Streator (0-3) at Manteno (0-3)
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: Manteno 35, Streator 7 (2019)
About the Bulldogs: Streator has grown more competitive week by week, but has yet to truly be in a game in the fourth quarter. Head coach Kyle Tutt is hopeful this is a game where that changes. “I think we’ve had one of our best weeks of practice so far, and everything is trending up for our guys,” he said. “The wins aren’t where we want them to be, but the guys have been really competitive in practice.” The return of A.J. Benning will help offset the loss of Jake Luckey to a leg injury suffered last week. Dynamic freshman Christian Benning – who saw some snaps at receiver and quarterback last week – is expected get a starting role on offense, as well as continuing what can only be described as his eye-opening defensive work at linebacker.
About the Panthers: Peotone’s season looks an awful lot like Streator’s, with a lopsided loss in what Peotone had to think was a winnable game (33-8 to Reed-Custer in Week 1) and two losses where they kept themselves from being blown off the field but were not able to stay close (27-0 to Coal City and 28-0 to Peotone). Players such as dual-threat QB Caleb Borkenhagen, WR/DB Justin Levesque and FB/MLB Brandon Hampton lead an explosive team aching to make big plays ... an Achilles’ heel of the Bulldogs to this point.
FND pick: Manteno
– J.T. Pedelty
Ridgewood (2-1) at Marquette (1-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday, at Gould Stadium
Last matchup: n/a
About the Spartans: The co-op of Cambridge and Alwood is the toughest team Marquette has seen so far. Last week they scored 24 points in the second quarter of a 41-14 drubbing of the same Class 1A No. 2-ranked Annawan-Wethersfield team that beat the Crusaders, 24-6, in Week 1. QB Colton Stahl (10 for 15 for180 yards, 2 passing TDs, 12 for 83 rushing), FB DJ Van Houten (19-63-3 TDs), WR Lucas Kessinger (5-101-1 rec). LBs Gavin McDonnough and Jarret Lund lead the defense for the Spartans, who beat Stark County, 48-22, in Week 1 but fell to Mercer County, 14-6, the next week.
About the Crusaders: Having played last Wednesday at Princeville will hopefully allow extra prep time, and the home finale will help motivate. With flashes of good defense and ability running the ball, the Crusaders are missing consistency. RB Shane Reynolds (26 rush, 239 yards, 1 TD) is solid, but the O-line hasn’t been able to open holes between the tackles for the FB, a necessity in the winged-T, or given QB Alex Graham (12-31-212-2 TD-6 INT) time to throw. The Crusaders have nine takeaways but are allowing 22.6 points and 285.6 yards a game, a rarity in the Tom Jobst era.
FND pick: Ridgewood
– Charlie Ellerbrock
Momence (2-1) at Seneca (0-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: Seneca 54, Momence 17 (2019)
About the Redskins: After losing, 28-6, to the same Watseka team that beat Seneca, 20-14, last week the Redskins found their stride offensively behind sophomore QB Kud’de Bertram (10-31-143-2 TDs, 1 INT), RB Tyshawn Watkins (77-yard TD vs. PBL) and WRs Luis Barrera and Anthony Martinez. They toppled powerful Paxton-Buckley-Loda, 18-6, then posted a 50-12 thrashing of Walther Christian in Week 3. In that game, Bertram passed for 101 yards and three TDs. That second Momence win matched its total victories from the past two seasons.
About the Fighting Irish: Coach Ted O’Boyle’s team made a big leap defensively from Week 1 to Week 2, playing solid, no-big-play defense in a 20-14 overtime loss to unbeaten Watseka after allowing Clifton Central 62 points the week before. The Irish also moved the ball well again, as the running game posting 216 yards on 40 attemps. More than half came from RB Ryan McCauley, who had 18 carries for 116 and all 14 of the SHS points, including a 59-yard TD. However, the home team can ill afford a repeat of last week’s four turnovers.
FND pick: Seneca
– Charlie Ellerbrock
Sandwich (0-3) at Rochelle (0-3)
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: Rochelle 42, Sandwich 28 (2019)
About the Indians: Sandwich comes into this Week 4 battle after a 55-0 loss to Sycamore in which the Indians’ ground game couldn’t get anything going. While Rochelle has held opponents to less than 30 points in two of its three losses, the Indians should see more opportunity than last week when featured runners Seven Tornga (13 carries for 21 yards) and James Coleman (7 for 10 yards) were limited. On 36 carries the team had a long run of eight yards.
About the Hubs: After an encouraging season debut against powerhouse Morris, Rochelle has found tough sledding the past two weeks – a 29-0 shutout to La Salle-Peru and a 41-6 loss last week to Kaneland. One bright spot last week was the running of senior Ben Harvey (117 yards, TD). This looks to be the opportunity Rochelle has been waiting for to get back on track, although the team on the other side of the field is almost certainly thinking the exact same thing.
FND pick: Rochelle
– J.T. Pedelty
El Paso-Gridley (0-3) at No. 5 Fieldcrest (3-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday, at Veterans Park, Minonk
Last matchup: Fieldcrest 34, El Paso-Gridley 7 (2019)
About the Titans: To say El Paso-Gridley has had a tough season would be an understatement. The Titans opened the year posting only 36 total yards (minus-26 rushing) in a 16-0 loss to Tri-Valley, then registered 185 yards and were blanked, 43-0, by state-ranked Eureka. Saturday, EPG fell to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley at home, 40-7, with its only points of the game and the season coming on a Kamren Schumacher 19-yard touchdown reception from Jacob Castleman with about five minutes to play.
About the Knights: On the other side, to describe Fieldcrest’s season as being tremendous wouldn’t be enough. The Knights have bookend road wins over state-ranked GCMS and Eureka around a home shutout over Dee-Mack, and will be looking to close out an undefeated shortened season at home. In the win over the Hornets Saturday, QB Cory Land was 18 of 33 for 170 yards, including a long TD pass to Henry Lorton (5-85). Jaxon Cusac-McKay made 10 catches for 81 yards, and the Knights defense come up with big plays throughout, blanking the hosts in the second half. The Knights have won seven of the past 10 meetings between the programs, including the past three.
FND pick: Fieldcrest
– Brian Hoxsey
Hanover River Ridge (3-0) at FCW (1-1)
When: 6 p.m. Friday, at Flanagan
Last meeting: River Ridge 36, FCW 12 (2019)
About the Wildcats: River Ridge comes in undefeated, ranked in the I8FA and after a 42-8 drubbing of Kirkland Hiawatha. Running back Caleb Rhodes was the main man in the latest win, running for 235 yards and five TDs on only 14 carries. The Wildcats are the third opponent FCW has had scheduled for this Week 4 slot in only the past handful of days due to COVID-19 quarantines, and will bring a heck of a challenge to a FCW team coming off a quarantine of its own.
About the Falcons: Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland had to sit out Week 3 with a COVID-19 quarantine, but is ready to return for what it hopes will be a statement win. The Falcons have shown the firepower to stay with anyone, led by QB Dallas Hamilton, RB J.D. Ruddy, WR Tyler Pfaff and dual-threat William Weber, with the line led by lone senior Kyle Uhl.
FND pick: River Ridge
– J.T. Pedelty