The Times Week 7 football previews: Streator, Seneca, Ottawa aim to keep slim playoff hopes alive

Reed-Custer (5-1, 3-1) at Streator (3-3, 1-3)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Streator 30, Reed-Custer 13 (2019)

About the Comets: Reed-Custer is heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and is in the midst of one of its best seasons as a program, fighting Wilmington tooth and nail until falling, 21-14, in Week 6 for its first loss of the season. How Reed-Custer bounces back from that disappointment will be interesting to see. The Comets continue to get huge offensive numbers both through the air and on the ground, led by dual-threat QB Jake McPherson (73 yards rushing, 141 passing last week vs. unbeaten Wilmington), and could take advantage of a Streator defense that has been streaky this season.

About the Bulldogs: It was known from the day schedules were released that the final third of the regular season would be a bear. Here it is, and if Streator wants to hold on to its playoff hopes, it will need to wrestle at least one of those bears, more likely two, to the ground. The three-game stretch against the three best teams in the Illinois Central Eight Conference begins Friday night at the SHS Athletic Fields against a Comets team that leads the ICE in scoring, averaging 44.8 points a game. Streator, led by QB Christian Benning and WRs Cade Stevens and Aneefy Ford, has the offensive firepower to score quick and in bunches. The key to pulling off the upset will be to do so with consistency and find a way to at least slow down the streaking Comets attack the way Wilmington did last week.

Friday Night Drive pick: Reed-Custer

– J.T. Pedelty & Steve Soucie

Ottawa (2-4, 1-3) at Morris (6-0, 3-0)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Morris 35, Ottawa 6 (spring 2021)

About the Pirates: Ottawa comes in off a 15-point win and four-point loss to the Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White teams from Woodstock. While the Pirates have to be more confident due to their recent good play, they also have to be cognizant of the task ahead of them. Ottawa almost certainly will move the ball as it has done all season. Finishing off those between-the-20s drives with touchdowns will be the key to keeping up with a Morris team leading the KR/I8 White in scoring. Getting RB Javarius Whitfield (804 yards, 10 TDs rushing, 16 receptions for 106 yards) going would be Step 1, which would create opportunities for QB Braiden Miller (72-127 for 910 yards and six TDs) and favorite target Levi Sheehan (29 receptions for 493 yards and all six of Miller’s TD passes).

About Morris: Morris sits tied atop the KR/I8 White standings with Sycamore and is the last undefeated team in the division, outscoring opponents by an average score of 42.3-14.0. In a win over .500 Kaneland last Friday, Morris clinched a playoff berth with a staggering 679 yards from scrimmage – 556 of those coming on the ground. RB Ashton Yard ran for 352 of those yards on 35 carries, and QB Zach Romak added 192 more on his 22 keepers. The bulk of the damage was done up the gut behind a powerful offensive line averaging 280.4 pounds a man. The silver lining for the Pirates would be the 320 passing yards and 35 points the Morris defense surrendered last week in a 49-35 win over Kaneland.

Friday Night Drive pick: Morris

– J.T. Pedelty

Sandwich (0-6, 0-3) at Harvard (1-5, 0-3)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Indians: Sandwich has only four touchdowns on the year – albeit with two of its six games to this point forfeited because of COVID-19 containment measures – but does feature a dangerous running attack when the Indians’ wing-T gets going. Last week, RB Seven Tornga continued to shine with an 18-carry, 123-yard performance that included a 74-yard tote. Finding a strong second option, however, has eluded the Indians to this point, although RBs Austin Marks and Doug Taxis have shown flashes, as has QB Logan Frantzen. This is the Indians’ last game on the schedule against a team that currently is below .500.

About the Hornets: Like the Indians, Harvard had to sit out a two-game COVID-19-related quarantine this season, making the Hornets miss a meeting with Rochelle in Week 5 and last week’s game at Plano. The Harvard offense features RB Bailey Livdahl, who had 524 yards and five TDs rushing on 58 attempts through five weeks, along with fellow RB Eduardo Flores. The Hornets’ lone win on the season came in Week 2, a 34-22 topping of Woodstock North. In its other three contests on the field, Harvard has been been within 10 points except for a 39-0 defeat at the hands of Marengo.

Friday Night Drive pick: Harvard

– J.T. Pedelty

Seneca (2-4, 0-1) at Momence (4-2, 2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Irish: After an 0-3 start, Seneca seems to have righted the ship, first with a 63-6 pasting of Georgetown Ridge Farm, then playing solid in a 32-20 loss to 5-1 Iroquois West before blasting Clinton, 50-10, with 393 total yards in a contest scheduled less than 48 hours before kickoff. The Irish have kept their postseason hopes alive at Clinton behind Braden Ellis (4 carries, 123 yards, 1 TD), Collin Wright (7, 90, 1) and Nathan Grant (2, 2, 82, 1 passing, 1 rushing TD), but likely must earn an upset this week and next against 5-1 Clifton Central to make the extra games happen. SHS has been competitive offensively, but have shown they’re vulnerable to the run, torched by West’s Trystyn Schacht for 220 yards and two TDs, but rebounding to give up just 111 to the Maroons.

