Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Daily Chronicle Week 4 football previews

The DeKalb band performs ahead of their game against Sycamore in the First National Challenge Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, in Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

DuPage Valley Conference

Metea Valley (0-3) at DeKalb (2-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: The Mustangs were 29-21 winners last season in Aurora.

About the Barbs: After a 35-7 loss to Sycamore to start the year, the Barbs have come rolling back with back-to-back blowout wins, including 49-0 last week at Belleville West. Coach Derek Schneeman said the team is feeling good and looking to prove that last season’s winless record in the DVC was an aberration.

“I think being winless in the DVC, these guys feel like they have something to prove,” Schneeman said. “This group did well in conference as sophomores and wants to come out and start conference play 1-0. We’re ready for the conference season and feel like we’re playing our best ball, which is something you like to see as conference begins.”

About the Mustangs: It’s been a tough early go for the Mustangs, losing each game by at least three touchdowns. They’ve lost seven straight dating to last season, their last win coming Sept. 24 at Waubonsie Valley, 24-13.

Quarterback Noah Larson and receiver Robert Lynch have developed a connection, with Lynch making 16 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Friday Night Drive pick: DeKalb

Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White

Ottawa (3-0, 0-0) at Sycamore (3-0, 1-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Sycamore won 42-6 on the road last year.

About the Spartans: Sycamore picked up its first shutout of the year last week, knocking off Woodstock 41-0. Ethan Bode had a pick-six in the win as the defense has allowed only 13 points this season, six of those happening against backups with a running clock. Coach Joe Ryan said the Pirates have some good skill-position players that have been making plays, and the defense has some playmakers as well.

The offense has been led by quarterback Eli Meier, who is developing good chemistry with sophomore receiver Burke Gautcher. The backfield has been balanced with backs Tyler Curtis, Zack Crawford and Joey Puleo. Ryan said he feels the offense is capable of even more.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Ryan said. “We find a rhythm a little bit when we want to. We’ve scored a lot of points but there’s a lot of upside to what we want to do. This is only the beginning and the kids understand that too.”

About the Pirates: Without a doubt, the Pirates played fantastic football the first third of the regular season, outgaining opponents 398-189 yards per game. They are led by QB Colby Mortenson (418 yards passing, 114 yards rushing), RBs Julian Alexander (261 yards) and Ryder Miller (217 rushing, 131 receiving), WR/Wildcat QB Levi Sheehan (146 receiving, 38 rushing) and linemen on both sides who have utterly dominated their Plano, Streator and Harvard counterparts. Also without a doubt, the road gets much more difficult starting Friday, as Ottawa heads into Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White divisional competition. If the Pirates can make it to 4-0, it’ll make a lot of people pause and take notice.

FND pick: Sycamore

Woodstock (1-2, 0-1) at Kaneland (1-2, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Kaneland won 42-7 on the road last season.

About the Knights: Despite two losses in a row to Geneva (38-14) and Morris (32-24), both of whom still are undefeated, coach Pat Ryan said he’s seen a lot of improvement in his Knights not just from last season but from week to week.

That includes against Morris last week. He said he felt holding Morris to 336 yards of total offense was a good showing against a top-tier offense. He said he saw improvements in offensive line play and stopping the run.

“I think we’re a better football team than our record indicates,” Ryan said. “We feel as a coaching staff our kids played really, really well Friday despite losing to a really good Morris team. We feel like we’re a good football team. I feel like we were better in Week 3 than in Week 2, and we look to get better in Week 4.”

Troyer Carlson threw for 134 yards last week, and he and Aric Johnson continue to be a threat for the Knights.

About the Blue Streaks: Woodstock lost to Sycamore 41-0 in Week 3. … The Blue Streaks struggled to muster any offense against the state-ranked Spartans, finishing with 72 total yards. … In their first two games, however, the Streaks played within a touchdown of Rochelle and then beat Bartonville Limestone 31-13 with a strong showing from the run game. … RBs Adrian Perry (169) and Kaden Sandoval (152) lead the rushing game and WR Caden Monti tops the team with seven receptions.

FND pick: Kaneland

Big Northern Conference

Byron (2-1, 2-1) at Genoa-Kingston (3-0, 3-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Byron was a 7-3 winner at home last season.

About the Cogs: The Cogs got another explosive day on offense and some key defensive plays when needed last week in a 41-19 win against North Boone and are hoping that momentum carries over to the showdown against the Tigers.

Sophomore Nathan Kleba took over for injured starter Nolan Perry, who could end up missing the regular season with a foot injury. A Kleba fumble put the Vikings ahead early, but he made up for it with a pair of touchdown passes to Brody Engel.

Connor Grimm also had a scoop and score and three sacks against the pass-first Vikings, but he and the Cogs will shift gears against the Tigers, who, like the Cogs, work out of a wing-T.

About the Tigers: After a 15-7 loss to start the year to Stillman Valley, the Tigers have won their past two games by a combined 87-13 against Winnebago (42-7) and Rockford Lutheran (45-6). The Cogs beat Winnebago 35-20 and Rockford Lutheran 42-20.

Brayden Knoll had a pair of touchdowns in the win over Lutheran last week for the Tigers.

FND pick: Genoa-Kingston

Eight-man

Orangeville (0-3) at Hiawatha (3-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: The Broncos were 56-8 winners at home last season.

About the Hawks: The Hawks had a forfeit win last week and are well rested after the last time they played a game, a 66-38 win against Ashton-Franklin Center in Week 2. The Hawks are the only undefeated team remaining in the Illinois 8-Man Football Association North I conference, although they still have games left against the two remaining 2-1 teams, Alden-Hebron and South Beloit. The Hawks have scored 66 points in both on-the-field wins, and Cole Brantley has powered the offense in both. The Hawks ran for 445 yards, with 243 of those belonging to Brantley.

About the Broncos: After a strong fall 2021 season, the Broncos have struggled in the early going, having been outscored 146-42 as they prepare to face the explosive Hiawatha offense fresh off giving up 60 in a loss to Aquin last week, 60-26. Maisen Pfeiffer leads the ground attack for the Broncos, while Cody Wirth runs the passing game.

FND pick: Hiawatha