The Herald-News football preview capsules for Week 3 of the 2023 season

Morris Carter Button (2) runs down the sidelines after  reception during football game between Joliet West at Morris.  Sept 1, 2023.

Southwest Prairie crossovers

Joliet Central (0-2) at Minooka (1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Minooka 47, Joliet Central 0 (2019)

About the Steelmen: Joliet Central put forth one of its best offensive efforts in recent seasons last week, scoring 32 points, but that outburst still wasn’t enough in a 55-32 loss to Bremen. It was, however, the first time since 2016 the program managed 30-plus points in a game. If the offense can manage to move the football more consistently, the special teams units seem to have gotten a boost from Jonas Gregory, who booted a pair of field goals in the Bremen loss.

About the Indians: Minooka, which has a sound defense, ran into a superior effort from an opposing defense last week in a loss to Neuqua Valley. Turnovers didn’t help the cause, either, especially late in the game where one score would have made a world of difference. Efrein Ramirez managed the only touchdown for Minooka, and the Indians would be well served to find a way to get their ground game back on track, as leading rusher Joey Partridge was held to less than 20 yards rushing in the Neuqua Valley loss.

Friday Night Drive pick: Minooka

Plainfield Central (1-1) at Oswego (2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Oswego 42, Plainfield Central 3 (2019)

About the Wildcats: Plainfield Central ground out a win over Metea Valley in Week 2. Mason Smith came up big on both sides of the football. Smith scored both Wildcats touchdowns in a 15-12 victory, and with Metea Valley driving late in the contest, Smith also squelched that out with an interception. Plainfield Central’s offense is still finding its footing, but the defense certainly had a bounce-back performance after being roughed up against Lincoln-Way West in Week 1.

About the Panthers: Oswego entered the season as something of a wild card, as the pedigreed program fell back to a 3-6 record a year ago. There’s been nothing wild card-ish about the Panthers through two weeks, as they have played dominant football thus far, particularly on defense. Through two games, Oswego has allowed only seven points against two solid Class 8A-level opponents (Neuqua Valley and Andrew). If they can keep that up, it is going to be difficult to keep Oswego away from one of the top perches in the Southwest Prairie.

FND pick: Oswego

Romeoville (0-2) at West Aurora (2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: West Aurora 35, Romeoville 0 (2022)

About the Spartans: Romeoville was hoping to get off to a better start with a more balanced nonconference schedule before reaching games against Southwest Prairie Conference teams, where they have typically struggled. And the Spartans put up better fights but ultimately ended up with losses against Oak Lawn and Tinley Park. The Spartans will have their hands full moving forward but have established they can do a little bit more offensively than in recent seasons.

About the Blackhawks: West Aurora wisely softened its nonconference schedule before entering into the rigors that will be its Southwest Prairie West divisional schedule. That schedule switch has allowed it to jump out to a 2-0 cushion it likely will need in league play. The Blackhawks probably let up a few too many points against Noble/Bulls Prep after the unit tossed a shutout in Week 1, but West Aurora still will likely lean on the unit to hopefully help it keep its record spotless.

FND pick: West Aurora

Joliet West (1-1) at Yorkville (1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Yorkville 12, Joliet West 9 (2019)

About the Tigers: Joliet West hung in for a while in Week 2 but eventually did what most opponents do in the regular season when Morris is involved, and succumbed. Juan Rico continues his ascension into being a solid quarterback and leader for the Tigers, as he tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another, showing that his conversion from safety has been a success. The Tigers continue to be fairly proficient in the air, something that will be put to the test against a sturdy Yorkville defense.

About the Foxes: Uncharacteristic mistakes doomed Yorkville in a Week 2 loss to New Trier, where its typically sturdy defense surrendered back-to-back long touchdown plays in the second quarter to allow the Trevians to run away for the victory. Yorkville’s running attack also was stymied. Leading rusher Josh Gettemy was hemmed in for 38 yards on 13 carries. The Foxes also lost quarterback Michael Dopart to a fourth-quarter injury, but Foxes coach Dan McGuire said he expects Dopart to play in Week 3.

FND pick: Yorkville

Plainfield East (0-2) at Oswego East (0-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Oswego East 34, Plainfield East 20 (2022)

About the Bengals: Plainfield East showed some scrap in a Week 2 loss to Waubonsie Valley, but the offense has to find a way to put a few more points on the board. The Bengals scored only a touchdown in Week 2, and most of the 20 points they netted in Week 1 came well after the outcome was decided in Bradley-Bourbonnais’ favor. Plainfield East’s lone touchdown was scored on a QB sneak from Brandon Parades, but moving forward Parades likely will need to be more of a dual threat if the Bengals are to make progress.

