The Times Week 4 football previews: Ottawa, FCW return home; Streator takes unbeaten mark to Lisle

Sycamore (2-1, 1-0) at Ottawa (1-2, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Sycamore 27, Ottawa 7 (spring 2021)

About the Spartans: The Spartans are coming off a 56-28 win against Kaneland, a game they trailed, 21-7, in the first quarter, in large part because of coverage mistakes. Safety Dawson Alexander has been one of the top defenders for Sycamore, intercepting three passes with 22 tackles. Ethan Bode leads the team with 32 tackles and also has a sack and a fumble recovery. The Spartans have been rolling with a multi-back attack in the run game, with four rushers over 100 yards this year and none over 200. Nathaniel Altepeter leads the group with 193 yards and six scores on 30 carries. Quarterback Eli Meier has completed 27 of 37 passes for 575 yards, five TDs and one pick, with big-play threat WR/DB/KR Kayden Galto (seven catches, 172 yards) a favorite target.

About the Pirates: After a convincing Week 1 win over Sandwich, the Pirates have dropped a pair of La Salle County rivalry games to Streator (28-23) and La Salle-Peru (28-0). As Sycamore likely remembers from the team’s spring meeting, Ottawa has been much improved and has a number of threats. Chief among them is senior QB Braiden Miller, even after a rough 6-of-21, 34-yard outing against L-P, is 35 of 73 for 472 yards on the season. His favorite target is Levi Sheehan (18 receptions, 279 yards), although arguably Ottawa’s most explosive big-play threat has been RB Javarius Whitfield (298 yards), who broke off a 99-yard touchdown run against Sandwich. LB Brandon Aguirre is coming off a 17-tackle effort against L-P for a defense that has been able to keep the Pirates in games the past two Fridays against teams currently a combined 5-1.

Friday Night Drive pick: Sycamore

— Eddie Carifio and J.T. Pedelty

La Salle-Peru 1, Sandwich 0 (forfeit)

About the forfeit: The Indians (0-4) are unable to play for a second straight week because of COVID-19 protocols. The Cavaliers (3-1) have accepted the forfeit and will not schedule a replacement opponent, giving them their third straight victory.

— J.T. Pedelty

Streator (3-0, 1-0) at Lisle (2-1, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday at Benedictine University

Last meeting: Lisle 44, Streator 25 (spring 2021)

About the Bulldogs: While Streator’s 3-0 start and current “also receiving votes” appearance in this week’s AP Class 5A poll are surprising, none of the Bulldogs’ victories – over East Peoria (0-3), Ottawa (1-2) and Herscher (2-1) – has been a major upset in and of itself. Neither would a win this Friday, although Streator again might come in as underdogs. To reach 4-0 for the first time since 1977, the Bulldogs will need to stick to their winning formula of bend-but-don’t break defense led by LBs Seth Miles, Jake Luckey, Sergio Brown and Tyler Luckey, as well as DB Alex Ward and DL Manuel Nieto, and big-play offense spearheaded by RB Darryl Gullens (205 yards, 4 TD), WR Aneefy Ford (9 catches, 321 yards, 3 TD), WR/KR Cade Stevens (2 kickoff return TD; 6 catches for 198 yards) and QB Christian Benning (18-32, 565 yards, 4 TD).

About the Lions: The first third of the season was going swimmingly for the Lions with wins over Harvard and former Interstate Eight Conference rival Westmont until last week’s 42-14 loss at undefeated Reed-Custer. Whether that lopsided score says more about Lisle or Reed-Custer remains to be seen, but this matchup against unbeaten Streator should go a long way toward telling that tale. RB/WR/LB Gabe Quinones, WR/DB Dominic Nigro and RB/DB/KR Cole Campbell all are explosive threats, making the Lions a candidate to match Streator big play for big play in what looks like it could be a track meet. Being on Benedictine University’s fast artificial turf will exacerbate that. Lisle is 4-1 against Streator since the two became conference rivals, with that lone loss coming in 2017.

Friday Night Drive pick: Streator

— J.T. Pedelty

Marquette (2-1) at Heyworth (0-3)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Crusaders: It will be interesting to see how Marquette, 2-1 after convincing wins over Dakota and Chicago Christian, responds to the adversity of last Friday’s 40-36 loss to Deer Creek-Mackinaw. “Throughout the entire game, tackling was not a strength. I can’t remember our team tackling that poorly. (Dee-Mack) was a little bigger, stronger and came off the ball well. Nothing fancy. They won the pad level. … Heyworth runs the same stuff, so we’ll see how we handle it.” RB’s Tom Durdan (345 total yards, 8 TDs) and Jurnee Reed (309, 3 TDs) and QB Alex Graham (390, 3 TDs passes, 3 rushing TDs) return, but WR/DB Caden Eller and FB/LB Pete McGrath will miss the game with shoulder injuries. They’ll be replaced by sophomore Griffin Walker and freshman Julian Alexander.

