DuPage Valley Conference
Neuqua Valley at DeKalb
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Wildcats were 34-30 winners at Naperville last year.
About the Barbs: Coach Keith Snyder said the Barbs are treating Friday’s game like a playoff game given the lack of a postseason this year.
“We know it’s a big game, what kind of program and tradition Neuqua has,” Snyder said. “We know what ramifications this has as far as conference placing. So we’re going to put our cards on the table and put our best foot forward this week.”
The Barbs fell to 2-1 last week after a 41-7 loss to Naperville Central. Jaden McGill ran 20 times for 180 yards for the Redhawks last week. Snyder said he expects the same physicality out of the Wildcats.
“We have to be the best versions of ourselves, and I don’t think we were that last week,” Snyder said. “Naperville Central had a lot do with that, not to take anything away from them. They are a tremendous team. But we have to focus on doing the best we can every snap. We’re playing a quality 8A team, and they make plays. We need a better response than we showed last Friday.”
The Barbs also will be banged up. Snyder wouldn’t go into specifics, but speedy slot receiver Trenton McCullom hasn’t played this year and sophomore linebacker Aiden Sisson announced on Twitter he was finished for the year.
“That’s part of the deal playing in this conference,” Snyder said “You’ve got to realize they play some physical football. We saw it last year, and we’re feeling it this year. We’ll get the best kids available to us and put our best foot forward. Part of the maturation process for us is learning what it’s like when we play schools with 2,500-3,500 kids.”
About the Wildcats: The Wildcats came off of a two-week layoff with a 34-12 win against Waubonsie Valley to improve to 2-0.
Armani Moreno played his first game of the season, running for 120 yards and three touchdowns. He only played three quarters.
Given what McGill did against the Barbs last week, Snyder said he expects to see Moreno carry the ball a lot.
“There’s a reason he’s going to Grand Valley State. He’s a heck of a football player,” Snyder said. “He gets going north and south, and when he gets going downhill, look out. We’re going to do the best we can to get guys to rally to the football. It’s gut check time. We’re going to have to suck it up and play a physical game. We’re going to have bumps and bruises and boo-boos.”
Sophomore quarterback Mark Mennecke threw for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Friday Night Drive Pick: Neuqua Valley
Rochelle at Sycamore
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Spartans were 42-6 winners at Rochelle last year.
About the Spartans: Sycamore improved to 4-0 with a 21-14 win against Morris last week, one of two undefeated teams left in the conference, along with LaSalle-Peru.
“We’re coming off a really tough game so we had a few more bumps and bruises than what we’ve had,” coach Joe Ryan said. “But I think we’ve had a really good week of practice and hopefully we’ll show that on Friday.”
Nathaniel Altepeter scored the winning touchdown in the closing seconds against Morris last week, giving the Spartans the win despite four turnovers.
“We’re going to get their best shot on Friday,” Ryan said. “Kyle has them well-coached, and they have a great tradition over there. We better be physically and mentally ready to play.
“We can’t have four turnovers and think that leads to success,” he said.
About the Hubs: Rochelle picked up its first win of the season last week, coming from behind to beat winless Sandwich, 13-12.
Ben Harvey ran for 89 yards and a touchdown in the win. Nolan Morrissette recovered an onside kick that set up Harvey’s go-ahead score.
Tanner Lager had a sack late for the Hubs.
FND Pick: Sycamore
Kaneland at Ottawa
When: 6 p.m. Friday at King Field, Ottawa
Last matchup: The Knights were 61-7 winners last season
About the Knights: Kaneland has won three straight since losing to Ottawa in overtime, with all three wins coming at home.
“We’re playing an Ottawa team that is much improved from a year ago,” Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. And I think the kids are excited for a road game coming up. It’s good to get to go on the road, and I think they’re excited for that.”
The defense has dominated for the Knights this year, with the starting until allowing only 12 points so far this season. They’re coming off a 26-6 win against Plano last week.
