DuPage Valley Conference
DeKalb (2-5, 0-4) at Neuqua Valley (7-0, 4-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Wildcats were 28-21 winners in DeKalb in the spring 2021 finale for both teams, with Neuqua Valley returning two interceptions for scores.
About the Barbs: Jamari Brown had 83 rushing yards to lead DeKalb last week at Naperville Central. The Barbs were tied with the Redhawks after a quarter at 14-14, but Central rolled from then on to a 48-20 win.
“We have to be more consistent on offense,” first-year coach Derek Schneeman said. We can’t have the lulls, be as inconsistent we have the last few weeks. We have to get points on the board, and teams have struggled to do that cause their defense is pretty good.”
The Barbs have dropped both meetings since moving to the DVC with the Wildcats, including 34-30 in Naperville in 2019. The Barbs led 30-21 in the third before falling late.
About the Wildcats: Mark Mennecke has been a force under center for Neuqua Valley. Schneeman said once he gets outside of the pocket, he becomes dangerous with his improvisation ability.
Palmer Domschke mainly plays defense and special teams, but he has come in at running back to provide a spark for the Wildcats, as he did in a two-overtime win against Naperville Central two weeks ago.
The Wildcats picked up their second straight shutout last week with a 28-0 win against Waubonsie Valley. Mennecke threw for two touchdowns, and Domschke added a rushing touchdown.
Friday Night Drive pick: Neuqua Valley
Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White
Woodstock (3-4, 1-3) at Sycamore (5-2, 4-0) When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: First meeting
About the Spartans: Sycamore picked up a 40-0 win Friday at Woodstock North behind a 153-yard rushing effort from Nathaniel Altepeter.
Coach Joe Ryan said he liked that, even with Altepeter’s big game, all four players in the Sycamore backfield – Zack Crawford, Sam Carlson and quarterback Eli Meier – got rolling.
“Nathaniel obviously had a really good second half and popped a lot of long runs,” Ryan said. “But Sam ran really, really well. Zack ran really, really well. Eli ran really, really well. When we’ve got our guys in the backfield doing that – yeah, when we get into certain things, you may have an idea who we’re going to get the ball to, but it’s still nice to see them run hard.”
The Spartans close the season with a Week 9 game at Morris (7-0) that could decide the conference title. But Ryan said the team is focused on topping the Blue Streaks in the home regular-season finale.
“This is what we call a signature game,” Ryan said. “It’s a senior night game. There’s no guarantee we’ll ever play on this field again. Those things are important. If our Monday practice level is any indication, we’re going to have a really good start. We understand if we want home playoff games, we’ve got to keep winning no matter who we’re playing.”
Altepeter leads the Spartans with 477 rushing yards this year, but quarterback Eli Meier is getting 9.1 yards per carry. Meier has gone over 1,000 passing yards this year with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Ethan Bode leads the team with 63 tackles, while Dawson Alexander has 62 to go with three interceptions.
About the Blue Streaks: They’ve lost three of four, including 34-13 against La Salle-Peru last week. A win this week and next week against winless Woodstock North would make them playoff eligible for the first time since 2009.
FND pick: Sycamore
Kaneland (3-4, 2-2) at Ottawa (2-5, 1-4)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: Kaneland was a 61-7 winner in Maple Park in 2019.
About the Knights: Kaneland is one loss away from missing the playoffs for the first time in coach Patrick Ryan’s five years and for the first time since 2016.
“We just have to come out and practice hard and try to stay positive all week and worry about being 1-0 and not anything beyond that,” Ryan said. “We need to take care of what we need to take care of. We’re focused on beating Ottawa. Based on [Monday’s] practice, we feel like our kids are ready to do that.”
The Knights have lost two straight, to Morris and Rochelle. The four teams Kaneland has lost to this year are a combined 23-7.
“We’re coming off two tough losses, and we have to get back on the winning side,” Ryan said. “Kids are feeling positive coming into the game despite our losses. We feel like we match up well against Ottawa.”
