January 26, 2022
News


News

The Times Week 6 previews: Ottawa looks to get to .500 mark; Streator aims to stay above it

FCW expects to be back in action; Marquette hosts LeRoy

Woodstock (2-3, 0-2) at Ottawa (2-3, 1-2)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Woodstock 15, Ottawa 7 (2019)

About the Blue Streaks: Like Ottawa, Woodstock is not afraid to throw the football. Last week in a 42-7 home loss to Kaneland, however, the Blue Streaks kept the ball on the ground a bit more with their read-option running game. Still, the Pirates’ No. 1 concern has to be a passing attack led by dual-threat QB Liam Mickle (66-for-126, 979 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs this season) and top targets Kaden Hunter (18 receptions, 242 yards, 2 TDs), Jared Kniola (14 catches, 160 yards, 1 TD) and Caden Monti (13 receptions, 337 yards, 3 TDs). The Blue Streaks’ two wins have come over Limestone (1-4) and Harvard (1-4) in Weeks 2 and 3.

About the Pirates: There had been signs, including his 23 touches the week before, that Pirates RB Javarius Whitfield was due for another big game, and he had it and then some last Friday, rushing for 292 yards and four TDs in a win over Woodstock North. That type of recent success on video should open up things a bit for a Pirates passing game led by QB Braiden Miller and No. 1 target Levi Sheehan. In addition to his phenomenal play on the defensive side at linebacker, Ryder Miller is emerging into an offensive threat in the passing game as well.

Friday Night Drive pick: Woodstock

— J.T. Pedelty

Johnsburg (0-5, 0-3) at Sandwich (0-5, 0-2)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Skyhawks: One week after Plano opened eyes by nearly beating state-ranked Richmond-Burton, Johnsburg served notice of its own by playing those same Reapers to a one-point loss, 27-26, and being deep in Plano territory in the closing seconds. QB Luke Conroy and RB Jake Metze are a potent one-two punch for Johnsburg, both adept in the passing and running games. K/KR Cade Piggott is a threat to put up three points when kicking or run a kick back for six when he’s not.

About the Indians: Two of Sandwich’s losses have come via forfeit as the team isolated because of COVID-19 issues, and the other three have come by a combined score of 155-27. Seven Tornga (20 carries for 79 yards in last week’s loss to Richmond-Burton) and Austin Marks (5 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception for 24 yards) did find some success moving the ball in Week 5′s return to the field. This Week 6 matchup has to be one where the Indians are looking forward to righting the ship, although no doubt Johnsburg is thinking the same thing.

FND pick: Johnsburg

— J.T. Pedelty

Streator (3-2, 1-2) at Peotone (3-2, 1-2)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Peotone 52, Streator 13 (spring 2021)

About the Bulldogs: Streator, after a 3-0 start with wins over East Peoria (14-12), rival Ottawa (28-23) and Herscher (45-40), has stumbled in losses the past two weeks against Lisle (28-14) and Manteno (42-28). After a tough first half against the Panthers last week, sophomore Christian Benning went 7-of-11 passing for 175 yards in the second half, including three scoring passes to Cade Stevens, while Aneefy Ford scored on a long TD run. However, four turnovers in the opening half and five for the game allowed Manteno to push to a 28-0 halftime lead. The Bulldogs, like the Blue Devils, desperately need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, with the locals looking at games against Class 3A state-ranked Reed-Custer (5-0), Wilmington (5-0) and always tough Coal City (3-2) down the stretch.

About the Blue Devils: Peotone, like the Bulldogs, started the season off winning three straight, defeating Peoria Manual (24-20), Farmersburg North Central from Indiana (34-8) and Manteno (35-21). However, the past two weeks have brought road losses to this week’s undefeated squads in AP Class 3A No. 1 Wilmington (19-0) and No. 10 Reed-Custer (42-6). The Blue Devils have committed seven turnovers the past two games. Of the 259 plays Peotone has run this season, 240 (93%) have been rushing. Dylan Sroka leads the team in rushing (89 carries, 519 yards, 5 TDs), followed by senior Derek Knauer (57-292-4), junior Dawson Piper (54-216-2) and senior quarterback T.J. Chenoweth (32-131-3), the last only 3-of-18 passing for 47 yards on the season, with the three completions going to classmate Joel Lee.