“We were put in some pretty bad spots last week and we just rose to the occasion every time,” Ryan said. “We’re just playing really, really good football. We have had some good defenses here at Kaneland, but this one has to be right up there among the best ever to come through here.”
Ryan said that the offense, on the other hand, still has room for improvement. They’ve had a couple standout performances from running back Corey Phillips and freshman quarterback Troyer Carlson has shown glimpses, but the team has turned the ball over too many times, Ryan said.
“We’ve got to get back to the fundamentals that allow us to win football games,” Ryan said. “Blocking technique and protecting the football are things we didn’t do a good job of last week, especially in the first half.”
About the Pirates: Ottawa goes into its penultimate game of the season and home finale after a 34-6 loss to undefeated archrival La Salle-Peru. Though the Pirates are winless, their improvement and ability to compete – at least in stretches – with the rest of the Interstate Eight has been a light down the tunnel for the squad led by RBs Bryant Schomas (144 yards rushing this season) and Javarius Whitfield (107 yards), QB Braiden Miller (47-83, 470 yards, 2 TDs, 5 INTs) and DL Ryder Miller (4 TFLs, 1 QB sack).
“Explosive is what I would say,” coach Chad Gross said of Kaneland. “We’re going to have to limit their big plays, slow them down and make them drive the field ... and that kind of leads into offense. It’s no secret we’ve been struggling to run the ball the past few weeks, but we need to have the ability to keep their offense off the field by running the ball and moving down the field.”
FND Pick: Kaneland
Big Northern Conference
Rockford Lutheran at Genoa-Kingston
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: N/A
About the Cogs: The Cogs are 3-0 after holding off Winnebago last week, 34-21. They had only given up seven points through their first two games.
It will be the team’s first and only Friday night home game of the season. Last week’s game, while technically a home game, was played at Harlem.
“We definitely enjoyed playing at Harlem,” coach Chad Wilmarth said. “But yeah, not only for all our kids but our seniors to be able to play on the field one more time, they are really excited. It feels like normal Friday night lights if that makes any sense of what normal season would feel like. We’re looking forward to that.”
Owen Simmons is coming off a big game on the ground for the Cogs, with Connor Schwichtenberg completing all three of his passes and having another monster game at linebacker.
Wilmarth said the Crusaders have some explosive athletes.
“We have to slow those kids down,” he said. “We have to make sure we maintain our gap responsibility. We have to allow our linebackers to make plays. They have big bodies on both sides of the ball.”
About the Crusaders: Rockford Lutheran won a 7-2 grudge match in the rain at home against Dixon to improve to 1-1. The Crusaders had two punts blocked in the game.
Wilmarth said the team runs the zone option well.
“We need to slow them down,” Wilmarth said. “Their game against Dixon was lower-scoring, but they still did some things well on offense. Hitches and gos, fades early on show that not only do they run but they can throw the ball.
FND Pick: Genoa-Kingston
Ashton-Franklin Center at Hiawatha
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The teams last met in 2005 in the final year of the Four Rivers conference, with the Raiders winning, 53-0.
About the Hawks: For the first time since 2011 and for the first time under Keneway the Hawks are 1-3. The asterisk to that being that they have twice played River Ridge, one of the top eight-man schools.
“It’s been interesting,” Keneway said. “We did some pretty hard looking in the mirror the last few weeks. We’ve never been 1-3 in my time at this high school. We’re used to winning and doing well. Not that we haven’t done well, but we haven’t done quite enough to win. We’ve done some soul searching and losing teaches a lot.”
Keneway said they’re working very hard and they don’t have a 1-3 mindset, and that they’re out to prove their the best 1-3 8-man team in the state.
About the Raiders: They made the move to eight-man right before the season began. Rodney Ramirez has handled a lot of the workload for the team.
“They’ve got a real good running back and they feed him the ball quite a bit,” Keneway said. “He’s really fast and really good in space.”
FND Pick: Hiawatha