Ottawa (0-5) at Rochelle (1-4)
When: 6 p.m. Friday at Rochelle
Last meeting: Rochelle 40, Ottawa 34 (2019)
About the Pirates: It’s now or never for the spring 2021 Pirates to get a win after a season of playing tough teams tough, at least in stretches. Of their four common opponents (Morris, L-P, Kaneland, Sycamore), Ottawa has lost by an average score of 35-8; Rochelle by an average final of 33-7. The Pirates come in off a record-breaking offensive performance by QB Braiden Miller (60-117, 728 yards, 4 TD, 9 INT this season) and a receiving corps led by Briar Naggs (24 receptions, 379 yards) and Jacob Serby (14 catches, 163 yards), but needs to eliminate turnovers, stop the run and win the field-position battle against the Hubs – three things that plagued the Pirates last week.
About the Hubs: The one game on the Pirates’ and Hubs’ respective schedules that wasn’t against a common opponent also is each team’s best showing – Ottawa a 20-7 loss to Plano; Rochelle with its only win this spring, 13-12 over winless Sandwich. Turnovers and field-position issues after turnovers on downs cost the Hubs dearly in last week’s 33-7 loss at Sycamore, with Rochelle’s only score a 34-yard run in the closing minutes from sophomore RB Garrett Gensler. Ben Harvey is another featured runner, although the Hubs will throw with QB Josh Lloyd.
Friday Night Drive pick: Ottawa
– J.T. Pedelty
Morris (3-2) at Sandwich (0-4)
When: 6 p.m. Friday at Sandwich
Last meeting: Morris 57, Sandwich 28 (2019)
About Morris: Morris easily could be undefeated, having lost each of the past two weeks – to Sycamore and La Salle-Peru – on touchdowns in the final two minutes. Junior QB Zach Romak (76-of-118, 931 yards, 13 TDs, 9 INTs; 323 yards rushing) is the straw that stirs the drink for the Morris offense, with senior RB John Landers (261 yards rushing) and senior WR Nathan Jepson (24 receptions for 291 yards) also featured players. Expect an angry, hungry Morris squad Friday.
About Sandwich: The Indians twice came tantalizingly close to their first victory of the season, losing 26-22 in Week 1 to Aurora Central Catholic and 13-12 two weeks ago to Rochelle. Sandwich then had its annual showdown with archrival Plano canceled last weekend because of COVID-19 protocols, leaving the season finale with Morris as its last chance at a win. It’ll be tough to pull off, although the Indians’ strength – controlling the ball and the clock behind the rushing of James Coleman and Seven Tornga – provides possibly the best path to victory.
FND pick: Morris
– J.T. Pedelty
Marquette (3-2) at Mid-County (0-4)
When: 7 p.m. Friday at Galva
Last matchup: n/a
About the Crusaders: Marquette is coming off its best effort of the season, rolling to a 22-0 first-quarter lead on its way to a 48-6 pasting of United. After a couple of rough weeks to start the year, sophomore QB Alex Graham (5-of-6, 109 yards, 2 TDs passing, 2 TDs rushing vs. United) is a quality signal-caller, relying on a stout running game behind Shane Reynolds (51-389-2), Logan Nelson (37-210-0) and Hunter O’Dell (30-133-2). Defensively, the Cru have been tough between the tackles but also have limited passing foes by picking off nine passes, four by Jake Thomas.
About the Cougars: Despite having seven starters back from a team that went 2-7 in 2019, coach Grant Gullstrand’s Cougars are winless at this point, although they have played Princeville and Stark County to one-TD defeats. QB Logan Kuberski is a newcomer but is a playmaker, evidenced by his two rushing TDs in a 22-14 loss to the Rebels. Although Mid-County is not the biggest team in terms of size MA has faced, the Cougars do have team speed, and that coupled with versatility could mean a bag of tricks. Interesting fact: There are five QBs listed on the Cougars’ roster.
FND pick: Marquette.
– Charlie Ellerbrock
Seneca (1-3) at Iroquois West (1-4)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday in Gilman
Last matchup: Seneca 47, Iroquois West 14 (2019)
About the Fighting Irish: Leading 8-6 after three quarters, Seneca exploded for 24 fourth-quarter points in a 32-6 win over Dwight on Friday for its first victory of the season. The Irish offense ran for 261 yards, led by Chase Hauch (88 yards, TD), Cole Underhill (38-1), and Ryan McCauley (36), while the defense allowed only 151 yards, paced by Nathaniel Finch (three TFLs) and Gavin Robertson (2 1/2 TFLs and one sack). A big key for Seneca will be to grab an early lead against the sure-to-be-fired-up Raiders squad, which is coming off a 48-0 win over Walther Christian Academy on Tuesday, which snapped the program’s 11-game losing streak.
About the Raiders: After being outscored 157-43 in its four losses to Clifton Central, Dwight, Paxton-Buckley-Loda and Watseka to start the season, IW surpassed its scoring output for the season in a win – scoring five times on the ground and posting 9.3 yards a carry – over Walther Christian. Junior RB Auston Miller (95-424-4) ran for 117 on nine tries, while senior quarterback Ty Punkey (32 of 105, 105 yards, 2 TDs this year) threw for a score on his only completion in three tries. Sophomores John Ahlden (29-153-2) and Trystyn Schacht (48-144-1) have backed Miller in the ground attack. The Raiders recovered five fumbles, two each by DE Carson Maisonneuve (sr.) and OLB Nathan Price (sr.), with the former forcing four.
FND pick: Seneca
– Brian Hoxsey
Editor’s Note: Find Week 6 previews on La Salle-Peru vs. Kaneland and games across the northern half of the state at FridayNightDrive.com.