About the Wolves: Based on its recent track record, it’s a little surprising to see Oswego East sitting with an 0-2 record, but the breaks simply haven’t fallen its way. Lincoln-Way West edged the Wolves with a late field goal, while the game got away from them in a loss to Waubonsie Valley in Week 1. Oswego East can’t afford to drop to 0-3 with a daunting divisional schedule awaiting them in weeks 5 through 9, so urgency will be required.

FND pick: Oswego East

Plainfield South (0-2) at Plainfield North (0-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Plainfield North 42, Plainfield South 12 (2022)

About the Cougars: Plainfield South ventured into a new offensive scheme this season, and it appears things are not clicking yet for the Cougars. Plainfield South has managed only a solitary touchdown in each of its two losses to start the season and only broke up a DeKalb shutout attempt in Week 2 in the game’s final two minutes. The Cougars have to find a way to buy more time for QB Connor Folliard, who was sacked eight times in the loss to DeKalb.

About Tigers: Plainfield North has always been a defense-dominated team under Anthony Imbordino, and so far that unit has answered the bell, allowing only 20 points across two games. But even that stellar effort can’t combat the fact that the offense is still trying to find its footing, as the Tigers are 0-2. They managed just a field goal in a Week 2 loss to Naperville Central.

Friday Night Drive Pick: Plainfield North

Providence’s Byron Olson sacks Joliet Catholic’s Andres Munoz on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023 Joliet Memorial Stadium.

CCL/ESCC crossover

Fenwick (2-0) at Providence (1-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Providence 25, Fenwick 22 (2022)

About the Friars: Fenwick has a lot of returning experience, and so far it appears to be paying off. The Friars opened the season with a win over Oak Park-River Forest and followed that with a win over St. Ignatius in a surprise to some. Fenwick has some top-shelf talent, particularly in defensive end Nathaniel Marshall. Considering how much difficulty Providence had slowing down Joliet Catholic defensive linemen Dillan Johnson and Mitchell Ragusa, the Celtics probably will have their hands full in trying to keep Fenwick’s front line from causing problems, too.

About the Celtics: Providence hit a brick wall in its rivalry match with Joliet Catholic in Week 2, as the Celtics barely amassed 100 yards of total offense and infrequently had any sort of threat to dent the scoreboard. The defense didn’t play particularly poorly, especially when you consider turnovers often left Joliet Catholic with a short field, and Providence was able to hold multiple drives to field goals rather than touchdowns as the Hilltoppers kicked four of them on the night. Most of the problems for Providence were self-inflicted wounds, and the Celtics also had some mishaps in a narrow win over Lake Central (Indiana) in Week 1. The Celtics won’t have the luxury of continuing to make this many mistakes moving forward through a brutal second-half schedule.

FND pick: Fenwick

St. Rita (2-0) at Joliet Catholic (2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: St. Rita 31, Joliet Catholic 14 (2019)

About the Mustangs: St. Rita has had Joliet Catholic’s number in previous encounters between the two programs, and the Mustangs bring a pretty experienced crew into Joliet in an attempt to keep that string of success going. The Mustangs have been fairly prolific offensively to start the season in wins over Kenwood and Sandburg, with running back DJ Stewart providing an imposing challenge for a Joliet Catholic defense to try to rein in. Quarterback Jett Hilding has taken over that role full time and has done a good job of keeping the Mustangs on the move.

About the Hilltoppers: Joliet Catholic put its collective hard hat on in toppling Providence in Week 2. It was a stellar effort from the defense, and it will be expected to continue that trend. Offensively, the Hilltoppers still look like a bit of a work in progress even after posting some huge offensive numbers in the win over Iowa City in Week 1. Joliet Catholic was opportunistic in the win over Providence, and although it only managed to punch in one touchdown on a Keegan Farnaus run, JCA took advantage of good field position several times to at least net some points off the capable foot of Patrick Durkin, who connected for four field goals.

FND pick: Joliet Catholic

South Suburban Blue Conference

T.F. South (0-2) at Lemont (0-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lemont 49, T.F. South 6 (2022)

About the Red Wolves: T.F. South believed heading into the season it’d be able to reverse last year’s 3-6 campaign with a fairly experienced group and the return of playmaker Christian Streeter after missing last fall with an injury. But little has worked offensively for the Red Wolves thus far, as they have posted only nine points in back-to-back losses to Hammond Central (Indiana) and Lane.

About Lemont: Lemont hasn’t been 0-2 since 2018, which was also the last year Lemont didn’t end up winning the South Suburban Conference Blue Division. It’s a league they’ve dominated pretty much every other year, however, and now that Lemont is back in conference play the hope is that it will be able to get back on track after nonconference losses to Libertyville and Geneva. Lemont’s offense has scuffled early this season but got a spark from reserve quarterback Chris Montell in the second half against Geneva.

