Marquette (4-0) at Chicago Hope Academy (4-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Marquette 62, Hope Academy 42 (fall 2021)
About the Crusaders: As hard as it is to believe in Week 5, Marquette is hitting the road for the first time this season. It should be a whale of a matchup between two teams that have developed a nice rivalry in recent years, and like last year’s battle, fans can expect offensive fireworks. Marquette prefers to do the bulk of its damage on the ground, as made clear by Friday’s 45 carries for 258 rushing yards in a 24-7 win over Annawan-Wethersfield, led by Tommy Durdan’s 96 yards, 83 from Jurnee Reed and 62 from Logan Nelson. But the Crusaders also have the passing-game talent – QB Alex Graham, WR Caden Eller and TE Charlie Mullen – to put up points in a hurry that way if the game demands.
About the Eagles: Hope Academy – the only other undefeated independent aside from Marquette – has been impressive through four weeks even beyond its record, recording two shutouts and winning its games over Whitney Young (1-3), Thornton Fractional North (0-3), Quincy Notre Dame (2-2) and Walther Christian (0-4) by an average score of 49.5-5. The Eagles were on the ropes against QND but battled back in the second half behind potent offensive weapons such as dual-threat QB Eddie Jenkins Jr. and receivers Jamari West and Judah Mallette. With players like that, Hope Academy’s offense is as dangerous as ever, coming in averaging 49.5 points per game, including 69 Friday.
Friday Night Drive pick: Marquette
Seneca (4-0, 0-0) at Iroquois West (4-0, 0-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Iroquois West 32, Seneca 20 (fall 2021)
About the Fighting Irish: Seneca is off to its first 4-0 start since 2013, extending its streak of wins in impressive fashion by trampling Georgetown-Ridge Farm in Week 4. Almost all of Seneca’s damage has been done by its punishing ground game, as five players scored rushing touchdowns of 20 yards or more in the win over G-RF, a game in which the Irish ran for 406 yards, led by Nathan Grant’s 103 on two long TD sprints. In their games against teams other than Seneca this season, the Irish’s opponents to this point have a 5-7 record.
About the Raiders: Think it’s been awhile since Seneca started 4-0? Consider Iroquois West’s drought, which was ended last week with a narrow win over Salt Fork. The Raiders had not been 4-0 since 1986. Based on early-season results, it suddenly looks like these two programs are the pacesetters in the Vermilion Valley North, and Iroquois West likely will lean heavily on Iowa recruit OL/DL Cannon Leonard (6-foot-9, 265 pounds) to guide them. In their games against teams other than Iroquois West this season, the Raiders’ opponents to this point have a 5-7 record.
FND pick: Iroquois West
LeRoy (2-2) at Fieldcrest (1-3)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: LeRoy 34, Fieldcrest 18 (fall 2021)
About the Panthers: With the exception of a 35-6 opening loss to Central A&M and Week 2′s 40-7 win over Heyworth, LeRoy has played close games this season, besting Tremont 20-16 and last week falling to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 29-12. Even in the win over Tremont, however, the LeRoy defense had a tough time stopping the run, allowing more than 200 yards rushing – something the Knights are likely to try to duplicate.
About the Knights: Fieldcrest opened the season with a strong effort in a 23-14 loss to now 3-1 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and was awarded a forfeit victory in Week 3. The other two outings – a 28-0 loss to El Paso-Gridley and 54-0 defeat at the hands of Eureka – have been rough bumps in the Knights’ rebuild, but against a pair of undefeated HOIC powerhouses. LeRoy has played well in this 2-2 start but is not at the level of a Eureka or GCMS. There will be opportunities for the Knights to recapture that positive momentum they started to build in Week 1.
