The Times Football Notebook: 5 wins may not be enough for Marquette; Streator defense solid in defeat

Achieving the five-win milepost high school football teams covet every fall does not mean Marquette will be taking it easy the rest of the way, not that the Crusaders ever do.

The Crusaders won’t feel sure they’re playoff-bound until they have at least six wins, because of their independent status this season and their lack of playoff points through the first five weeks. Only four 4-1 schools have fewer than MA’s 16 playoff points (wins by opponents).

One thing is certain: As the second-smallest school in the state still playing 11-man football, the Cru will be in 1A, no matter what. Only downstate Madison, with an enrollment of 154, has fewer students than Marquette’s 163.

– Charlie Ellerbrock

Streator defense strong in second half

While Streator fell just short in its overtime loss to Peotone on Friday night, the Bulldogs’ defense bent but did not break for most of the game – most notably in the second half.

The Blue Devils and their wing-T attack were able to control the first-half clock, running for 179 yards and building a 20-6 lead, but things changed in the final 24 minutes. The Bulldogs limited the hosts to 65 yards on 21 tries in the second half and forced a loss on downs and a pair of three-and-outs. That gave the SHS offense an opportunity to score twice to tie the score in the final quarter.

All told, Streator held Peotone to 4 or fewer yards on 33 of its 53 rushing attempts for the game, including seven stopped for a loss. Leading the way for the defense was Tyler Luckey with 17 total tackles (six solo, 11 assists), followed by Darryl Gullens (13 tackles), Sergio Brown (10 tackles) and five stops each by Seth Miles, Jeremiah Brown and Manuel Nieto (two tackles for loss).

— Brian Hoxsey

FCW continues to impress against the best

In its five games on the field, the Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland Falcons continue to impress.

After losing their season opener to then No. 1-ranked West Central, FCW has knocked off ranked team after ranked team, including Saturday’s 36-13 road win at previously unbeaten Martinsville. The lone loss over that stretch was a COVID-19-caused forfeit in Week 5 to another unbeaten team, Polo.

Now 4-2, the Falcons down the stretch will have more opportunities to prove themselves against three more teams with .500 or better records – Friday at the Wood Shed in rural Streator against Hiawatha (3-3) and then on back-to-back Saturdays at Pawnee (4-2) and St. Thomas More (4-2).

With the Illinois 8-Man Football Association limiting the playoff field for the first time in its brief history, only the top 16 teams of the 24 eight-man playing programs will be invited to the I8FA state tournament. Five wins should be enough to earn a postseason berth.

— J.T. Pedelty

Cru winning trench warfare

Although the statistics ended up at a level some other programs would die for, the offensive sprint Marquette Academy has been on this season was slowed a bit in a 21-6 win over LeRoy. Its 190 rushing yards and 324 total yards both more than 120 yards less than its per-game averages through the first five weeks, due in large part to a fast and physical Panthers defense.

The backfield of Tom Durdan (1,080 total yards, 19 TDs), Jurnee Reed (618-5), Julian Alexander (287-3) and Alex Graham (798 passing yards, 10 TDs) have been stellar, but not more so than the offensive line.

The play in the trenches by tackles Noah Barth and Aiden Thompson, guards Beau Ewers and Brady Ewers and center Stephan Swords is just as responsible for MA being a playoff-eligible 5-1 and averaging 42.5 points a game.

“All the credit goes to then line,” Durdan said. “They set the tone up front and keep it going all night.”

— Charlie Ellerbrock

Whitfield’s big run a game-changer

Had the Ottawa Pirates held on to their halftime advantage and defeated Woodstock in a 24-20 defeat, one play would have been looked at as the game-changer.

Even with the loss, it still was.

Senior tailback Javarius Whitfield’s out-of-nowhere, 83-yard sprint into the end zone with 14.2 seconds left until halftime turned a 17-14 deficit into a 20-17 halftime lead in the blink of an eye. Whitfield took a pitch from QB Braiden Miller and swept left on the third-and-15 play from Ottawa’s own 17-yard line, broke a tackle just on the Pirates’ side of midfield and sprinted the rest of the way up the south sideline to paydirt.

“Honestly, we were just trying to run the ball and the clock,” OHS coach Chad Gross said. “We told J, ‘Get to the outside and get what you can,’ and he broke one tackle, guys had great blocking on the perimeter, and he took it to the house.

“That was huge momentum for us, but unfortunately the second half we weren’t able to capitalize on it.”

Whitfield finished with 174 yards rushing on 19 carries and added 24 yards on his four receptions from Miller.

— J.T. Pedelty

Fighting Irish keep hopes alive

Seneca’s 50-10 dismantling of Clinton on Friday in a game added less than 48 hours before the opening kickoff lifted the Fighting Irish to 2-4 and kept their playoff hopes – however slim they might be – alive.

With winless Dwight (0-6) awaiting in the regular-season finale, the Fighting Irish will need upset victories over Momence (4-2) this weekend and Clifton Central (5-1) in Week 8 to get there.

A tall order, true, but playing meaningful football in the final third of the season can only pay benefits down the road for what is an extremely young and rapidly improving Fighting Irish squad.

— J.T. Pedelty