A gridiron primer for Week 5 across The Times area

Here are prep football previews for Week 5 in The Times coverage area:

Kaneland (3-1) at Ottawa (0-4)

When: 6 p.m. Friday at King Field, Ottawa

Last matchup: Kaneland 61, Ottawa 7 (2019)

About the Knights: Kaneland has won three straight at home since losing its opener in overtime. “We’re playing an Ottawa team that is much improved from a year ago,” Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said, “and I think the kids are excited for a road game coming up. It’s good to get to go on the road, and I think they’re excited for that.” The defense has dominated, with the starting unit allowing 12 points so far this season. They’re coming off a 26-6 win against Plano last week. Ryan said the offense, on the other hand, still has room for improvement despite a couple of standout performances from running back Corey Phillips and freshman quarterback Troyer Carlson.

About the Pirates: Ottawa goes into its penultimate game of the season and home finale off a 34-6 loss to undefeated archrival La Salle-Peru. Alhough the Pirates are winless, their improvement and ability to compete – at least in stretches – with the rest of the Interstate 8 has been a light down the tunnel for the squad led by the likes of RBs Bryant Schomas (144 yards rushing this season) and Javarius Whitfield (107 yards), QB Braiden Miller (47-for-83 passing, 470 yards, 2 TDs, 5 INTs) and DL Ryder Miller (4 TFLs, 1 QB sack). “Explosive is what I would say,” coach Chad Gross said of Kaneland. “We’re going to have to limit their big plays, slow them down and make them drive the field ... and that kind of leads into offense. It’s no secret we’ve been struggling to run the ball the past few weeks, but we need to have the ability to keep their offense off the field by running the ball and moving down the field.”

Friday Night Drive pick: Kaneland

– J.T. Pedelty and Eddie Carifio

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Lisle (2-2) at Streator (0-4)

When: 6 p.m. Friday at SHS Athletic Fields, Streator

Last matchup: Lisle 55, Streator 14 (2019)

About the Lions: Lisle has followed a loss-win-loss-win pattern this season heading into Friday’s finale. The 20-0 win over Reed-Custer and 24-0 shutout last week of previously unbeaten Peotone were definite highlights, but the Lions’ 35-24 loss to powerhouse Wilmington and 34-6 defeat in Week 3 to Coal City aren’t exactly black marks. RB/LB/KR Cole Campbell – coming off a three-touchdown performance that included 84 rushing yards and a 90-yard kickoff return – is a player the Bulldogs definitely have to focus on containing. DB Dominic Nigro provided two INTs and LB Mike Walker two QB sacks apiece in last week’s shutout win.

About the Bulldogs: Streator will aim to finish this unique spring season with some positives to take into the conventional fall campaign in a handful of months. A win might be a tall task against a Lisle squad that is .500 but has been downright impressive in three of those four outings. The majority of the Bulldogs’ roster – including featured players such as QB/DB Tyler Luckey, RB/LB Cade Stevens, RB/LB Darryl Gullens, WR/DB Alex Ward and WR/CB/LB Christian Benning – is eligible to return next season, so getting things going Friday could carry over into the offseason.

FND pick: Lisle

– J.T. Pedelty

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Plano (1-3) at Sandwich (0-4)

When: Friday’s varsity game has been canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.

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Monmouth United (0-3) at Marquette (2-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday at Gould Stadium, Ottawa

Last matchup: n/a

About the Red Storm: Coming off a 41-8 loss to Princeville, Monmouth United has shown offensive potential. In Week 2′s opener, the Red Storm were competitive with then-ranked No. 2 Annawan-Wethersfield in a 56-44 loss. In that game, QB Declan Flynn (sr., 6-4, 165) completed 26 of 36 passes for 335 yards, 12 of those connections to WR Noah Leffler for 202 yards and a TD. However, United can run the ball too, as Flynn’s sophomore brother, Cormaic, rushed for 115 yards and three TDs. Against Princeville, Cormaic Flynn and RB Aiden Parkins had rush TDs, and WR Jackson Bergren caught eight passes for 122 and a score in Week 4′s 36-20 loss to Mercer County.

About the Crusaders: Despite allowing 278.3 yards a game, Marquette’s defense has been stellar, and not only Friday Night Drive Team of the Week pick Jake Thomas (3 INTs, 1 TD, 1 TD reception). If the Crusaders can keep pressure on Flynn, it will go a long way toward a repeat of last week’s win over Ridgewood. The O-line also improved, opening holes for Shane Reynolds (12 carries, 80 yards) and Hunter O’Dell (9-50) and giving QB Alex Graham (7-for-10-1 TD-0 INT) time to have a great day throwing.

FND pick: Marquette

– Charlie Ellerbrock

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Seneca (0-3) at Dwight (2-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday at Dwight

Last matchup: Seneca 28, Dwight 6 (2019)

About the Fighting Irish: Seneca has had some fascinating contests this season. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, none of them has netted a victory as of yet. The latest installment was an overtime loss to Momence in Week 4. Fortunately for Seneca, the front half of its schedule seems to have featured all of the best teams in their league, and the sledding should become a bit easier over the final two weeks. Look for RBs Ryan McCauley (coming off a 166-yard performance) and Chase Hauch (94 yards) to put together another strong game.

About the Trojans: Dwight is trying to find its way out of a mini slump as it has dropped its past two games after starting 2-0. The Trojans haven’t had a lot of trouble offensively, as QB Carson Crouch has been effective running the offense, but against better teams, the defense has to get better at shutting off the offensive spigot of opponents. Limiting the strong Fighting Irish running game will be Job 1 in that regard ... and no easy task.

FND pick: Seneca

– Steve Soucie

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8-MAN

FCW (1-2) at Milford-Cissna Park (3-0)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday at Milford

Last matchup: Milford-Cissna Park 62, FCW 12 (2019 I8FA playoff semifinals)

About the Falcons: Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland hasn’t scored a victory since its opener against Lowpoint-Washburn/Henry-Senachwine, but tough competition and a one-week quarantine have more to do with that than any lack of talent on the Falcons’ roster. FCW showed the firepower – including dual-threat QB Dallas Hamilton, RBs J.D. Ruddy and William Weber, and WRs Tyler Pfaff and Sam Jones – in its Week 1 win to keep up with the Bearcats if the defense can find a way to slow down the juggernaut that ended FCW’s 2019 playoff run.

About the Bearcats: The eight-man powerhouse Bearcats received a rare tough test last weekend, holding on to defeat Martinsville, 44-38. RB Angel Salinas is a big-play workhorse for Milford-Cissna Park, coming off a 167-yard performance. RB Sam Kaeb and QB Trey Totheroh are big components of the powerful rushing game as well. And Totheroh is coming off a 141-yard, two-TD passing performance.

FND pick: Milford-Cissna Park

– J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 22 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.