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The Times Football Notebook: Streator hoping to follow footsteps; FCW honors a student and military

The Streator Bulldogs saw what they hope is their near future Friday night.

It was staring across the field, handing them a 47-7 loss.

A turnaround that began in 2018 with the hiring of Gavin Johnston as Reed-Custer’s head coach reached a new watermark Friday when the Comets defeated Streator to move to 6-1 and guarantee their first playoff appearance since 2009. Johnston was a Reed-Custer quarterback himself, leading the Comets to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006, the latter year the last Reed-Custer won a postseason game.

The Comets haven’t had a winning season since 2009, but in Johnston’s short tenure have turned things around – starting with a culture change and drastically increased numbers.

“You know, coach Johnston has done a great job over there, especially making sure his kids are working hard in the weight room. I think you can see that on the field,” said second-year Streator coach Kyle Tutt, himself a star high school quarterback in his playing days. “They have great team camaraderie; they execute at a high level.

“When you can put together those things, you can make a deep run in the playoffs.”

— J.T. Pedelty

Remarkable night for FCW football at the Wood Shed

It was a memorable night for the Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland football team in its 58-24 victory over Hiawatha on Friday night at the Wood Shed, but for more than capturing a fifth win on the season to more than likely secure a spot in the Illinois 8-Man Football Association playoffs.

Woodland junior Jaysen McMenamin was told earlier last week he would be the first honorary captain since the Falcons switched to the eight-man game a few years ago.

“It was such a surprise,” McMenamin said. “I was in class and there was an announcement for the football team to report to the gym. Then a few minutes later I was asked to go there, too, but I had no idea why. When I got to the gym they were all there waiting for me and told me I was going to be a captain and gave me a jersey. It was so cool.”

McMenamin was donned in the same Army/National Guard jersey the team wore on Military Appreciation Night, took part in the pregame coin toss at midfield and watched the game from sideline near the 20-yard line. With FCW up 38-16 at halftime, Jaysen was asked how he thought the team was doing and if he’d have any captain advice.

“They are doing great,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

— Brian Hoxsey

MA fans cheer for more than 1 team

One can’t say that the Marquette Academy fans don’t have class and an appreciation for the game and its players.

While the Crusaders were building up a 49-0 lead on Walther Christian on Saturday afternoon, the MA faithful cheered, of course, but also grew more and more appreciative of the efforts displayed by the Broncos. When Casper Powell turned on the afterburners during his 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the MA crowd cheered. When Austin Knight broke off an 80-yard TD run, they cheered louder.

With so few fans of their own in attendance, at game’s end the visiting team waved their appreciation.

— Charlie Ellerbrock

Fieldcrest avoids tougher ending to what was already a tough game

Other than the Stockton Blackhawks being up 63-6 against the Fieldcrest Knights, the game largely went off without incident injury-wise until the last 50 seconds of the game when Fieldcrest sophomore wide receiver Jozia Johnson fielded a kick return.

Kick returns are referred by many as the most dangerous play in sports, and the last few seconds of the game nearly showed why: As Johnson ran down the sideline for a good return, Stockton junior Connor Vincent tackled him hard out of bounds.

The tackle itself wasn’t special in the grand scheme of things, but the Fieldcrest sideline is fairly narrow, and the specific spot near the 40-yard line where Johnson lost his footing was the worst spot to hit him. Johnson collided with the podium used for announcements before the game, luckily making it back to his feet after a scary couple of minutes.

Johnson walked off without incident. but the play was inches from being the biggest story of the game.

— Michael Urbanec

Marquette defense coming on strong

The Marquette Crusaders have been stellar all season on offense, but the improving defense had its best game of the season Friday against Walther Christian. Take away the Broncos’ 80-yard scoring run by Austin Knight against the Cru reserves with 5:39 left in the game and the visitors would have finished with minus-26 yards of total offense. Instead, they had 54, which includes minus-2 yards passing for the day.

The return from injury of Ethan Price and the addition of Logan Nelson have allowed MA to move Beau and Brady Ewers back into the line, giving the Cru defense a shot in the arm.

— Charlie Ellerbrock

Crusaders have top 2 seed potential?

With Lena-Winslow dropping a 30-24 decision to Pecatonica in Week 7, Abingdon-Avon now is the only undefeated team remaining in the IHSA’s projected Class 1A playoff teams. That’s thanks to its 18-7 win over Princeville on Friday.

Last week’s breakdown showed 15 teams with 5-1 records heading into Week 7, of which eight won to move to 6-1, including the AP 1A No. 10-ranked Marquette. As an independent, MA doesn’t have much in the way of playoff points, but winning out at 2-5 Chicago Christ the King and at home with 1-6 Fisher the last two weeks could earn them a top 2 seed in the northern half of the 1A playoff bracket.

— Charlie Ellerbrock