About Momence: Momence broke its win-then-lose string by defeating Gilman Iroquois West, two TD passes by QB Kud’de Bertram in the last 1:34 of the first half turning a one-point lead into a 46-20 win. Bertram had six scores in that victory, getting 101 rushing yards and two TDs and completing 10 of 20 passes for 243 yards and four scores. Kam Tyler (3-74-1), Anthony Martinez (55-yard TD) and Travis Gardner (TD) are his top targets. Their defense held Schacht to 106 yards, 50 below his average, but has been shaky at times. Of the three mutual foes played, Momence is 2-1, Seneca 0-3.

Friday Night Drive pick: Momence

– Charlie Ellerbrock

Hiawatha (3-3) at FCW (4-2)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday (at Woodland)

Last meeting: first meeting

About the Hawks: The Hawks have dropped three of four after losing to Amboy, 63-36, on the road last week. They head to rural Streator still looking for a win against a team with a winning record. “We’re feeling good,” first-year coach Nick Doolittle said. “This is another winnable game, for sure. We’re working hard on defense and really looking to improve and get the win on Friday.” Hiawatha has either scored or given up 50 points in every game this year. They’ve put up at least 50 in every win and allowed at least 50 in every loss. Doolittle said the offense is starting to get its footing, as Cole Brantley has been a force at running back, but other players are starting to step up. On defense, he said, the team still is being hurt by its youth at times.

About the Falcons: Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland hasn’t been beaten on the field since Week 1 to then top-ranked West Central. After being forced to miss the first of its two games scheduled at the Wood Shed, the Falcons will be making their rural Streator debut coming off a 36-13 dismantling at previously undefeated Martinsville, a game in which QB Dallas Hamilton erupted for 77 yards and three TDs rushing to go with 53 yards through the air on an unusually few five passing attempts. William Weber continues to dominate from his linebacker spot, putting in another monster game at Martinsville. A win here should secure an I8FA playoff bid for FCW.

Friday Night Drive pick: FCW

– J.T. Pedelty & Eddie Carifio

Walther Christian (3-3) at Marquette (5-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last meeting: Marquette 49, Walther Christian 8 (2019)

About the Broncos: Last week, Walther Christian got a taste of the speed that Hope Academy uses to frustrate foes in a 60-0 loss to the Eagles, the first team it’s played with a winning record. Wins have come in Week 1 vs. Westmont,15-8; in Week 4 at Oblong, 29-0; and in Week 5 against Christ the King, 26-18, a team that had beaten the Broncos, 34-12, two weeks before. WC has plenty of size and speed, for example lineman-like QB Curtis Reeves (5-10, 270) and RB Austin Knight (each a TD vs. Westmont, each two TDs vs. Oblong), plus CB Dylan Leonard and OLB Jaeshaun McIntyre on the defensive side.

About the Crusaders: Balanced offense and strong line play on both sides have put MA on the verge of (excluding the COVID-19 season) their ninth straight playoff appearance. Last Friday’s 21-6 win over LeRoy, led by RB Tom Durdan (13 carries, 123 yards, 2 TDs) and QB Alex Graham (134 passing, 1 TD) was off by MA’s offensive standards this season. But despite an occasional big play, the defense held the Panthers to their lowest point total so far. Throw out the Dee-Mack loss and it’s giving up just 168.8 total yards a game. “No surprise, LeRoy was a very well-coached team that executed well on both sides of the ball,” Jobst said. “We played well … but we need to keep getting better at what we’re doing. [Walther’s] quarterback is physically huge, and overall they have size. They’ll be a handful.”

Friday Night Drive pick: Marquette

– Charlie Ellerbrock

Stockton (2-4) at Fieldcrest (0-6)

Game time: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last meeting: First meeting

About the Blackhawks: Stockton plays in the tough Northwest Upstate Illini Conference and has defeated leagues foes Lanark-Eastland/Pearl City and East Dubuque, but fallen to Forreston, Dakota, Galena and, last week, to Fulton, 42-14. Jace Phillips and Dustin Oppold are the Blackhawks’ top two rushers. Phillips has 68 carries for 276 yards, and Oppold has 64 carries for 259 yards. Ian Broshous is not far behind with 27 carries for 220 yards, and Parker Luke has 44 carries for 208 yards. Stockton head coach Matt Leitzen said, “We will need to be physical up front and take what the defense gives us. It will start with stopping the pass. It looks as if they like to air it out, and we will need to limit their big plays through the air. We’ll need to take care of the football and do the little things well. If we do the simple things well, we should put ourselves in good positions, both on offense and defense. A couple big plays wouldn’t hurt either.”

About the Knights: Fieldcrest fell to AP Class No. 3-ranked Tri-Valley 54-6 last week. QB Koltin Kearfott threw for 75 yards and ran for 45 more and a score, while Landon Modro had four catches for 36 yards. Kearfott has thrown for 1,037 yards and six TDs, while Modro has made 27 catches for 643 and six scores. Fieldcrest is averaging 12.0 points a game while giving up 43.7. If the Knights, who have struggled running the ball all season, can produce a few solid rushing plays early, it will open up the passing game even more.

Friday Night Drive pick: Stockton

– Brain Hoxsey