Here is a look ahead at Week 8 across the area:
Marquette (6-1) at Christ the King (2-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Melrose Park)
About the Crusaders: Marquette’s offense has been outstanding all season, and thanks to Jurnee Reed (63 yards, 3 TDs), Tom Durdan (109 yards, 1 TD), Julian Alexander (2 TDs) and Alex Graham (112, 2 TDs passing), Saturday’s 49-14 homecoming win over Walther Christian was no exception. But now, thanks to a few key additions, the defense is catching up, being one long run away from holding the Broncos to negative total yards. Now the AP’s Class 1A No. 7-ranked squad, Marquette is playing for an opening-round home playoff game that goes with a higher seed, so it will approach this speedy foe as it did Hope. “That’s a team that, if we’re not careful, it could be a problem,” MA coach Tom Jobst said. “They have some nice athletes, a good quarterback. We just have to stay focused and do our jobs to keep them from getting loose.”
About the Gladiators: Christ the King traveled out of state for its last game, arriving two hours late for lack of a bus driver, then losing, 56-14, to Bloomfield Hills (Michigan) Brother Rice in a game where the hosts picked off four of QB Jaden Bea’s passes, one returned for a touchdown, and gave up five offensive scores plus a punt return TD. The Gladiators’ only wins this season are 34-12 over the same Walther Christian team the Cru beat Saturday, and a 1-0 forfeit over Detroit (Michigan) Loyola in Week 6. It could be a rough two weeks, finishing the season with MA and Hope Academy.
Friday Night Drive pick: Marquette
— Charlie Ellerbrock
Streator (3-4, 1-4) at Wilmington (7-0, 5-0)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Wilmington 41, Streator 21 (2019)
About the Bulldogs: Streator’s challenging run of games to end the season continues with a visit to the Illinois Central Eight Conference’s best, unbeaten Wilmington. The Bulldogs have been big-play dependent this season but are coming off a tough Friday night loss to Reed-Custer, which took that away, allowing Streator single-season passing yardage leader Christian Benning (58-for-111 passing for 1,157 yards and 11 TDs on the season) only two completions for 7 yards, with Cade Stevens (19 receptions, 460 yards, 5 TDs) hauling in both. Fellow WR Aneefy Ford (216 yards rushing; 23 catches for 477 yards and 5 TDs) was held without a catch. Darryl Gullens (409 yards rushing, 5 TDs this year) had Streator’s lone big play last week, a 67-yard touchdown scamper. LB-turned-DE Sergio Brown’s move up front was a success, recording three tackles for loss last week and earning a spot on the Friday Night Drive Team of the Week.
About the Wildcats: Wilmington has not been piling up points as in years past – averaging 23.4 a game with only one outing scoring more than 40 – but has been piling up wins with its ball-control offense and a defense that is allowing only 6.9 points a contest with two shutouts and five weeks of allowing fewer than two scores. The two-headed RB monster powering the Wilmington offense consists of Jacob Friddle and Colin James, as the Wildcats are perfectly content to grind out yards, let the clock run and win a close one ... as they have all season, including signature, likely ICE-clinching wins such as 10-7 over Coal City in Week 3, 10-0 a week later against Peotone and 21-14 Oct. 1 vs. Reed-Custer.
FND pick: Wilmington
— J.T. Pedelty
Kaneland (3-4, 2-2) at Ottawa (2-5, 1-4)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 61, Ottawa 7 (2019)
About the Knights: Kaneland is one loss away from missing the playoffs for the first time in coach Patrick Ryan’s five years and for the first time since 2016. “We need to take care of what we need to take care of,” Ryan said. “We’re focused on beating Ottawa. Based on [Monday’s] practice, we feel like our kids are ready to do that. ... We feel like we match up well against Ottawa.” The four teams Kaneland has lost to this year are a combined 23-7. The line has given QB Troyer Carlson plenty of time to throw the ball – he’s approaching 2,000 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions – but RB Corey Phillips is only averaging 4.2 yards a carry this season. Kaneland’s is scoring 32.7 points a game but allowing 32.9. A shootout could be in the making.
About the Pirates: Aside from losses at two of the KR/I8′s best (Week 3 at La Salle-Peru and last week at Morris), moving the football has not been an issue for an Ottawa offense led by a 1,000-yard passer (Braiden Miller, 83-for-148 passing, 1,030 yards, 6 TDs), his top target (Levi Sheehan, 33 receptions, 536 yards, 6 TDs) and likely 1,000-yard rusher (Javarius Whitfield, 140 carries for 835 yards and 10 TDs). Finishing drives with points, however, has. Kaneland’s defense is surrendering 32.9 points a game, so the opportunities should be there if the Pirates can cash in and — just as importantly to their upset hopes — get stops when the Knights have the ball. Sophomore LB Ryder Miller continues to shine for the Pirates defense, coming off another double-digit tackle performance.
— Eddie Carifio & J.T. Pedelty
Marengo (4-3, 3-1) at Sandwich (0-7, 0-4)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
About Marengo: The Indians are coming off a crucial 21-20 victory last week over Plano that kept them in the top half of the Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 Blue standings and kept their realistic hopes of a playoff berth alive and well despite undefeated and KR/I8 Blue-leading Richmond-Burton lurking in Week 9. After a struggle stopping Rochelle the week prior, Marengo’s defense came up big in Week 7, nicely complementing an offense led by RB Dylan Stolz (177 yards vs. Plano), WR Exzavier Meyer and dual-threat QB Joshua Holst (323 yards passing against Rochelle). “We just have some youth. We’re getting better from week to week,” Indians coach Paul Forsythe said.
