Sauk Valley Media football preview capsules for Week 5 of the 2023 season

Dixon’s Cullen Shaner picks up yards after a catch Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023 against Genoa-Kingston in a game at Dixon High School.


Sterling (2-2) at Princeton (3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Sterling 19, Princeton 6 (1949)

About the Golden Warriors: Sterling has won its past two games after an 0-2 start, most recently defeating Galesburg 45-14 in Week 4. Junior quarterback Joseph Holcomb finished 4-for-6 passing for 71 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, all in the first half. Junior wide receiver Kaedon Phillips was the leading receiver, catching two passes for 87 yards, including a touchdown of 78 yards. Senior wide receiver Mason Emin was the other touchdown recipient, snaring a 28-yard pass in tight coverage. Sophomore linebacker Wyatt Cassens recorded four tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Sophomore kicker Ryan Gebhardt booted a 47-yard field goal.

About the Tigers: Princeton was ranked as the No. 1 team in Class 3A by the Associated Press before a Week 2 loss to Morrison. Sophomore running back Casey Etheridge rushed for 291 yards and five touchdowns last week and now has 810 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Senior two-way lineman Bennett Williams is committed to Air Force Academy.

Friday Night Drive pick: Sterling


Dixon (4-0, 4-0) at Rockford Lutheran (2-2, 2-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Dixon 22, Rockford Lutheran 19 (2022 Week 6)

About the Dukes: Dixon beat Genoa-Kingston 30-0 in Week 4. Tyler Shaner went 9-for-13 passing for 148 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 14 yards and three touchdowns. His top target was younger brother Cullen, who caught five passes for 82 yards. Collin Scott hauled in a 19-yard receiving touchdown, and Aiden Wiseman rushed 14 times for 93 yards. The Dukes scored on all three first-half possessions.

About the Crusaders: Rockford Lutheran beat Rock Falls 43-0 in Week 4. It lost 48-28 to Stillman Valley in Week 3, the team Dixon beat 28-14 in the season opener. The Crusaders are averaging 31.8 points and allowing 33.8 points per game.

FND pick: Dixon

Rock Falls quarterback Easton Canales looks for an open receiver down field in Rock Falls on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.

Rockford Christian (0-4, 0-4) at Rock Falls (0-4, 0-4)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Rockford Christian 14, Rock Falls 0 (2022 Week 1)

About the Rockets: Rock Falls was shut out the last two weeks against Dixon and Rockford Lutheran. The Rockets have been outscored 209-13 in the first four games, allowing at least 40 points in each.

About the Royal Lions: Rockford Christian has lost every game this season by at least three touchdowns. Last week was a 49-12 loss to Stillman Valley. The Royal Lions are averaging 15 points and allowing 54.5 points per game.

FND pick: Rock Falls

Byron (4-0, 4-0) at Oregon (2-2, 2-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Byron 48, Oregon 6 (2022 Week 7)

About the Hawks: Oregon beat Winnebago 27-6 in Week 4, avenging a 27-8 loss in 2022. Logan Weems rushed 25 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Jack Washburn went 6 for 16 through the air for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Three of his completions went to Griffin Marlatt, who totaled 98 receiving yards. His touchdown passes were a 25-yarder to Hunter Bartel and a 27-yarder to Josh Crandall.

About the Tigers: Byron won the Class 3A state championship in 2021 and still has three starters from that team: running backs Jacob Ross and Kye Aken and lineman Jared Clauch. The Tigers are averaging a whopping 70 points per game and allowing just five points per game.

FND pick: Byron

Newman’s Carter Rude runs with the ball during a home game against Princeton on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.


Newman (3-1, 0-1) at Erie-Prophetstown (0-4, 0-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Newman 48, Erie-Prophetstown 13 (2016 Week 5)

About the Comets: Newman beat Rock Island 22-20 in overtime in Week 4. Quarterback Evan Bushman hooked up with running back Cody McBride for the game-winning two-point conversion. McBride also scored a game-tying touchdown run to make it 14-14 in the fourth quarter. Bushman threw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams for an 8-7 lead in the second quarter. The Comets’ defense has forced 13 turnovers this season and is allowing 14.3 points per game.

About the Panthers: Erie-Prophetstown lost 32-13 to Morrison in Week 4. Jeremiah Kochevar rushed for 79 yards on 19 carries, Demetree Larson rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries, and Justus Hough rushed for 70 yards on seven carries. Larson scored both Panthers touchdowns last week: a 41-yard run and a 5-yard reception from Kochevar.

FND pick: Newman

Morrison (4-0, 2-0) at Monmouth-Roseville (3-1, 2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Morrison 18, Monmouth-Roseville 16 (2022 Week 3)

About the Mustangs: Morrison beat Erie-Prophetstown 32-13 in Week 4. Brady Anderson and Colton Bielema rushed for two touchdowns each. Anderson was the leading rusher, taking nine carries for 138 yards. His scores came on runs of 27 and 75 yards. Carson Strating rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and Chase Newman chipped in 51 rushing yards on seven carries.

About the Titans: Monmouth-Roseville beat Riverdale 55-22 in Week 4. The Titans are on a three-game winning streak after a 40-0 season-opening loss to Princeton. They’re allowing 22.5 points per game.

FND pick: Morrison

Bureau Valley's Drake Hardy and Bryce Helms (right) chase down Kewanee' s Ben Taylor Friday night at Storm Stadium.

