Cancellations simply are a fact of life in this six-game spring football season.
Whether it is due to low program participation numbers or a COVID-19-related issue, many teams are going to have to deal with trying to reschedule a game on the fly.
In the opening week, there were nearly 20 schools that were unable to play in Week 1 because of one of those issues or they were scheduled to play an opponent with one of those issues and were unable to find a replacement.
As of Wednesday afternoon, that number was approaching 20 again in Week 2. But for those schools affected by an opponent canceling, opportunities have opened for some intriguing games.
We saw it already in Week 1, where Princeton’s opponent backed out of the game because of a lack of available players. It just so happened defending Class 1A state champion Lena-Winslow was on a bye week in its Northwest Upstate Illini Conference schedule. That didn’t mean Lena-Winslow couldn’t play outside of the league if it found a willing foe, and the Panthers did in Princeton, which created an intriguing contest between schools considered among the best in their respective classes.
It happened again Wednesday for Week 2. East St. Louis’ opponent, Alton, dropped the high-powered Flyers because of a numbers problem on the varsity level, while Peoria Manual forfeited its contest to Peoria.
This left two of the state’s highest octane offenses without opponents and a short list of teams that could fill the date. So they decided to lock horns in a Saturday contest hosted by East St. Louis.
The scoreboard operator had better be prepared to work. Using last season as a guide, East St. Louis scored 51.2 points a game on its march to the state title in Class 6A, while Peoria actually outscored the Flyers, posting 54 points a game before bowing out in the Class 6A quarterfinals against Richards.
Although the personnel has changed some from last season, both appear to still be embracing a full-on, let-her-rip philosophy that could make this one a real interesting watch.
This is far from the weekend’s only intriguing game, as there are three other games pitting teams both ranked in the top 12 in the latest version of the Friday Night Drive Power Rankings.
Let’s take a look at some of the other top games around the state:
Chicago Mount Carmel at Loyola: You could easily argue this is the premiere CCL/ESCC game of the year.
The two programs have laundry lists of successful teams over the past decade, so much so that annual divisional and league supremacy often rests on this outcome.
Loyola’s defense certainly looked sound in Week 1, limiting St. Rita to three points. But Mount Carmel brings even more firepower to the table, and the Ramblers likely will need to smooth some of their rough offensive edges from Week 1.
Brother Rice at Marist: Rivalries don’t run much deeper than that of these two schools, which are separated by a little more than 2 miles on Pulaski Road.
Both schools are looking to record a statement win. But in a season like this, bragging rights might mean more than ever.
Lincoln-Way East at Homewood-Flossmoor: A clash of the proverbial titans in the SouthWest Suburban Conference as these two teams have ruled the roost in recent seasons.
Lincoln-Way East has owned the rivalry recently, including a pair of victories over the Vikings last season – first in the regular season and then again in the 2019 Class 8A quarterfinals.
Lemont at Hillcrest: The unofficial South Suburban Conference championship game hasn’t disappointed the past few years. All the components seem to be in place for yet another spectacular chapter in this quickly evolving rivalry.
Explosive Hillcrest running back Mar’Kiese Irving might find the running lanes reduced somewhat against what appears to be a strong Lemont defense.
Other games to watch: Athens at Maroa-Forsyth, St. Charles North at Batavia, Montini at St. Rita, Marengo at Richmond-Burton and Maine South at Evanston.