Friday Night Drive pick: Peotone

LeRoy (2-3) at Marquette (4-1)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Panthers: Coach BJ Zeleznik’s club has had a roller-coaster start to this season. Since it lost big in its opener 41-6 to Moweaqua A&M, it earned a 22-16 win over the same Heyworth squad that MA beat 47-22 in Week 4. The Panthers then lost to Tremont 42-12 and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 14-7 before besting Fieldcrest 34-18 last Friday. In that game, senior QB Carson Houser ran for two scores and passed for another to Brody Bennett, who also had a rush TD. Meanwhile, LeRoy’s defense limited the Knights to minus-23 yards rushing, although it gave up 272 yards and three TDs to FHS QB Koltin Kearfott. They did pick him off twice.

About the Crusaders: Last week’s return to Gould Stadium after three weeks on the road resulted in a 62-42 win over Hope Academy. With 234 points through five games (46.8 a game), the Cru are on a historic roll offensively, grinding up 513 rush yards and 656 total yards vs. the Eagles behind several stellar efforts, none more significant than Tom Durdan’s (291 yards, 2 TDs, rushing; 5 catches, 114 yards, 3 TDs receiving; 2 INTs on defense). Based on the Fieldcrest game, it could be another big day for QB Alex Graham (143 yards, 4 TDs passing vs. Hope). The MA defense was not as bad as 42 points suggests, as the Eagles had kickoff return and fumble return TDs. No surprises this week, as LeRoy runs the same wing-T offense the Cru see every day in practice.

Friday Night Drive pick: Marquette

— Charlie Ellerbrock

Seneca (1-4) at Clinton (1-3)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Fighting Irish: Just under 30 hours before kickoff, the Seneca Fighting Irish varsity football team has found a Week 6 opponent. Seneca announced via Twitter on Thursday afternoon that it would be traveling the 95 miles south to visit Clinton this Friday night. The game was added to replace an open slot created on the Fighting Irish schedule when Watseka last week forfeited the remainder of its varsity season due to, according to the school, “an abundance of season-ending injuries, low student participation and numerous other contributing factors.” Seneca could have accepted a forfeit from Watseka and claimed its second win of the season, but instead chose to find an opponent.

About the Maroons: Clinton is a school of 546 students, per IHSA.org, and a member of the Central Illinois Conference. The Maroons had three straight winning seasons — including a Class 4A playoff appearance in 2019 — before struggling to a 2-4 mark this past spring. Clinton had this Friday open up when its scheduled game against Tuscola was canceled due to Tuscola’s football team taking a pause until at least Oct. 11 “in response to COVID-19 issues,” per the Champaign News-Gazette. Clinton hasn’t played since a Sept. 10 loss to Shelbyville. The Maroons were forced to forfeit their Week 4 contest against Moweaqua A&M.

Friday Night Drive pick: Clinton

— J.T. Pedelty

Tri-Valley (5-0, 2-0) at Fieldcrest (0-5, 0-2)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Fieldcrest 25, Tri-Valley 0 (2019)

About the Vikings: Tri-Valley is back atop the Heart of Illinois Large standings for the first time in a few years and back to its dominating ways, outscoring opponents by an average final tally of 40.4-6.8. The way they’re doing it, however, is different than the Vikings’ past glory years, running a spread offense more geared toward the big play than 4 yards and a cloud of dust. Fieldcrest’s defense will have its hands full with QB Andrew Petrilli and WR Nathan Simon.

About the Knights: Fieldcrest’s offense continues to demonstrate it can move the football through the air behind QB Kearfott and top receivers Lorton, Modro, Halley and Johnson. What the Knights have not been able to do to this point is the reason they are still winless – run the ball effectively or stop opposing offenses. The Knights’ defense is allowing 41.6 points a game, a troubling recipe against a Tri-Valley team averaging 40.4 points an outing.

Friday Night Drive pick: Tri-Valley

— J.T. Pedelty

FCW (3-2) at Martinsville (5-0)

Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last meeting: First meeting

About the Falcons: FCW was forced to forfeit its Week 5 game against Polo because of COVID-19 cases forcing Flanagan-Cornell High School to temporarily go to remote learning. The Falcons were back in practice this week, however, and although they missed out on a measuring-stick game against the Marcos, they get another chance to insert themselves back in the I8FA conversation against the undefeated Bluestreaks. FCW’s formula for victory to this point has been high-scoring games.

About the Bluestreaks: The last remaining undefeated team in the Illinois 8-Man Football Association South Division, Martinsville has found success after finally finding stability at the head coaching position with Shane McDearmon. Although unbeaten, Martinsville has had some close calls – noticeably a 22-0 win over Decatur Lutheran and 44-32 win over Milford-Cissna Park, a team FCW edged, 34-28.

Friday Night Drive pick: Martinsville

— J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 22 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.

Brian Hoxsey

Brian Hoxsey

I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016. I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.