Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Week 5 games to watch: Playoff eligibility in reach for more than 70 teams

Geneva quarterback Nate Stempowski looks to throw the ball during a game at Wheaton Warrenville South on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

Playoff eligibility is available for a select group of teams this week. Teams that finish this week undefeated and have reached the five-win plateau will have essentially secured a postseason bid.

Seventy-two teams enter the week with that opportunity. One team, St. Bede, has already clinched its playoff eligibility as it will receive a forfeit victory over Riverdale and move to 5-0.

The maximum number of teams that can reach playoff eligibility is 65 as there are eight pairings of 4-0 teams playing one another.

There is also a group of 129 teams that enter the week with 2-2 records. Teams that falter in this group have really put their playoff fortunes in jeopardy, requiring that at minimum they finish the season with 3-1 marks to obtain playoff eligibility.

Let’s look at a few of the Week 5 matchups of interest:

Plainfield North (4-0) at Yorkville (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday: Like defense? This is your game. The two teams both feature very strong defenses, particularly in the front seven. Yorkville is anchored by a pair of Division I defensive line recruits in Andrew Laurich (Colorado State) and Jake Davies (Wyoming). Plainfield North doesn’t have any Division I recruits on that side of the ball but what the Tigers do have is a cohesive group that’s only allowed two touchdowns against its first-string defense.

St. Charles North (3-1) at Geneva (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday: It was no big secret that the DuKane Conference was going to be a wild race this year. And although this isn’t meant as an insult, there’s not a lot of people that would have bet on Geneva being the only team without a loss in the league through four games. These two teams currently share the DuKane lead in a league that has already begun clustering and the winner will emerge with sole possession of the league lead that probably will change hands a few times over the course of the remainder of the year.

Cary-Grove (3-1) at Prairie Ridge (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday: This very well could be the first time since the Fox Valley went to a closed conference where at least one of these two fierce rivals didn’t hold a piece of the conference lead when the game kicked off. (Jacobs currently stands alone at the top of the league at 4-0). A loss here will pretty much extinguish any chance of that team getting back into the race.

Bolingbrook (3-1) at Lincoln-Way East (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday: Even in its one loss this season, Bolingbrook’s high-flying offense commanded by freshman QB Jonas Williams hasn’t been slowed much. But the youngster and the rest of the talented Raider offensive cast hasn’t seen a defense like the one Lincoln-Way East has. The Griffins have a long history of grounding teams that bring a high offensive pedigree into matchups.

Hersey (4-0) at Prospect (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday: Prospect pulled off what could safely be characterized as a program-defining win when it topped Maine South in a wild matchup in Week 4, but it is right back into the meat grinder of what has been a very difficult schedule. Hersey has flown under the radar a bit with its 4-0 start, but a win here would put the the Huskies securely on it.

Other games of note: St. Ignatius at Mount Carmel, 7:30 p.m. Friday; Joliet Catholic at Crete-Monee, 6:30 p.m. Friday; Chatham Glenwood at Rochester, 7 p.m. Friday; Morgan Park vs. Kenwood, 1 p.m. Saturday; El Paso-Gridley at Ridgeview, 7 p.m. Friday; Ottawa Marquette at Hope Academy, 7 p.m. Friday; Sycamore at Rochelle, 7 p.m. Friday; Durand-Pecatonica at Knoxville, 1 p.m. Saturday; Farmington at Macomb, 7 p.m. Friday; Williamsville at Athens, 7 p.m. Friday; East St. Louis at O’Fallon, 1 p.m. Saturday; Seneca at Iroquois West, 7 p.m. Friday; York at Lyons, 1:30 p.m. Saturday; Niles Notre Dame at St. Viator, 7 p.m. Friday; Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central, 7 p.m. Friday