As the season speeds past the halfway point and is almost two-thirds done, the playoff picture starts to look clearer and clearer.
For the four 11-man football teams in the Daily Chronicle coverage area, Sycamore (5-0) already is playoff eligible and a win away from guaranteeing a playoff berth.
Record: 2-3 overall, 1-1 DuPage Valley Conference
Best win: Although it came against a Metea Valley team still searching for its first win, the Barbs were dominant across the board in a 48-23 victory, with the starting defense allowing only one touchdown.
Toughest loss: The Barbs were leading late against Sandburg (3-2), but the Eagles came roaring back for a 41-34 win in DeKalb. If the Barbs end up on the outside of the playoff picture at four wins, it’ll be easy to point at this one as the one they’d like back.
Remaining schedule: vs. Waubonsie Valley, at Naperville Central, at Neuqua Valley, Week 9 TBD
Outlook: Waubonsie is a dramatically improved team from the winless squad of a year ago. A loss for the Barbs would not mathematically eliminate them from a postseason spot, but it would make things exceedingly difficult. As it is, they’re going to have to pick up a win against Naperville Central or Neuqua Valley – although the Barbs shut out Neuqua Valley last year in an upset in DeKalb. The Week 9 game will be a DVC rematch based on records. Since the league instituted the extra final-week game in 2021, the Barbs have played Waubonsie both times.
Record: 3-2 overall, 2-1 Kishwauee River/Interstate 8 White
Best win: The Knights rolled to a 40-13 win against Wauconda in Week 2. It’s the only loss so far this year for the Bulldogs.
Toughest loss: The Knights gave up 21 unanswered points to Washington in a game they led 27-12 but ended up losing.
Remaining schedule: at Sycamore, vs. Marengo, vs. Woodstock North, at La Salle-Peru
Outlook: It’s hard to call a team that may be sitting at 3-3 after this week a lock, but the Knights have persevered through a tough schedule and are only a couple of plays away from being undefeated – although they lost 43-33 to Morris, they led in the fourth quarter in that one, as well. The offense is prolific, and the defense has been inconsistent but shown flashes of brilliance. Friday’s game at Sycamore will be a good test in a rivalry game, but even with a loss the Knights are poised to close out strong and lock up a spot, possibly even with six wins.
Record: 3-2 overall and Big Northern Conference
Best win: The Cogs have a pair of nail-biting wins this year, but the 20-14 victory against Oregon could be pivotal for both teams’ playoff chase.
Toughest loss: North Boone lost to Oregon 6-0 to start the year but knocked off the Cogs 35-6 the next week. Just like DeKalb with the Sandburg game, this is one the Cogs would want back if they finish the season with four wins – although the Vikings also beat Stillman Valley this year.
Remaining schedule: vs. Byron, at Stillman Valley, vs. Rock Falls, vs. Rockford Lutheran
Outlook: The last two games are favorable for the Cogs. Rock Falls (1-4) and Lutheran (2-3) have had their struggles this year, but Lutheran is no pushover, having crushed a Winnebago team in Week 1 that G-K needed overtime to beat last week. Byron has been steamrolling everyone in a quest to win its second state title in three years. Last week’s 51-0 win at Oregon was the closest game the Tigers have played all year by a wide margin and the first time they didn’t score 60 points. Stillman Valley hasn’t been unbeatable, losing to Dixon and North Boone teams that also have defeated the Cogs. It’s certainly a difficult path to five wins for the Cogs, but one that is by no means impossible.