FND pick: LeRoy
Kaneland (2-2, 1-1) at Ottawa (3-1, 0-1)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 52, Ottawa 26 (fall 2021)
About the Knights: Kaneland through four weeks has been dominant in its victories (52-8 over Andrew in Week 1, 49-7 last week over Woodstock) and mostly competitive in its losses to still-undefeated teams (38-14 to Geneva in Week 2, 32-24 to Morris in Week 3). RBs Chris Ruchah, Tyler Bradshaw and Josh Mauthe give a lot of variety to the backfield and, per head coach Pat Ryan, are all finding their stride. “I think [Ottawa is] a much more sound football team,” Ryan said. “They play better fundamentals than they’ve played in the past. They did have some big plays against Sycamore last week. Historically, Ottawa has always been able to get big plays on us. If we can eliminate or limit their big plays, we’ll be OK.”
About the Pirates: At 3-0 through three weeks, Ottawa expected things to get tougher as it dove into Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White divisional play. Things did with a 54-20 loss at Sycamore in Week 4. Still, the Pirates saw some positives in that loss and will look to build on those in another KR/I8 White matchup, with a win putting Ottawa in excellent position for the program’s first playoff berth since 2012. Ottawa is outgaining opponents 337.0-256.3 in yards from scrimmage, led by strong line play clearing the way for RBs Julian Alexander (264 yards, 1 TD) and Ryder Miller (233 yards, 4 TDs), QB Colby Mortenson (490 yards and 5 TDs passing; 113 yards and 4 TDs rushing) and WR/Wildcat QB Levi Sheehan (10 receptions, 144 yards, 2 TDs).
FND pick: Kaneland
Streator (2-2, 1-1) at Manteno (0-4, 0-2)
When: 7:15 p.m, Friday
Last meeting: Manteno 42, Streator 28 (fall 2021)
About the Bulldogs: Every one of the Bulldogs’ four games to this point have been wildly different. Whether this one is a positive blowout (like Week 1 vs. East Peoria), a negative blowout (Ottawa in Week 2), a nail-biter (Week 3 at Herscher) or a would-be blowout turned into an improbable and almost complete comeback (Friday’s loss to Lisle) depends largely on whether the Bulldogs can sustain a strong, four-quarter effort. If they do, players such as RB/DB Aneefy Ford, WR/DBs Matt Williamson, Jeremiah Brown and Isiah Brown, and QB/LB Christian Benning should be able to have a strong night against a winless Panthers team that has struggled mightily stopping opposing offenses.
About the Panthers: Although they haven’t been close to a victory yet this season – losing 40-0 to Evergreen Park, 45-22 to Plano, 28-13 to Peotone and 68-6 to Reed-Custer – the Panthers have had a tough schedule, playing teams currently a combined 12-4. Stopping opponents has been Manteno’s Achilles’ heel, as in addition to being the only winless team in the ICE, it is also the team allowing the most points per game at 45.3. The Panthers do have some offensive weapons, however, led by sophomore dual-threat QB Niko Akiyama, and will come in with a heck of a blueprint at containing the Streator offense, thanks to Lisle’s first-half shutdown of the ‘Dogs.
FND pick: Streator
Illinois 8-Man Football Association
FCW (1-3) at West Central (4-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday (at Biggsville)
Last meeting: West Central 42, FCW 40 (fall 2021)
About the Falcons: Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland finds itself at 1-3, true, but can take solace in the fact that those three losses have come against teams currently with a combined 10-2 record. This week brings another toughie in undefeated West Central. Playing from behind all game in last week’s home loss to Decatur Lutheran, the Falcons hung in there and created some offensive success for themselves, eventually racking up 367 yards of offense, led by Payton Quaintance’s 188 combined yards from scrimmage and 81 more from Jesse Simpson. It was a good sign coming into a game against another unbeaten offensive powerhouse.
About the Heat: The I8FA semifinalists from a year ago have been giving up some points this season – 27 a game, in fact – but that hasn’t hurt them since they’ve been scoring many, many more – 64 per game. The Heat have scored in the 60s all four times out, with last weekend’s 68 put up on Peoria Heights their season high. West Central rings up those points out of an old-school triple-option attack led by RB Kaiden Droste, who’s averaging over 200 yards per game, and QB Mason Karns. FCW will have to be at its best to keep up with them.
FND pick: West Central