Here is a look at Week 2 on the high school gridiron across The Times area:
Seneca (0-1) at Hoopeston Area/Armstrong (0-1)
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday
About the Fighting Irish: Seneca scored first in its season-opening, 25-6 loss, but then surrendered 25 unanswered points – one touchdown a quarter – to visiting Westville. The Irish’s run-first attack found some success in Week 1, led by RBs Braden Ellis (64 yards), Dominic Griffin (51 yards) and Collin Wright (21 yards) as well as QB Nathan Grant (19 yards). Josh Lucas (TFL, QB sack) led the defense. As always, ball- and clock-control will be keys to Seneca’s game plan.
About the Cornjerkers: This week brings Seneca another Vermilion Valley Football Alliance crossover, and a day earlier than normal as the statewide lack of officials caused the game to be moved to Thursday. Hoopeston Area/Armstrong comes in off a 31-14 loss at Iroquois West in which dual-threat QB Anthony Zamora (161 yards passing, 57 yards rushing) impressed, throwing for both of the teams’ touchdowns. Hunter Cannon (five catches for 37 yards) and Kollin Asbury (four receptions, 91 yards) were his favorite targets in Week 1, but aside from Zamora’s runs the Cornjerkers didn’t do much on the ground.
Friday Night Drive pick: Seneca
– J.T. Pedelty
Streator (1-0) at Ottawa (1-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Ottawa 29, Streator 13 (2013)
Series record: Ottawa leads all-time series, 58-37-1
About the Bulldogs: Streator needed a late defensive stand and got it in opening the season with a 14-12 win over visiting East Peoria to snap the program’s 10-game losing streak ... The Bulldogs’ defense allowed only 131 total yards, while the offense was led by solid running games from RBs Darryl Gullens (96 yards, TD) and Seth Miles (73 yards, TD) … Sophomore QB Christian Benning will be making his second varsity start ... Streator will be looking for its first 2-0 start since 2004 and first (on the field) win over Ottawa since 2008.
About the Pirates: Ottawa ended the program’s 14-game losing streak with an impressive 42-14 Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 Conference crossover victory at Sandwich ... RB Javarius Whitfield, who ran for 205 yards and four TDs, including a 99-yard score, became the 15th player in Ottawa history to post a 200-plus-yard rushing game ... QB Braiden Miller completed 15 passes for 190 yards and a TD to Levi Sheehan, who made eight catches for 138 yards … The Pirates’ defense allowed 271 yards, but only 3.1 yards a carry. Ottawa last won its first two games of the season in 2015.
FND pick: Ottawa
– Brian Hoxsey
Metamora (1-0) at La Salle-Peru (1-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Metamora 47, L-P 12 (1996, Class 4A playoffs)
About the Redbirds: Connor Willerton and Solomon Schwarz battled for the Metamora starting quarterback job this summer. Willerton earned the spot, but both had an impact in the Redbirds’ 28-15 win over Peoria Notre Dame in the opener. Willerton passed for 85 yards and two touchdowns – one to Schwarz, who now plays slot receiver – and ran for 49 yards and a score. Garrett Taylor ran for 119 yards on 14 carries against Notre Dame, while Kam Davis scored on a 19-yard run. The Redbirds finished with 291 total yards with 206 on the ground and 85 in the air.
About the Cavaliers: L-P beat another Mid-Illini Conference foe in Week 1 with a 28-21 victory over Morton. The Cavaliers racked up 293 yards on the ground in the opener but did not complete a pass in five attempts. Fullback Matt Carrico ran for 119 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Sean Whitfield rushed for 96 yards and a pair of scores, and Tre’von Hunter scored on a 16-yard run. The Cavs forced four turnovers, recovering three fumbles and Whitfield intercepting a pass. L-P’s defense bottled up Morton star RB Seth Glatz, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the spring, for most of the game. He finished with 141 with 53 coming on Morton’s last play.
FND pick: La Salle-Peru
– Kevin Chlum
Sandwich (0-1) at Geneseo (1-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday at Bob Reade Field, Geneseo
Last meeting: Geneseo 12, Sandwich 0 (2012, Class 4A playoffs)
About the Indians: Sandwich’s introduction to Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 Conference play did not go well, falling to an Ottawa team that hadn’t won an opener on the road since 2015 and hadn’t won any game since Week 2 of 2019. There was not much offense, aside from 55 rushing yards from Austin Marks and 77 passing yards and two TDs from QB Austin Sinetos. There wasn’t much on defense, as Sandwich surrendered 200 yards rushing and four TDs to the Pirates’ Javarious Whitfield and 190 passing yards to Braiden Miller. It’s a pretty sure bet that former NCIC bully Geneseo is not going to be any easier on them.