Mendota (0-4, 0-2) at Bureau Valley (2-2, 1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Mendota 49, Bureau Valley 23 (2022 Week 3)

About the Storm: Bureau Valley lost 42-20 to Kewanee in Week 4. Cameron Lemons led the team in rushing, compiling 66 yards on 11 carries. Elijah Endress rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Bryce Helms finished 6 for 14 through the air for 64 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to Eli Attig.

About the Trojans: Mendota lost 34-7 to Hall in Week 4. The Trojans suffered shutout losses to Morrison and Kewanee, and have scored only 15 points all season.

FND pick: Bureau Valley


West Carroll (0-4, 0-3) at Forreston (4-0, 4-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Forreston 60, West Carroll 6 (2022 Week 6)

About the Cardinals: Forreston beat Eastland-Pearl City 34-20 in Week 4. Owen Mulder paced the Cardinals with 88 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Alex Ryia rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, scoring on a 40-yard run. Brady Gill had a 45-yard touchdown run. The Cardinals have allowed 20 or fewer points in every game this season.

About the Thunder: West Carroll has been shut out in three of four games this season. Its closest game was a 42-20 loss to Aurora Central Catholic in Week 3. The Thunder are surrendering 53.5 points per game.

FND pick: Forreston

Fulton's Baylen Damhoff (22) catches a pass ove Forreston's Alex Ryi (3) en route to the end zone during on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

Fulton (2-2, 2-2) at Dakota (1-3, 0-3)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Fulton 48, Dakota 26 (2022 Week 9)

About the Steamers: Fulton beat Stockton 40-16 in Week 4, more than doubling its previous season high for points in a game (18 in Week 1 vs. Forreston). The Steamers are averaging 20 points per game after last week’s blowout win. Quarterback Dom Kramer has completed 41 of 66 pass attempts for 542 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Baylen Damhoff has been the leading receiver thus far, catching 12 passes for 218 yards (18.2 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.

About the Indians: Dakota opened its season with a 48-12 win over Fisher but has failed to score more than eight points in every game since. The Indians lost 52-8 to Lena-Winslow in Week 4.

FND pick: Fulton

Stockton (1-3, 0-3) at Eastland-Pearl City (0-4, 0-4)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Stockton 26, Eastland-Pearl City 6 (2022 Week 2)

About the Wildcatz: Eastland-Pearl City has been limited to six or fewer points in all but one game this season. The Wildcatz lost 34-20 to Forreston in Week 4. Jaxsyn Kempel was the leading rusher with 93 yards on 11 carries, while Draven Zier racked up 58 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Adam Awender had a 47-yard touchdown run and Jackson Corbin added a 5-yard touchdown run.

About the Blackhawks: Stockton lost 40-16 to Fulton in Week 4. The Blackhawks are averaging 24.8 points and allowing 30.3 points per game.

FND pick: Stockton


Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio (4-0, 4-0) at Ridgewood (3-1, 2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Clippers: Amboy beat Peoria Quest by forfeit in Week 4. The Clippers are averaging 62 points and allowing 5.3 points per game. Their contested wins this season have come against Unity Christian, River Ridge and Martinsville.

About the Spartans: Ridgewood lost 48-44 to Polo in Week 4. The Spartans went 9-2 in their first season of eight-man football last year. They’ve scored at least 40 points in every game this season and are allowing 18.5 points per game.

FND pick: Amboy

Polo's Brock Soltow (17) tries to avoid Milledgeville's Evan Schenck (10) during a Friday, Sept. 8, 2023 game at Polo High School.

Polo (3-1, 1-1) at River Ridge (2-2, 1-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Polo 60, River Ridge 14 (2022 Week 7)

About the Marcos: Polo beat Ridgewood 48-44 in Week 4. Brock Soltow had a monster game, catching 11 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, and tossing a 21-yard touchdown pass to Billy Lowry. Quarterback Carter Meridan had a huge game as well, finishing 15-for-23 passing for 312 yards and four touchdowns.

About the Wildcats: River Ridge beat Blue Ridge/DeLand-Weldon 21-20 in Week 4. The Wildcats are averaging 18 points and allowing 47 points per game this season.

FND pick: Polo

Kirkland Hiawatha (2-2, 1-1) at Milledgeville (4-0, 4-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First eight-man matchup

About the Missiles: Milledgeville built a 50-0 halftime lead and held off Orangeville for a 50-24 win in Week 4. Micah Toms-Smith had almost 100 yards of total offense in limited time, while Karter Livengood anchored the defense as he has all year. Milledgeville has put up at least 48 points every week and at least 50 in its past three games.

About the Hawks: Hiawatha has rolled in its past two games, including last week’s 46-6 win against Rockford Christian Life. After scoring 36 points total the first two weeks, the Hawks have scored 94 the past two games while giving up only six. Lucas Norvell has been pacing the offense at running back, while Braeden Ross has been a force on the defensive line after missing the first two games.

FND pick: Milledgeville

Rockford Christian Life (1-3, 0-2) at Ashton-Franklin Center (1-3, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Ashton-Franklin Center 44, Rockford Christian Life 16 (2022 Week 9)

About the Raiders: Ashton-Franklin Center lost 50-22 to South Beloit in Week 4. The Raiders are averaging 18.5 points and allowing 48.8 points per game this season. Their only win was against Alden-Hebron, 34-33, in Week 2.

About the Eagles: Rockford Christian Life lost 46-6 to Hiawatha in Week 4. The Eagles have been limited to 14 points or less in three games this season. Their only win was against Galva, 36-0, in Week 2.

FND pick: Ashton-Franklin Center