Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Some intriguing games in the Sauk Valley, week-by-week

The IHSA released its 2022 football schedules Thursday, here’s a look at some intriguing matchups each week in the Sauk Valley area.

Week 1: Newman (7-4 in 2021) at Morrison (2-7), 7 p.m. Aug. 26

This longtime Three Rivers rivalry game now is a crossover contest, but still seems to bring out the best in both teams. While the Comets have had more consistent success over the past several seasons, the Mustangs always circle this game on the calendar and put up a good fight.

Week 2: Fulton (9-3) at West Carroll (DNP), 7 p.m. Sept. 2

After not fielding a team in 2021, this Week 2 game in Savanna will be the first home game for West Carroll since the COVID-altered and shortened 2021 spring season. While the Thunder look forward to a home crowd, the Steamers come in fresh off a run to the Class 1A quarterfinals last fall.

Week 3: Eastland-Pearl City (1-8) at Forreston (8-3), 7 p.m. Sept. 9

The Cardinals saw last season end earlier than they wanted, and they’ll have to replace several standout players on the line and in the backfield. The Wildcatz are eager to improve from last fall but must do so while replacing a stellar all-around athlete in quarterback Kellen Henze.

Week 4: Polo (13-0) at Milledgeville (9-2), 7 p.m. Sept. 16

This was one of the closest games the Marcos played all season on their way to a second straight 8-man state championship, as the rival Missiles gave Polo all it could handle before a late touchdown and two-point conversion helped the Marcos pull out a two-point win in Week 1. Expect another high-scoring, back-and-forth affair in Week 4.

Week 5: Geneseo (3-6) at Sterling (7-3), 7 p.m. Sept. 23

The Golden Warriors have dominated this longtime rivalry in recent years, but the players still get fired up for this one. The Maple Leafs have struggled since their move to the Western Big 6, but a win over Sterling – which has been at or near the top of the WB6 standings since joining the league – would be a step in the right direction to rebuilding the brand.

Week 6: Princeton (10-2) at Newman (7-4), 7 p.m. Sept. 30

A game that has become a must-see matchup over the last few years as two powerful offenses take on a pair of stingy defenses. The Comets have played the Tigers tough, and both teams will be looking to replace workhorses in the backfield this fall.

Week 7: Bureau Valley (3-6) at Erie-Prophetstown (8-3), 7 p.m. Oct. 7

The Panthers were the surprise team in the Three Rivers West last season, reeling off seven straight wins after starting 0-2 to take the league title and win their first playoff game since 2013, in their first trip to the postseason since 2014. The Storm went the opposite direction in 2021, starting 2-0 before losing their next six games, and they look to reverse that trend this fall.

Week 8: Amboy-LaMoille (7-5) at Aquin (6-4), 7 p.m. Oct. 14

A rematch of a first-round mild upset in last year’s 8-man playoffs, the Clippers will again visit Freeport with victory on their minds. Amboy-LaMoille got red-hot at the end of the season, advancing all the way to the state semifinals before falling to eventual runner-up Orangeville, and the Clippers are looking to build on that finish this fall.

Week 9: Rock Falls (1-8) at Dixon (6-4), 7 p.m. Oct. 21

Always a hard-fought game no matter what each team’s record is, the Dukes host the Rockets in a Rock River rivalry game that stretches back to the old days of the NCIC. Dixon has some key pieces to replace as it looks for its eighth straight trip the playoffs, while Rock Falls had lots of young players get valuable experience last fall – and will look for them to help fill the shoes of standout Booker Cross.

Dixon's Rylan Ramsdell stiff arms Rock Falls' Michael Flowers Friday Oct. 22, 2021.