Illinois High School Football News

The Times Week 4 previews

3-0 vs. 3-0 showdowns for Marquette, Ottawa; Streator hosting Lisle in likely must-win for both

Ottawa (3-0, 0-0) at Sycamore (3-0, 1-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Sycamore 42, Ottawa 6 (fall 2021)

About the Pirates: Without a doubt, the Pirates played fantastic football the first third of the regular season, outgaining opponents 398-189 yards per game led by QB Colby Mortenson (418 yards passing, 114 yards rushing), RBs Julian Alexander (261 yards) and Ryder Miller (217 rushing, 131 receiving), WR/Wildcat QB Levi Sheehan (146 receiving, 38 rushing) and linemen on both sides who have utterly dominated their Plano, Streator and Harvard counterparts. Also without a doubt, the road gets much more difficult starting Friday as Ottawa heads into Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White divisional competition. If the Pirates can make it to 4-0 with a win over a powerhouse like Sycamore, it’ll make a lot of people pause and take notice.

About the Spartans: Sycamore comes into Week 4 unbeaten and untested, having dominated games against DeKalb (35-7), Oak Forest (40-6) and Woodstock (41-0). The Spartans’ defense has been imposing as it almost always seems to be, as has an offense led by RBs Joey Puelo and Tyler Curtis, third-year starting QB Elijah Meier and favorite targets WRs Burke Gautcher and Addison Peck. Perhaps the most important matchup to watch will be on the lines, the strength so far of this Ottawa team and where Sycamore all-stater/DeKalb Daily Chronicle Fall 2021 Player of the Year Lincoln Cooley and two other returning starters from last fall’s state semifinalists do their work.

Friday Night Drive pick: Sycamore

Lisle (1-2, 0-1) at Streator (2-1, 1-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Lisle 28, Streator 14 (fall 2021)

About the Lions: One of these teams likely will be playing for postseason positioning down the stretch, and one of them likely will not. The outcome of this game will go a long way in determining which is which. Lisle opened with a shutout win over winless Harvard, but has since been shut out 29-0 and 53-0 – albeit against arguably the Illinois Central Eight’s top two teams, Wilmington and Reed-Custer. Playing such competition, the Lions haven’t got to put up much in the way of statistics, but come Friday will look to get QB Tyler Anderson and RBs Dominic Nigro, Drew Nigro and Tony Dewald going behind a line with some key returners back.

About the Bulldogs: It’s only been three games, but the Bulldogs have been through a season’s worth of emotions with a lopsided win at East Peoria, a lopsided loss to Ottawa and a come-from-behind thriller of a victory Friday at Herscher. It also makes Streator a tough team to predict, but what is for certain is that with the class of the ICE waiting in Weeks 7-9, the Bulldogs, led by OL/DL Sabby Nieto, RB/DB Aneefy Ford and QB/LB Christian Benning, need to win every time out the next three weeks if they want to ensure themselves a place in the playoffs.

FND pick: Lisle

Annawan-Wethersfield (3-0) at Marquette (3-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Annawan-Wethersfield 24, Marquette 6 (spring 2021)

About the Titans: A half-game behind Knoxville atop the Lincoln Trail standings, Annawan-Wethersfield has yet to be truly tested in three victories – 35-16 over Monmouth United, 60-6 vs. West Hancock and 39-19 against Princeville – over teams with a combined 1-8 record so far. The Titans can expect to be tested Friday, however, and to give the Crusaders another tough test with a big-play offense led by dual-threat QB Dillon Horrie and RB Zeb Rashid. Like Marquette, Annawan-Wethersfield can throw it but is perfectly happy moving the football with a ground attack equally capable of hitting home runs.

About the Crusaders: Heading into their homecoming game, the Cru are playing at a high level even if the scoreboard hasn’t been as lopsided as fans may have become accustomed to in recent years. Case in point: last week’s 28-0 defeat of a winless but potential playoff team, Dee-Mack, during which Marquette outgained the Chiefs 423-154 in yardage led on offense by Tommy Durdan (197 yards rushing), Alex Graham (107 yards passing) and Logan Nelson (56 yards receiving) and defensively by Noah Barth (1 1/2 sacks, 1 TFL) and Vinny Battistelli (1/2 sack, 1 TFL). Marquette will need another effort like that to move to 4-0.

FND pick: Marquette

Georgetown-Ridge Farm (0-3) at Seneca (3-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Seneca 63, Georgetown-Ridge Farm 6 (fall 2021)

About the Buffaloes: Georgetown-Ridge Farm has scuffled to stay afloat as a program the past few years, with numbers problems leading to speculation that it might not be able to field an 11-man squad for much longer. The Buffaloes’ problems remain, and unexpectedly those woes have carried over to the on-field product as they have been outscored 154-31 to start the year, the closest loss Week 1′s 45-18 defeat at the hands of now 1-2 Watseka.

About the Fighting Irish: Seneca has been proficient on offense to start the season, and the Fighting Irish also have shown a propensity for figuring out how to win close games, having edged out opponents in each of the past two weeks. That probably won’t come into play this week, but Seneca’s ability to potentially get out of the crossover portion of the Vermilion Valley schedule unscathed with four wins in its pocket sets it up well for the second half of the sesaon.

FND pick: Seneca

Fieldcrest (1-2, 0-1) at Eureka (3-0, 1-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Eureka 41, Fieldcrest 0 (fall 2021)

About the Knights: With Fisher not fielding a varsity team this season, Fieldcrest accepted the forfeit win last week and took not only its first victory since the spring 2021 finale – snapping an 11-game losing streak – but also an in-season week off to focus on itself. Limiting turnovers moving forward had to be a point of emphasis and will play a major role in the Knights staying competitive with one of the Heart of Illinois Conference’s top programs in the annual Veterans’ Bowl.

About the Hornets: Eureka has been as good as advertised a third of the way through the regular season, following a 25-7 Week 1 win over Canton with back-to-back shutout victories over Tremont and Heyworth in which the Hornets scored in the 50s. Eureka can pass with QB Jacob Morin throwing to a large receiving corps, including Drew Dingledine, Camron Manning and Justis Bachman, and also run it led by Rylan Bachman, Ben Lapp and Tanner Wiegand. But it’s the defense that may be the Hornets’ most potent weapon.

FND pick: Eureka

Decatur Lutheran/Mt. Pulaski (3-0) at Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland (1-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday (at Flanagan)

Last meeting: first meeting

About the Lions: Decatur Lutheran/Mt. Pulaski (aka “LSA” for “Lutheran School Association”) likes to run the ball, and the Lions are proud of that fact. So proud they did not list a quarterback on their preseason roster as a statement, with fullback Emmanuel Roughton coordinating an offense that mostly feeds the ball to Lleyton Miller, the Lions’ all-time rushing yards leader who became the single-game record-holder as well with a 291-yard, 33-carry effort this season during the Lions’ 3-0 start. To beat the Lions – now in their third season playing eight-man – the Falcons have to find a way to stop him.

About the Falcons: FCW is coming off its first win of the season, a 20-16 comeback over River Ridge in which the Falcons racked up 326 yards from scrimmage (235 on the ground led by Jesse Simpson’s 177-yard performance). It was an encouraging win for the Falcons after a couple rough weeks to open the season, but to keep it going they’ll need to put in their best defensive effort to date against the Lions’ polished running attack. Forcing LSA into third- and fourth-down situations where it has to contemplate passing is the best way to accomplish that and pull off the upset.

FND pick: Decatur Lutheran/Mt. Pulaski