About the Leafs: The Leafs had a pretty easy time with Chicago Noble/Comer in their opener, scoring 42 points in the first two quarters on their way to a 49-0 win. It should come as no surprise the Green Machine again has excellent roster numbers – more than 90 players program-wide – led by senior captains OL/DL Nathan VanDeWoestyne, WR/DB Andrew Cotty and OL/DL Michael Emerick. Geneseo went 3-3 in the spring after unheard of back-to-back sub-.500 seasons, but it expects to get back to its winning ways this fall. Kaden Davison and K Hunter Clark-Holke are returning All Western Big 6 Conference performers alongside VanDeWoestyne.
FND pick: Geneseo
– Charlie Ellerbrock and J.T. Pedelty
Marquette (1-0) at Chicago Christian (1-0)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday in Palos Heights
Last meeting: N/A
About the Crusaders: After a three-day delay because of excessive heat, the Crusaders’ 42-22 Week 1 win over Dakota was worth the wait but costly, with TE/DE Ethan Price and FB/LB Vinnie Battestelli now out with injuries. Charlie Mullen will step in for the former, Pete McGrath for the latter. MA showed a potent offense, led by RB/DB Jurnee Reed (14-106-2 rushing) and QB/DB Alex Graham (4-5-0-83 passing), while the defense was stingy, giving up only 141 total yards, with 52 of those coming on one play late. Christian will be this Cru team’s first look at a spread attack, so those defensive instincts will be put to the test right off the bat.
About the Titans: Christian lost four All-Metro Suburban Red linemen from its 5-1 spring, but it looked every bit as dynamic in its 50-8 victory over Chicago Noble/Hanberry as the Cru did vs. Dakota. QB/DB Luke Jelderks and RB/LB Luke Edgar, both seniors, each ran for two TDs in the first quarter, with Edgar (a Marine commit) accounting for 112 yards on only seven carries. Jelderks, an all-state long jumper in track, also threw a 22-yard scoring pass to WR Nolan Krygsheld. Senior Matt Haan (6-3, 280) leads the line. On defense, freshman LB Brock Sperling had eight tackles, a sack and a tackle for safety in his first varsity game.
FND pick: Marquette
– Charlie Ellerbrock
Fieldcrest (0-1) at El Paso-Gridley (0-1)
When: 7 p.m. on Friday in El Paso.
Last meeting: Fieldcrest 45, El Paso-Gridley 14 (spring 2021)
About the Knights: That Fieldcrest graduated a whole lot of its senior-laden 4-0 spring squad was evident in the first quarter of its 56-8 Week 1 loss at Aurora Christian, as the Knights surrendered 28 points and for the game managed only 108 offensive yards. Senior RB/LB Eddie Lorton (14-44) and the combo of QB Koltin Kearfott (6-11-48) to WR Landon Modro (3-49) are solid, but must be given room to run and time to throw. Carson Mahan had the only Fieldcrest TD in the opener, but the Knights will need more against a far more experienced EPG defense in this battle of Heart of Illinois Conference rivals.
About the Titans: In a 16-7 loss to Macon Meridian, EPG was solid, but after its TD in the first quarter couldn’t get anything going offensively the rest of the way. The Titans were 0-4 in the spring but come into this season with seven starters back on each side of the ball, with senior QB Jacob Castleman and senior OL/DL Sam Neal (6-4, 215) leading the offense and LB Ben Klein and DB Creed Welsch the defense. The game also was the first for new head coach Tanner Benedict, who at only 23 years old was running plays at WR for the Titans (2016) just five years ago. On his staff is former Streator head coach Brian Hassett.
FND pick: El Paso-Gridley
– Charlie Ellerbrock
FCW (0-1) at Peoria Heights (0-1)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Last meeting: N/A
About the Falcons: They may not show up in the standings, but there are quality losses, and Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland’s 42-40 Week 1 defeat to No. 1-ranked in eight-man West Central after leading through three quarters was one of them. Although the Falcons had to be heartbroken, they also have to be champing at the bit to get back on the field after the impressive opening effort. LBs William Weber (11 tackles) and Chris Stasko (nine assisted tackles), RBs J.D. Ruddy (122 yards) and Jesse Simpson (92 yards) and QB Dallas Hamilton (9-15, 130 yards, 3 TDs) led FCW in Week 1.
About the Patriots: Peoria Heights scored its first victory in about 3 1/2 years in the spring to build some much-needed momentum and enthusiasm around the program. Some of that, no doubt, was lost in last week’s season-opening 52-0 loss to Amboy/Lamoille-Ohio, but coach Kendal Parker’s team will try to build it back against another team that dropped its opener. Quarterback Connor Barnes is an on-the-field leader for the Patriots, who joined the I8FA last school year after posting only two .500 seasons (2003 and 2015) so far this century.
FND pick: FCW
– J.T. Pedelty