DuPage Valley Conference
DeKalb at Naperville North
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Barbs were 49-19 winners last year.
About the Barbs: DeKalb is seeking a 3-2 record in the DVC for the second straight year.
Although the team is coming off a 28-21 loss to Neuqua Valley, coach Keith Snyder said he was impressed with the way his team played.
“I said it before how proud I was of our kids Friday,” Snyder said. “We challenged them to compete, and they answered the bell. We came up short on the scoreboard, but we talk about 1-0 each week and that’s not always about the scoreboard. You have to be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and know you have your best effort. We’re trying to build off that.”
The Barbs finished 6-4 last year in Snyder’s first season, and a 3-2 mark this year would be the team’s eighth straight winning season – they haven’t had a losing season since 2012.
“We want to send our seniors out on the right note,” Snyder said. “As we transition into our new conference, going 3-2 and finishing with a winning record in the DVC is an accomplishment. If we lost sight of that, I would be disappointed for us.”
The team has also been going through some injury issues. Snyder wouldn’t mention specific players or even how many, and added that the Barbs aren’t letting them become excuses.
At the very least, Trenton McCollum has missed the entire season, and linebacker Aiden Sisson missed last week.
Against Neuqua Valley, the Wildcats returned two Trenton Kyler interceptions for touchdowns. Toriano Tate scored all three DeKalb touchdowns, including a 99-yard kickoff return.
“We have to take care of the small things,” Snyder said. “We stress three things each week: turnovers, field position and explosive plays. When we win two of those three, we’re pretty solid. So we’re focused on winning two of those three things and seeing what happens.”
About the Huskies: They’ve managed to play only two games this year, losing, 29-22, to Neuqua and beating Metea Valley, 48-20.
“They’ve been put in a tough spot,” Snyder said. “They haven’t had a single case of COVID and have only been able to play two games due to contact tracing procedures. It’s tough to see a program go through that.”
Snyder said the Huskies varied their attack in both games – going airborne and targeting Zeke Williams and Luke Williams in the loss against Neuqua Valley, then relying on Lontrez Duckworth in the win against Metea Valley.
The teams were slated to play in Week 2, but the game was called off hours before kickoff because of contact tracing.
“We prepared for them in Week 2 like they were going to throw the ball all over the yard,” Snyder said. “After they played Metea, they really formed a ground game and brought some balance. We just have to identify their form and make sure we line up right. Alignment and assignment are the two biggest things we stress on defense, and if we do that we should be able to run to the football.”
Friday Night Drive pick: DeKalb
Interstate 8 Conference
Sycamore at Plano
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Spartans were 56-0 winners last year.
About the Spartans: Sycamore enters the game 5-0, and will gain at least a share of the I-8 title with a win, or win it outright for the second straight year should Kaneland beat LaSalle-Peru.
But to do so, they have to defeat Plano.
Turnovers have been an issue for the Spartans all year. They committed one last week against Rochelle, but in one-touchdown games against Kaneland and Morris, they committed a combined seven turnovers.
“We have to play great defense, which we have,” coach Joe Ryan said. “The defense has been outstanding all year. But we’re starting to hit our stride offensively. We had a few hic-cups on Friday because we lost a few players on Friday due to contact tracing. We had to make a few adjustments on the fly, but the kids adjusted well to that.”
About the Reapers: Plano (1-3) was scheduled to return to in-person practice Tuesday after being in COVID-19 quarantine and missing Week 5. Plano held virtual meetings last week Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Plano has been competitive against good teams its past two games, losing, 14-7, to LaSalle-Peru and trailing Kaneland 7-0 at halftime in Week 4. The defense, led by Nehemiah Denton, Eddie Sanchez and Luca Schoensee, has been a strength. Anthony Licea (238 yards) is Plano’s leading rusher. Sophomore QB Samuel Sifuentes is one of many underclassmen who have received significant time this spring ahead of next fall.
FND pick: Sycamore
Kaneland at LaSalle-Peru
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Knights were 31-0 winners last year.
About the Knights: Kaneland enters 4-1 and with the chance to play spoiler. A win likely would prevent LaSalle-Peru (4-0) from winning the conference title – Sycamore is 5-0 and faces Plano.
Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said the team feels good, having won four straight after a season-opening, 12-6 loss to the Spartans in overtime.
“I think our kids are motivated to win,” Ryan said. “We’ve got 25 seniors, we start 11 on defense. Our offensive line has four seniors. These kids really want to finish with a win. It always feels good to beat an undefeated team.”
In the past five meetings between the schools, the Knights have won all five by an average of 46-8 dating to 2010. But Ryan said this is a different L-P team, and his players understand that.
“Somebody was on the bus on the way home from the game last week and said that they saw L-P beat Morris, and we better be ready this week,” Ryan said. “Our kids are focused this week, and it has been tremendous. It’s as good as I’ve seen in a long time.”
Ryan said running the football again will be key for the Knights. Corey Phillips was voted Friday Night Drive’s Team of the Week MVP for his performance last week. He ran for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their strength is their defensive line, and I think a strength of ours is our offensive line,” Ryan said. “It makes for a great matchup. We have been able to run the ball still. We can’t turn it over.”
About the Cavaliers: Like the Knights, the Cavs’ defense has been the centerpiece of their success this year. They are allowing eight points a game. Levi Reed has been a force at defensive end, with 12 tackles for loss and four sacks, not to mention 28 total tackles.
The Cavs ground the ball out on the ground, with Tyler Hartman having thrown only 17 passes this year, completing six of them for 117 yards and a score. Sean Whitfield also has spent time at QB for the Cavs.
Matt Carrico anchors the ground attack, carrying 74 times or 364 yards and two scores. Hartman has 53 carries for 191 yards.
FND pick: Kaneland
North Fulton at Hiawatha
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: First meeting
About the Hawks: Hiawatha is looking to finish above .500 for the fifth straight year, their first in the eight-man ranks.
The Hawks exploded offensively for a 68-6 win against Ashton-Franklin Center, playing its first year in eight-man as well, although that school made the decision only weeks before the start of the season.
“We took a pretty big step forward,” Keneway said. “We’re always adjusting, always tweaking in this eight-man situation. We put up a lot of points, and obviously it feels good. I feel like we’ll be ready for Saturday.”
Keneway said that the big front of the Wildcats could present some challenges.
“Everyone has to do their job,” Keneway said. “They have bigger guys up front, and we struggle with big guys since we’re undersized. We need to get the first level secured so we can play good hard football. Everyone is excited to leave it all out there.”
About the Wildcats: Keneway said the the Wildcats have been quarantined and will get only one day of practice. They did not play last week.
FND pick: Hiawatha