The Herald-News Prep Football Capsules for Week 7

Lincoln-Way East’s Stephon Gardner-Gist takes a punt return deep into Lockport territory on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Lockport.

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor (3-3, 0-2) at Lincoln-Way East (6-0, 1-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lincoln-Way East 52, Homewood-Flossmoor 14 (2022)

About the Vikings: Homewood-Flossmoor sits at .500 through three games, but there are about 100 threads that could be pulled to get the Vikings to a different record. All but one of Homewood-Flossmoor’s games has been decided by a touchdown or less. The latest decision had the Vikings falling in overtime to Sandburg. The remaining games on the schedule do them no favors, and its .500 status means it must win two of three to earn at-large consideration. Those three (Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way West and Lockport) have a combined 14-4 record.

About the Griffins: Lincoln-Way East is cutting through opponents with precision and seems to have begun to develop a potent one-two punch in its ground game with Nuri Muhammad and Zion Gist running effectively in the Griffins’ Week 6 win over Lockport. But it is the defense that deserves a large chunk of the team’s accolades for its recent success. They haven’t allowed a touchdown since Week 3, and no team has posted more than 13 points against the Griffins all season. DE Caden O’Rourke is spending a lot of time in opposing backfields.

Friday Night Drive Pick: Lincoln-Way East

Bolingbrook (3-3, 1-0) at Sandburg (4-2, 2-0)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Bolingbrook 41, Sandburg 14 (2022)

About the Raiders: Bolingbrook would likely prefer to leave its Week 6 effort in the rear-view mirror. The Raiders struggled in most facets in a loss to Lincoln-Way Central. The vaunted Bolingbrook passing game was held to just 70 yards. The Raiders did run the ball more effectively, but all told the Raiders could only manage to find the end zone once. Defensively, the Raiders couldn’t contain Lincoln-Way Central’s running game, and while they limited the Knights to only three completions, two of them went for scores.

About the Eagles: Sandburg seems to have an extra gear it can access late in games which helped them to a win over Lockport and and an overtime victory against Homewood-Flossmoor in Week 6. The Eagles have a potent passing game led by Anthony Shelton, but like this week’s opponent, they don’t have a ton of offensive balance. Its strong start doesn’t make this a must-win for the Eagles, but they would rather lock down playoff eligibility sooner rather than later.

FND Pick: Bolingbrook

SouthWest Suburban Red

Stagg (3-3, 0-2) at Lincoln-Way Central (5-1, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lincoln-Way Central 41, Stagg 0 (2022)

About the Chargers: Stagg started the season 3-0, but once again the Chargers have struggled in SouthWest Suburban Conference play. Stagg has been outscored 105-13 in games against SW Suburban teams and has been shut out in two of those games. Stagg did get a better defensive effort in a 23-0 loss to Lincoln-Way West in Week 6, but finding a way to score points is an obstacle the Chargers have to clear.

About the Knights: Lincoln-Way Central was dominant in a Week 6 win over Bolingbrook, particularly on defense where it took the Raiders out of the offense it prefers. Offensively, the Knights controlled tempo with RB Anthony Noto stacking up about 200 yards rushing, and they were able to pass enough to cause problems for Bolingbrook, attempting just four passes. QB Michael Kuehl completed two of those for scores.

FND Pick: Lincoln-Way Central

Bradley-Bourbonnais (5-1, 1-0) at Lincoln-Way West (5-1, 2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Bradley-Bourbonnais 39, Lincoln-Way West 32 (2022)

About the Boilermakers: Bradley-Bourbonnais hopes to put itself in the driver’s seat of the conference race with a win here, and will likely need to lean on its high-octane offense. The Boilermakers have a strong QB in Ethan Kohl who routinely throws for big numbers, most recently just missing the 300-yard mark in a Week 6 win over Andrew. The Boilermakers appear to be gaining some offensive balance as RB KenVontae Sutton scored three touchdowns in the Andrew win.

About the Warriors: Lincoln-Way West’s defense is proving to be a tough one to solve. The Warriors held Stagg to less then than 100 yards of offense and only four first downs in a 23-0 win in Week 6. While they may not duplicate that against the high-powered offense of Bradley-Bourbonnais, the Warriors hope it can set the tone. It wasn’t a work of art offensively for the Warriors in the win over Stagg, but the defenses workmanlike effort has really been all that’s needed so far.

FND Pick: Lincoln-Way West

SouthWest Suburban crossover

Lockport’s Joshua Ahrens makes a catch for a a first down against Lincoln-Way East on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Lockport.

Andrew (3-3) at Lockport (3-3)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Andrew 28, Lockport 27 (2022)

About the T-Bolts: Andrew cured half of what ailed it after a Week 5 loss to Lincoln-Way East against Bradley-Bourbonnais in Week 6. Andrew got its running game on track, which has delivered 400-plus yards rushing and the lion’s share of Andrews’ scores. But all of that offense wasn’t enough to offset the team’s defensive woes, as it gave up 40-plus points for the second consecutive week and fell back to .500.