About the Hornets: Under new head coach Nate Albaugh, hired only three weeks before the start of practices, Heyworth was very competitive through the first two weeks, falling to Oakland Tri-County, 26-18, and LeRoy, 22-16. That ended last week when visiting Eureka claimed the Battle of the Hornets, 46-0. QB/S Dylan Esposito is the key to their attack and has the arm to find junior WR/CB Nik Lanning, but the question is if Hornets C/DL Jadon West and friends will be able to give him the time to throw or room to run. If not, it’s another step away from the program’s last winning season in 2009.

Friday Night Drive pick: Marquette

— Charlie Ellerbrock

Seneca (0-3) at Georgetown-Ridge Farm-Chrisman (0-3)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Fighting Irish: The good news is Seneca put up 369 yards from scrimmage last week against Salt Fork led by RBs Collin Wright (174 yards), Braden Ellis (80 yards) and Asher Manby (47 yards). The bad news is the Fighting Irish surrendered 477 yards of offense – 421 of those coming on the ground – in the 49-28 defeat, leaving Seneca winless. The defense, which has surrendered 100 points so far this season, should be able to get on track this week as Georgetown-Farm Ridge has yet to score.

About the Buffaloes: After forfeiting in Week 1 because of quarantines, the Buffaloes have been outscored, 109-0, in their losses to Clifton Central and Iroquois West. QB/DB Cohen Cavanaugh, RB/LB Gavin Castonguay, FB/LB Rylan Mosier and OL/DL Layten Starns are returning leaders for the Buffaloes, who added Chrisman to the co-op this school year. This will be GRFC’s first home game of the season and Seneca’s fourth straight Vermilion Valley Football Alliance crossover, with divisional play beginning next week.

Friday Night Drive pick: Seneca

— J.T. Pedelty

Eureka (2-1) at Fieldcrest (0-3)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Fieldcrest 16, Eureka 14

About the Hornets: Eureka has scored more than 40 points in each of its two wins. The Hornets beat Roxana, 49-20, in Week 1 and Heyworth, 42-0, last week. QB Jacob Morin threw for a touchdown and ran for a 47-yard score as the Hornets built a 21-0 lead after one quarter in Week 3. He also tossed a 51-yard TD in the third quarter. RB Mason Boles ran for touchdowns of eight, 10 and 58 yards against Heyworth.

About the Knights: Fieldcrest is looking to hold onto the Veterans Bowl trophy and avoid its first 0-4 start since the Knights lost their first five games of the 2010 season. The Knights have won the past two meetings with the Hornets by a combined six points. Sophomore QB Koltin Kearfott threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns in Fieldcrest’s 51-40 loss in Week 3. Junior receiver Landon Modro caught 13 passes for 247 yards and a TD. Fieldcrest is allowing 44.3 points a game and have surrendered more than 50 points twice.

Friday Night Drive pick: Eureka

— Kevin Chlum

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

When: 7 p.m. Friday at Flanagan

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

About the Bearcats: When Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland last met the Bearcats, it was during a 2019 season which saw defending Illinois Eight-Man Football Association champion Milford-Cissna Park trounce the Falcons once in the regular season and again in the postseason. This one – on paper, at least – looks as if it may go differently. While FCW’s lone loss is a close one to top-ranked West Central, the Bearcats have lost all three times out by an average score of 40.7-15.3. Make no mistake, however, they still are a dangerous team led by QB Sawyer Laffoon (251 yards passing last week vs. Martinsville) and RB Angel Salinas (64 yards rushing yards, 106 receiving yards in Week 3).

About the Falcons: This is one the Falcons have likely been looking forward to since the fall schedules were released. Not only is it Flanagan-Cornell’s homecoming, it’s a chance at revenge against the program that knocked FCW out of its first foray into the eight-man playoffs in 2019. The Falcons have been playing fantastic football this season, led by much-improved play on the lines and the likes of QB Dallas Hamilton, RBs J.D. Ruddy, Jesse Simpson and Chris Stasko and WRs Sam Jones and Keegan Boldt. FCW will host another homecoming game next Friday in rural Streator at the Wood Shed.

Friday Night Drive pick: FCW

— 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.