things this fall.

In the face of that uncertainty, the IHSA released its statewide football schedule this week. If games happen as scheduled, these will be the top matchups to watch in McHenry County over the nine-week regular season.

Week 1: Marian Central (4-5 in 2019) at Johnsburg (4-5), 7 p.m. Aug. 28

This local nonconference rivalry moves into its third consecutive year. Marian won both contests in 2018 and 2019, but both were one-possession games that could have gone either way. For two teams that missed the postseason by one game last year, this Week 1 matchup should be a tough first test.

Week 2: Harvard (4-5) at Sandwich (4-5), 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4

Harvard was a last-second field goal short against Sandwich last season, a win that could have made the Hornets playoff eligible for the first time since 2013. Harvard’s field goal attempt fell inches short, giving Sandwich a 20-18 win. The Hornets have a winnable nonconference slate, and will want to pick up every win they can in Weeks 1-4.

Week 3: Huntley (9-2) at Prairie Ridge (12-2), 7 p.m. Sept. 11

The only teams to stop Prairie Ridge last season were East St. Louis in the Class 6A state championship game and Huntley in Week 3. Huntley edged Prairie Ridge, 28-24. The Red Raiders, once again, have a tough stretch with Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove in back-to-back weeks.

Week 4: Cary-Grove (9-3) at Huntley (9-2), 7 p.m. Sept. 18

Huntley beat Cary-Grove last season, 21-14, pulling off wins against the Fox Valley Conference’s triple option juggernauts over two consecutive weeks. This relatively early matchup will provide an indication of who might be at the forefront of the FVC race in 2020.

Week 5: Woodstock (2-7) at Woodstock North (4-5), 7 p.m. Sept. 25

The Woodstock crosstown rivalry saw two games last season. In 2020, both Woodstock schools have full nonconference slates, so the Blue Streaks and Thunder will only square off once. They split the two games last season. Woodstock’s Week 9 win kept North out of the postseason.

Week 6: Marengo (8-3) at Richmond-Burton (14-0), 7 p.m. Oct. 2

Marengo and R-B have been the top dogs in the KRC each of the past two years. This will likely be the toughest conference test for the defending Class 4A state champion Rockets. R-B cruised to a 38-13 victory in 2019.

Week 7: McHenry (3-6) at Crystal Lake South (5-5), 7 p.m. Oct. 9

Jacobs at C-G is another notable matchup in Week 7, but McHenry vs. South had major playoff implications for both teams last year, and could again in 2020. South escaped with a 14-7 victory a year ago, on its way to a playoff appearance with a 5-4 regular season record.

Week 8: Cary-Grove (9-3) at Prairie Ridge (12-2), 7 p.m. Oct. 16

Two of C-G’s three losses came at the hands of Prairie Ridge last season. A 14-13 loss in the state quarterfinals likely still stings. The FVC title could be on the line (although Huntley will have plenty to say about that), as well as playoff seeding. This is always a must-watch game in McHenry County.

Week 9: Jacobs (3-6) at Crystal Lake Central (6-4), 7 p.m. Oct. 23

This is another late-season game that could have playoff implications for both sides. Someone has to emerge from the middle of the FVC pack, and these two teams are always in the mix. Last season, Central’s offense carried it to a 45-24 victory against Jacobs in Week 9.