About the Porters: Speaking of defensive woes, that’s a big part of the problem for Lockport. The Porters are getting beat on big plays, and that’s just not something they usually struggle with. It can be argued Lockport’s offense took a step back in Week 6, but basically no team is able to do what they usually do when locking horns against Lincoln-Way East’s defensive front right now. Lockport has some weapons to deploy as QB Drew Gallagher has shown flashes, and RB Jordan Kemp is an emerging weapon.

FND Pick: Lockport

Southwest Prairie East

Plainfield South's Caden Pierceall tackles Joliet Wests Alexander Cruz during a game on Friday Sept. 29, 2023 at Joliet West High School in Joliet

Joliet West (5-1, 2-0) at Romeoville (0-6, 0-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Joliet West 59, Romeoville 19 (2022)

About the Tigers: Joliet West is getting closer to seizing control of the East Division and already has secured playoff eligibility. A win here would clinch a playoff berth and get them closer to hosting an opening-round playoff game. But those goals are something to aspire to down the line. The Tigers did get a boost with the return of quarterback Juan Rico from injury, and the rest of the schedule doesn’t feature a team above .500 for the rest of the season.

About the Spartans: It isn’t showing in the win column for Romeoville, but the Spartans are getting better. The defense continues to do a better job of giving the Spartans a chance to win and really made things difficult for Plainfield Central in Week 6 before succumbing. Romeoville’s offense still has a lot of work to do to bridge the gap against most opponents, but there have been some things to build on.

FND Pick: Joliet West

Plainfield Central (2-4, 1-1) at Joliet Central (0-6, 0-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Plainfield Central 48, Joliet Central 0 (2022)

About the Wildcats: Plainfield Central has painted itself into a bit of a corner, but technically still controls its destiny. With four losses, the ’Cats can’t lose another game to be considered as an at-large playoff team, but still would have a chance at winning the conference championship and an automatic bid if they run the table in its final three games. It’s fundamentally a young core for Plainfield Central, but they slowly are gaining experience and confidence.

About the Steelmen: Joliet Central is starting to find some things that work. Those things haven’t come exceptionally close to netting them a win yet, but there’s progress worth noting. They had another offensive outburst against Plainfield East in a Week 6 loss, and the Steelmen already have scored more points this season than they have in several others.

FND Pick: Plainfield Central

Plainfield South's Chase Pierceall takes down Joliet West's Taivaughn Johnson During a game on Friday Sept. 29, 2023 at Joliet West High School in Joliet

Plainfield South (1-5, 1-1) at Plainfield East (2-4, 2-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Plainfield South 39, Plainfield East 6 (2022)

About the Bengals: Plainfield East has found a bit of a groove in the SPC East Division. It shares the top spot in the division with Joliet West. Some of that can also be attributed to getting back to full health after having played without standout WR Quinn Morris for several games. The Bengals have their full complement of offensive players available, and that netted them 700 yards of total offense in a win over Joliet Central in Week 6. Defensively, the Bengals still have to do some shoring up, but if the offense continues to show this kind of capability it will relieve some of that defensive stress.

About the Cougars: Plainfield South’s offensive woes continue. The Cougars have only managed to score in double digits once this season. This matchup might give them a chance to jumpstart the offense, as Plainfield East has had difficulty keeping most in check. Ideally, Plainfield South would keep this game low-scoring as it has had some success on defense.

FND Pick: Plainfield East

Southwest Prairie West

Plainfield North (3-3, 2-0) at Minooka (4-2, 1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Plainfield North 22, Minooka 21 (2022)

About the Tigers: Plainfield North has scored only 69 points through six games. That usually would lead to a substandard record, but Plainfield North isn’t most programs, and the Tigers defense has been sensational during that stretch, allowing only 44 points. That has allowed Plainfield North to win two consecutive low-scoring games and take control of the Southwest Prairie West Division. It is the only team with no conference losses yet. Eventually, Plainfield North will have to find more points, but if the defense keeps playing this well, maybe it won’t be very many.

About the Indians: Just when it looked like the Minooka offense had found its footing, it had a hiccup in a Week 6 loss to Yorkville. The Indians’ last-ditch rally fell short, and Minooka has to find a way to get back on track. The defense has been pretty good for the Indians for most of the season, but Minooka has been at its best when both units are working in concert.

FND Pick: Minooka

CCL/ESCC crossover

Leo (1-5) at Joliet Catholic (4-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Joliet Catholic 42, Leo 0 (2002)

About the Lions: Leo appeared to have a little momentum going, starting the season with a 2-0 record including a win on a Hail Mary pass in Week 2 against Bishop McNamara. Unfortunately for Leo, that win turned into a forfeit due to the usage of ineligible players. And since then not much has going right for the Lions, who haven’t been able to sustain that early momentum.

About the Hilltoppers: Get ready for some drama at Joliet Catholic games this season. After faltering in the final minute and allowing a game-winning touchdown against Wheaton St. Francis in Week 5, Joliet Catholic turned the tables against Marist, scoring in the final 30 seconds and then tackling a receiver inside the 5-yard line to secure the win. The Hilltoppers have the potential to take over games with a powerful running game, but balance might be the way to go with the way Adrian Washington has produced as of late, including a three-touchdown game against Marist.