Ryan said the team still needs to improve in run blocking. Although the line has given quarterback Troyer Carlson plenty of time to throw the ball – he’s approaching 2,000 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions – running back Corey Phillips is averaging only 4.2 yards per carry.
“It’s almost like an old Kaneland throwback to being a pass-happy team,” Ryan said. “But you’ve got to be able to do both parts well: run block and pass protection.”
About the Pirates: Aside from losses at two of the KR/I8′s best (Week 3 at La Salle-Peru and last week at Morris), moving the football has not been an issue for an Ottawa offense led by a 1,000-yard passer (Braiden Miller, 83-for-148 passing, 1,030 yards, 6 TDs), his top target (Levi Sheehan, 33 receptions, 536 yards, 6 TDs) and a likely 1,000-yard rusher (Javarius Whitfield, 140 carries for 835 yards and 10 TDs). Finishing drives with points, however, has.
Kaneland’s defense is surrendering 32.9 points a game, so the opportunities should be there if the Pirates can cash in and – just as important to their upset hopes – get stops when the Knights have the ball. Sophomore LB Ryder Miller continues to shine for the Pirates’ defense, coming off another in a string of double-digit tackle performances.
FND pick: Kaneland
Big Northern Conference
Genoa-Kingston (6-1, 6-1) at Rockford Christian (0-7, 0-7)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The teams last played in 2017 before the Royal Lions left for the now-defunct Northeastern Athletic Conference. The Cogs won, 49-28.
About the Cogs: They’re coming off a 34-19 win at Dixon to stay in second place in the conference behind Byron.
“It was a huge win against Dixon,” first-year coach Cam Davekos said. “The kids really came to play and played hard. They did the little things we needed to do in order to win big against Dixon.”
The rushing attack, as usual, paved the way for the offense. Ethan Wilnau topped 100 yards, but the Cogs use six to eight rushers each game. The 34 points they put up was the most Dixon has allowed all season, and the 19 was the second-fewest they’ve scored.
“We knew going into Dixon we were playing one of the best in the conference,” Davekos said. “We did everything correctly we needed to get the job done. The offensive line was outstanding, and our backs ran behind the big boys up front.”
The Royal Lions are winless this season, and a game against Stillman Valley (6-1) lurks next week before the playoffs start. But Davekos said the team is focused on itself right now.
“We need to make sure we do the little things right and play a good game on Friday that on paper might not look as difficult as Stillman,” Davekos said. “Bue we also need to remain focused on taking it one day at a time and 1-0 every week. We’re not trying to look ahead too much, just make sure we stay in the moment and focused on Friday.”
About the Royal Lions: They were blown out against Rockford Lutheran last week, 58-16. They’ve allowed at least 40 points in every game this year, including at least 50 in the past three.
FND pick: Genoa-Kingston
Hiawatha (3-4) at Polo (7-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Marcos won, 24-22, in the spring 2021 season.
About the Hawks: With last week’s 56-24 loss at Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland, Hiawatha has dropped two straight and four of five. This week’s game will be the Hawks’ last chance to beat a team with a winning record in the regular season.
“We know we’re playing a tough team,” coach Nick Doolittle said. “We have to play really well. We look forward to the challenge and getting back on track.”
Cole Brantely has been a force on both sides for the Hawks, regularly leading the team in rushing and anchoring a young defense.
Hiawatha has allowed at least 50 points in each of its losses this year.
About the Marcos: Polo has outscored opponents 251-72 this season, and that includes a pair of forfeits in Weeks 4 and 5. Avery Grenoble has rushed for 100 yards in every game this season, adding 114 yards and three TDs in last week’s 50-0 win over Peoria Heights. It was the first game that Brock Soltow didn’t also have 100 yards rushing; he ran for 52.
Four Marcos players ran for touchdowns in the victory last week, and QB Tyler Merdian ran for a score and threw for another, giving him either a rushing of passing touchdown in every game. Grenoble and Soltow have both run for 12 TDs this season. Polo has scored at least 40 points in four of its five contested wins, the lone outlier being a 36-28 win over Amboy in Week 3.
FND pick: Polo