Citing officials shortage, Southwest Prairie Conference moves Weeks 3 and 4 to Thursday nights

Plainfield East's Quinn Callaghan (9) runs on a keeper against Yorkville during a high school football game at Plainfield East High School in Plainfield on Friday, Sep 17, 2021.

The Friday Night Lights will shine on Thursdays for two weeks in the Southwest Prairie Conference this fall.

The league elected to move two of its conference weeks (Week 3 and Week 4) to Thursday to help accommodate for a potential lack of varsity crews available to completely cover the need this season.

“We voluntarily made the decision as a league to make the move in an effort to help out the officiating association,” Plainfield North athletic director Ron Lear said. “There might not be enough crews to go around, and by helping out in this way we hope that we can avoid any officiating scheduling issues later in the season when we have our divisional games.”

The SPC plays its schedule in a regimented format with its 12 members playing nonconference opponents the first two weeks, scheduled crossovers in Week 3 and Week 4, before rounding out the slate with five divisional opponents.

The crossovers are designed so each of the 12 teams has one game at home and one away, so no program in the league will have an uneven burden cast on them because of the switch.

In Week 3, Joliet Central will host Oswego, Joliet West will host Plainfield North, Plainfield Central will host West Aurora, Plainfield East will host Oswego East, Plainfield South will host Yorkville and Romeoville will host Minooka.

Week 4′s schedule includes Oswego East hosting Joliet Central; Joliet West traveling to West Aurora, Plainfield Central at Minooka, Plainfield East at Yorkville, Plainfield South at Plainfield North and Romeoville heading to Oswego.

“We decided to go on Week 3 and Week 4 because those are our conference crossovers and it is balanced where each team has one home game, and each team has one road game,” Lear said. “And then its fair to everyone.”

Some schools have elected to play varsity only on those nights with early kickoffs to ease the potential disruptions that the schedule change might lead to.

Joliet West coach Steve Millsaps said it isn’t ideal, but the alternative of having to move a game later in the season on short notice is something the SPC is hoping that this proactive decision will help them avoid.

“We did it this way because it avoids our divisional games having problems with getting officials and keeps things away from our homecomings,” Millsaps said. “We’re trying some things. We’ve got a volleyball game on our home game, and we scheduled that for 5 p.m. so maybe we can get some people to come out for [volleyball] and then follow that up with the football game. We’ll see how it goes.”

The yearly football schedule typically has about 30 to 40 games originally scheduled to be played on Thursdays, almost exclusively in the Chicago Public League. But proactive schools already have seen the potential problems on the horizon on trying to stick exclusively to Friday nights. There currently are more than 100 games that have been moved to Thursdays for this season.