FND Pick: Joliet Catholic

Carmel (5-1) at Providence (4-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Providence 49, Carmel 6 (2019)

About the Corsairs: Carmel has leapt onto the scene and put forth one of the stronger performances among all teams in the CCL/ESCC. The Corsairs, coached by former Chicago Bear Jace McKie, held a lead over Mount Carmel in the second half before losing and has kept other opponents under wraps. QB Johnny Weber is a playmaker for the Corsairs, and WR Kai Owens is a player that must be accounted for.

About the Celtics: Providence entered the most precarious stretch on its schedule after a somewhat shaky performance against DePaul Prep in Week 5. They started quick and finished faster against Montini, which entered the game undefeated, and emerged with a runaway victory. The win gives the Celtics a little bit of breathing room in regards to qualifying for the playoffs, but considering Mount Carmel and Benet loom in Week 8 and Week 9, locking up that fifth win sooner rather than later wouldn’t be a bad idea.

FND Pick: Carmel

South Suburban Blue Conference

Bremen (4-2, 1-2) at Lemont (3-3, 3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lemont 48, Bremen 19 (2022)

About the Braves: Bremen has had to grind its way to 4-2 and are coming off a string of three straight games decided by a touchdown or less. Bremen went 2-1 in those games. The Braves at times have been able to get the ground game going with a pair of productive running backs in London Blackmon and Nehemiah Rogers.

About Lemont: Lemont was surprised by Hillcrest in Week 6. It marked Lemont’s first loss in division play in the South Suburban since 2019, also against Hillcrest. Lemont has struggled to find its offensive rhythm at times, but the schedule should be a bit more forgiving the rest of the way and allow them to work out a few of the kinks. Lemont’s defense has been pretty consistent and hasn’t allowed more than 22 points to any opponent.

FND Pick: Lemont

Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White

Woodstock (1-5, 1-3) at Morris (6-0, 3-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Morris 61, Woodstock 0 (2022)

About the Blue Streaks: Woodstock has played a little better than a team one finds at the bottom of the conference, and that effort finally netted them a surprise win over La Salle-Peru in Week 6. It was Woodstock’s first win, and now it runs into the Morris buzzsaw which likely will steal any momentum they might have gained.

About Morris: Morris is playing as well as any team in the state right now and is likely flying high from handing Richmond-Burton its first regular-season loss since 2018. Morris field general Carter Button continues to make the right decisions, and that’s backed by his 17 passing touchdown-to-one interception ratio through six games.

FND Pick: Morris

Illinois Central Eight

Wilmington (5-1, 4-0) at Coal City (5-1, 4-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Wilmington 17, Coal City 7 (2022)

About the Wildcats: Wilmington wasted little time establishing control over Week 6 opponent Herscher, carrying a 42-0 lead into halftime and then inducing the running clock. Wilmington’s rushing attack set the tone, averaging more than 10 yards per carry. But perhaps the defense was even more impressive, limiting Herscher to negative rushing yards and less than 70 yards total.

About the Coalers: Coal City has been building momentum after a Week 1 loss to Morris. It wasn’t a dominating effort over Reed-Custer in Week 6, but the things that allowed them to win five consecutive games were still in place. RB Landin Benson led a fairly efficient offense for the Coalers, even with completing only one pass. Coal City’s defense has been a wall since the Morris loss, and it looks like it is in a good place heading into this matchup with their archrivals.

FND Pick: Wilmington

Peotone (3-3, 2-2) at Streator (2-4, 1-3)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Peotone 28, Manteno 13 (2022)

About the Blue Devils: Peotone found its groove as it bullied its way to a win over rival Manteno in Week 6. Chase Rivera and Jayden Rodriguez cracked the century mark running the football, with Rivera just missing the 200-yard mark. Peotone set the tone early in the Manteno win, forcing three turnovers and taking control of the game as it snapped a two-game losing streak and put the Devils back on the path to a playoff berth.

About the Bulldogs: Streator looked nothing like a team that had lost its past four games, scoring on seven of its first eight possessions as it rolled past Lisle. Some of that likely had to do with the return to regular duties for QB Christian Benning, who threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns, but plenty of Bulldogs were in the mix. Streator’s biggest challenge remains keeping opponents off the scoreboard, and Peotone provides another one of those challenges.

FND Pick: Peotone

Reed-Custer (2-4, 1-3) at Manteno (3-3, 3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Reed-Custer 69, Manteno 6 (2022)

About the Comets: Reed-Custer survived the difficult portion of its schedule, with back-to-back losses to Wilmington and Coal City. That backed them into a corner in regards to its playoff chase. Reed-Custer has shown a propensity to score, but would be well advised to try to control some tempo and work the clock with RB Rex Pfeifer to avoid getting into a shootout.

About the Panthers: Manteno had been on a bit of a run, but things quickly unraveled in a Week 6 loss to Peotone. Turnovers were a major culprit for the Panthers, as they coughed up the ball three times in first-half possessions, while Peotone punished the Panthers defense on the ground. Manteno still has the components to cause problems, but needs to play a cleaner to make that happen.

FND Pick: Reed-Custer