About Sandwich: The KR/I8 Blue’s other Indians came tantalizingly close to their first victory of the season last week, leading late before falling, 29-24, to new divisional foe Harvard. RB Seven Tornga turned in another strong performance for Sandwich in the loss, rushing for 165, two touchdowns – including a 56-yarder to open the scoring – and a 2-point conversion. QB Austin Sinetos threw a TD pass to Tornga as well, but the Indians are searching for that secondary wing-T threat. Cainan Haick recorded three tackles for loss last week for a Sandwich defense that is surrendering 44.2 points a game the five times it has taken the field.
FND pick: Marengo
— J.T. Pedelty
Clifton Central (5-2, 2-1) at Seneca (2-5, 0-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
About the Comets: Central has missed the Class 2A postseason only three times in coach Brian Spooner’s 22-year tenure. After losing this year’s opener, 35-0, to Bismarck Henning, the Comets won five straight, thanks to a defense that in those game allowed a total of 27 points. That roll ended last week in a 13-6 loss to Iroquois West. Among common foes, both routed Georgetown Ridge Farm and both fell to Iroquois West, but Clifton earned a 24-13 win over the Westville team that topped the Irish, 25-6. Junior Luke Shoven has taken over at QB for graduated 5,000-yard passer Jay Lemenager, minus school record-holding receiver, Shoven’s brother, Jacob. Back also are all-conference senior OL/DL Dallas Rodriguez, junior OL/DL Aaron Christianson, junior WRs Carson Turner and senior WR Grant Grider.
About the Irish: The tough luck for Seneca continued last week at Momence, where the Irish sustained their fifth loss of the season, all to teams with winning records and a 25-10 mark combined. The good news is the offense continues to produce substantial numbers, getting 121 ground yards and TDs rushing and receiving from Collin Wright, 75 rush yards from Braden Ellis and rushing scores from Brock Moore and QB Nathan Grant. That effort gives them 214 points, more than anyone else in the rest of the Vermilion Valley North. However, their 180 points allowed is also the most in the league, so the defense will have to step it up against the solid but not overwhelming Comets.
FND pick: Clifton Central
— Charlie Ellerbrock
Dee-Mack (5-2, 1-2) at Fieldcrest (0-7, 0-3)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Fieldcrest 17, Dee-Mack 0 (spring 2021)
All-time series: Fieldcrest leads 11-10
About the Chiefs: Dee-Mack has won three straight games, including scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in last week’s 28-27 victory over LeRoy, and will be looking for a playoff-clinching win. The Chiefs, which have both scored and given up 159 points (22.7) this season, are averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt and 240.7 yards a game on the ground. Sophomore running back Brent Denniston leads D-M with 111 carries for 725 yards, followed by junior Lucas Blumeyer (36-425), senior quarterback Ethan Baez (57-222) and Tyce Albritton (29-153). Baez (9-of-18 passing, 100 yards), who returned to the lineup two weeks ago after missing three games because of injury, looks to be sharing snaps with sophomore Carson Cassady (10-of-34, 283 yards; 3-of-5, 42 yards against LeRoy). Dee-Mack’s defense allowed only 217 total yards to the Panthers, 143 through the air. The Chiefs’ only losses are Heart of Illinois Conference contests to undefeated Tri-Valley and two-loss El Paso-Gridley. D-M hasn’t won in Minonk since 2012.
About the Knights: Fieldcrest has relied heavily on its passing attack this season, throwing for 1,143 yards while running for 196, but were without their top three quarterbacks for Saturday’s game against Stockton, so turned to its running game. Freshman Eddie Lorton, who has started at running back and receiver this season, started at QB, while senior Ethan Stoeger played RB. Lorton ran for 47 yards on 16 carries, while Stoeger rushed for 35 yards on nine attempts while scoring his first career varsity touchdown. The Knights again this week will be without the services of regular starting QB Koltin Kearfott, so coach Mike Freeman said, “We plan on Lorton to take the snaps as we continue to work Stoeger and Logan Halley at RB. We are continuing to work on the run game with those three as well as trying to develop a passing game.” Fieldcrest, which is averaging 11.1 points a game but allowing 46.4, will have to find a way to limit Dee-Mack’s ground game while running the ball effectively itself.
FND pick: Dee-Mack
— Brian Hoxsey
FCW (5-2) at Pawnee-Lincolnwood (5-2)
Game time: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last meeting: FCW 44, Pawnee 42 (2019)
About the Falcons: Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland’s seasonlong run against the best the Illinois 8-Man Football Association has to offer continues with a 120-mile one-way visit to another two-loss team. The Falcons are 3-1 (excluding a forfeit loss to still-unbeaten Polo in Week 5) in games played against teams currently holding winning records, the lone loss of those coming in Week 1 at West Central. RB J.D. Ruddy and QB Dallas Hamilton have developed into the top backfield weapons behind a solid offensive line anchored by Ethan Schumm, Sam Jones, Joey Jones, Jase Torrez and Mikey Gamble. Another 5-2 opponent, St. Thomas More, awaits FCW in the regular-season finale.
About the Indians: Pawnee-Lincolnwood’s offense has been impressive this season to say the least, coming in averaging 48.4 points a game played (excluding a Week 3 forfeit win vs. Decatur Lutheran) with four outings of 50 or more points scored. The Indians defense, on the flip side, has only given up similar point totals twice – though it should be noted those came in Pawnee-Lincolnwood’s only two previous games played against teams with winning records (a 43-28 Week 1 loss to Martinsville and 58-28 defeat two weeks ago to St. Thomas More, FCW’s Week 9 opponent).
FND pick: FCW
— J.T. Pedelty