The classic matchup between the No. 1 team in The Associated Press Class 5A poll and the No. 4 team in Class 4A never materialized Friday night.
The game was highly anticipated, not only in Morris and Richmond-Burton, but around the state. R-B assured it did not live up to the billing with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball for a 31-7 victory.
The Rockets (6-0) did not punt in the game, outgained Morris 412-201, and really kept the visitors at a distance all night. Morris, which was No. 1 in Class 5A, did capitalize on a punt that R-B muffed and scored in the third quarter to make it 17-7.
But R-B rolled right back down the field to answer with another touchdown.
Morris coach Alan Thorson had only compliments for the Rockets.
“They really did eat the clock up with those long drives,” Thorson said. “We stressed to our defense that we had to get off the field. But their backs run hard and their line did a good job. We just got beat by a better team tonight.
“The bottom line was they outplayed us. They’re a very good team. They outexecuted us. That’s a credit to them.”
R-B has won 38 of its last 39 games and is 49-3 since Mike Noll took over as coach before the 2018 season.
“All these kids have been in the program four years and they execute,” Noll said. “And they play hard. That’ll take you a long ways.”
R-B has been to the Class 4A semifinals every year the IHSA had the playoffs since Noll has been coach. The Rockets won the Class 4A state championship and went unbeaten in 2019.
In the north part of Class 4A, there will be Joliet Catholic, St. Francis and Wheaton Academy among the teams to deal with. But R-B, with wins over Class 6A No. 10 Normal West (Week 4) and Morris (Week 6) looks every bit of a state contender.
“It shows when we all come together, put our noses down and play Richmond-Burton football we can accomplish a lot,” R-B lineman Nate Komar said.
Potential key loss for C-G: Cary-Grove wide receiver-defensive back Mykal Kanellakis left Friday’s 17-14 loss to Huntley with a knee injury. Trojans coach Brad Seaburg said Kanellakis was awaiting MRI results and held out some hope he might return. If not, it is a crucial loss for C-G.
“He’s got fantastic speed, a great motor and is a great physical blocker,” Seaburg said. “He’s a passing threat as well as a rushing threat. And defensively, he’s one of our best tacklers and can play man-to-man on a receiver.”
Playoff situation: Huntley, Jacobs and Prairie Ridge (all 5-1) are playoff-eligible and looking to improve their playoff seeds while battling it out over the last three games for the Fox Valley Conference title. They each took turns beating each other.
So far, they are the only sure things in the FVC, although Crystal Lake South (4-2) can reach five wins by beating McHenry on Friday. The Gators have a tough finish with Prairie Ridge and Huntley in Weeks 8 and 9.
C-G is fighting to stretch its consecutive playoff streak to 18 years. The Trojans (3-3) face Jacobs on Friday, then finish with Burlington Central and Hampshire.
Burlington Central, Crystal Lake Central, Dundee-Crown and McHenry (all 2-4) may have to win out to reach the playoffs, although Friday Night Drive’s Steve Soucie, who updates the IHSA playoff projections weekly, thinks some 4-5 teams might get into the 256-team field this season.
In the Kishwaukee RIver/Interstate 8 Blue Division, R-B is playing for one of the top seeds in Class 4A and has Johnsburg (3-3), Harvard (0-6) and Rochelle (5-1) remaining.
Marengo (3-3) has a tough Kaneland team this week, which also is 3-3. The Indians then finish with Peoria Manual and Plano, which are a combined 2-10.
Woodstock, in the KR/I8 White Division, has Morris (5-1), Johnsburg and Ottawa (4-2) remaining.
Marian Central, an independent at 2-4, already has 37 playoff points with a difficult schedule, but the Hurricanes have St. Rita (4-2), downstate Mount Carmel (6-0) and Chicago DePaul (3-3) remaining.
McHenry, D-C have playmakers: Despite both being 2-4 through Week 6, McHenry and Dundee-Crown each have players with the ability to break games open.
Warriors quarterback Dom Caruso, who is receiving NCAA Division III interest, threw for a pair of touchdowns in Friday’s 31-12 victory and consistently put the ball where only his receivers could get it.
“Dom is an extremely intelligent kid,” McHenry coach Joel Beard said. “He really has a grasp for what’s going on around him at all times. He gets the ball to his playmakers and lets them do what they do best.”
Wide receivers Jacob Zarek and Zack Maness have been among the area leaders in receptions all season.
Caruso’s D-C counterpart, junior Zach Randl, has been highly accurate all season with a 67.1 completion percentage. Randl is only 5-foot-10, 140 pounds, but he had 13 touchdown passes with only three interceptions.
Pinpoint accuracy: When Randl is outside the pocket and has extra time, he has speedy receivers Terrion Bell, Anthony Aguilar and Kali Freeman.
Against McHenry, Freeman had touchdown catches of 25 and 47 yards, both times beating defenders with his acceleration after the catch. Freeman now has 20 receptions on the year for 354 yards, good for 17.7 yards per catch, in addition to his five TDs.
• Tim Froehlig contributed to this report.