FND pick: Lemont

Morris Griffin Zweeres (7) runs after a catch during football game between Joliet West at Morris.  Sept 1, 2023.

Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 Conference

Morris (2-0) at Kaneland (1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Morris 32, Kaneland 24 (2022)

About Morris: Morris continues to storm through regular-season play, posting another huge offensive day in a Week 2 win over Joliet West. Morris hasn’t really been pushed yet, as an offense led by quarterback Carter Button seems to get it in a comfortable position quickly in most contests. A.J. Zweeres also had a big night in the win over Joliet West, scoring on a pair of touchdown receptions and also snaring an interception on defense.

About the Knights: Kaneland bounced back nicely from a Week 1 loss to Washington by rolling over Wauconda in Week 2. It looks as if the Knights can put up some points behind QB Troyer Carlson. However, Kaneland has been bitten by the big play more than once this season, and if there’s any opponent on Kaneland’s schedule that has the personnel to complete big plays against them, it is this Week 3 opponent.

FND pick: Morris

Illinois Central Eight

Lisle (1-1) at Wilmington (1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Wilmington 29, Lisle 0 (2022)

About the Lions: Lisle took a step back after winning its season opener over Harvard, getting roughed up by a talented Seneca team in Week 2. The running clock was in motion for the entire second half, and Lisle didn’t dent the scoreboard until very late. Lisle’s lack of depth shows in games like the Seneca loss, and it probably won’t help much against the Illinois Central Eight stronghold it faces this week.

About the Wildcats: Wilmington dominated Aurora Christian in Week 2, coming off a rare regular-season loss in the opening week to Seneca. Kyle Farrell and Jake Castle seem to have formed yet another formidable one-two punch in the Wilmington backfield. Farrell took the lion’s share of the work in Week 2, rushing for 148 yards on 16 carries to go with two scores.

FND pick: Wilmington

Peotone (1-1) at Reed-Custer (1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Reed-Custer 41, Peotone 0 (2022)

About the Blue Devils: Things sort of fell apart for Peotone in the second half of a Week 2 loss to Sandwich. The Blue Devils trailed 14-13 at the halftime break, but Sandwich tacked on 28 unanswered points in the second half. Peotone hasn’t had problems on offense in either of its games, and actually outgained Sandwich in a four-touchdown loss, but clearly some shoring up needs to be done on defense, and better production of possession of the football is needed.

About the Comets: Despite losing almost everyone from its high-octane attack of a year ago, Reed-Custer has proved extremely game with a cast of almost entirely new characters in key places. After stacking up points against Elmwood Park in Week 1, Reed-Custer was essentially outlasted by Johnsburg in Week 2 before falling 40-37. Running back Rex Pfiefer continues to flourish as the offense builds around him. He finished with 226 yards rushing against Johnsburg in Week 2 a week removed from a five-TD effort against Elmwood Park.

FND pick: Reed-Custer

Streator (1-1) at Coal City (1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Coal City 41, Streator 14 (2022)

About the Bulldogs: Streator came crashing down to earth in Week 2 after doing whatever it wanted in a victory over East Peoria to open the season. After scoring 74 points in that win, the rivalry game with Ottawa netted no offensive productivity for the Bulldogs in a 41-0 loss. Quarterback Christian Benning is a dangerous offensive weapon for Streator and will hope to get the Bulldogs back on track.

About the Coalers: Coal City bounced back after struggling against Morris in Week 1 by dominating Canton 41-0 in Week 2. Landin Benson was a punishing runner for Coal City, stacking up 255 yards rushing and scoring four touchdowns. The Coalers would like to continue the trend of tough, physical running coupled with a stifling defense – a recipe this program has been cooking with for decades.

FND pick: Coal City


Naperville North (1-1) at Bolingbrook (2-0)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Naperville North 37, Bolingbrook 14 (2007 playoffs)

About the Huskies: Naperville North scuffled in a loss to powerhouse Loyola in Week 2, but the defense had a nice accounting for itself, considering it allowed only two touchdowns to the Ramblers’ offense. Mistakes made it impossible for the Huskies to pull off the upset. Loyola ran back a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. Naperville North’s top player is WR Luke Williams, a Purdue recruit, who fills a variety of responsibilities for the Huskies.

About the Raiders: Bolingbrook continues to be an explosive offense with sophomore quarterback Jonas Williams at the controls. It appeared the Raiders were going to breeze to a Week 2 win over Hinsdale Central because of that, but the Red Devils tried to mount a furious second-half rally before falling short. Wisconsin recruit wide receiver Kyan Berry-Johnson gives this game a pair of Big Ten-bound wide receivers squaring off. This looks like a game that might turn into a shootout, an environment that Bolingbrook usually seems comfortable in.

FND pick: Naperville North

Naperville Central (2-0) at Lockport (2-0)

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Naperville Central 28, Lockport 16 (2009 playoffs)

About the Redhawks: Naperville Central has squeezed out a pair of victories over Hinsdale Central and Plainfield North, although it has managed only 20 points combined in the two wins. Obviously, Naperville Central feels OK with relying on its defense, which under ordinary circumstances is the same thing this week’s opponent prefers to do, as well. This is the kind of game that could bend on one or two errors made by either side.

About the Porters: Lockport has shown dominance at times in all facets of the game. In a Week 2 win over Wheaton North, the offense and the special teams units both shined. However, the defense, which was so good in a grind-it-out win over Plainfield North in Week 1, struggled against the pass, surrendering over 300 yards passing to the Falcons. Lockport has been good enough to beat two good teams without piecing together strong efforts in all three facets yet, but if it can manage to do that, Lockport could be an extremely difficult team to deal with.

FND pick: Lockport

Lincoln-Way West (2-0) vs. Belleville East (2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Warriors: Lincoln-Way West has put last season’s second-half collapse behind it, starting out with a 2-0 record. The Warriors now have their regular quarterback, Cole Crafton, back under center and will need to have its offense at its sharpest in order to attack Belleville East appropriately. Lincoln-Way West’s defense has done a solid job of coming up with the plays it needs to, with Braden Erwin coming up big against Oswego East in Week 2 with a pair of interceptions, including one that sealed the victory.

About the Lancers: Belleville East is off to a strong start in the nonconference portion of its schedule, claiming wins over both Collinsville and Pekin, two playoff teams from a year ago. It’s a good sign for the Lancers, who appear to be destined to be fighting for their playoff lives in a Southwestern Conference that might be as deep as any six-team conference in the state. Belleville East, like most Southwestern Conference teams, should have a speed advantage it will try to capitalize on.

FND pick: Belleville East

Lincoln-Way East's Ryan Usher (11) runs after the catch against Batavia during a football game at Batavia High School on Friday, Sep 1, 2023.

Neuqua Valley (1-1) at Lincoln-Way East (2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lincoln-Way East 17, Neuqua Valley 14 (2022 playoffs)

About the Wildcats: Neuqua Valley rebounded nicely from a disappointing shutout loss to Oswego in Week 1 to topple a well-regarded Minooka team in Week 2. Ryan Mohler has some experience guiding the Neuqua Valley offense, but as of yet the Wildcats haven’t found a groove. Mohler scored the only touchdown Neuqua Valley has mustered on a quarterback scramble, and that, coupled with a field goal, allowed Neuqua Valley to escape with a victory. Neuqua Valley’s defense has done a fine job through two games, particularly in the win over Minooka, a team that scored 41 points in its opener against Rock Island.

About the Griffins: Lincoln-Way East continues to run like a well-oiled machine, trading blows with another traditional power in Week 2 in Batavia. Its experienced defense came through in the clutch with a stop on a two-point conversion that would have likely allowed Batavia to steal victory away in the game’s last seconds. Defensive back Jawon Echols led that charge on that play, and he is a piece of an experienced and talented secondary that might get lost in the shuffle amongst Lincoln-Way East’s other higher profile defensive players such as Caden O’Rourke and David Wuske.

FND pick: Lincoln-Way East

Lincoln-Way Central (2-0) vs. O’Fallon (2-0)

When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Illinois State

Last matchup: O’Fallon 16, Lincoln-Way Central 0 (2009 playoffs)

About the Knights: Lincoln-Way Central is one of the more pleasant surprises in the area. The Knights, who were 3-6 last season, already are closing in on last year’s win total after definitive wins over St. Charles East and Evanston to start the season. Running back Anthony Noto had his second consecutive strong performance, scoring three touchdowns against Evanston. Andrew Schiller has also developed into a weapon the Knights can deploy in the kicking game. He booted two successful field goals in Week 2. Lincoln-Way Central’s defense will get a significant challenge from the speed O’Fallon brings to the table, but so far the Knights have been more than up to the task of slowing opponents.

About the Panthers: O’Fallon brings a whole lot of offense to the table. The Panthers have put up big yardage and point totals. Quarterback Braylon Grayson has tossed five touchdowns against no interceptions in wins over Granite City and Troy Buchanon (Missouri). Running back Jakori Adams and wide receiver Omar Mims have the capability to break open games, as each has scored three touchdowns. Mims in particular should have Lincoln-Way Central on alert in the return game, as he’s already amassed about 300 yards of return yardage.

FND pick: O’Fallon