Marquette (7-1) at Sherrard (1-7)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
About Crusaders: Marquette Academy picked up an unexpected forfeit win last week when scheduled opponent Christ the King informed the Crusaders it was unable to make the trip to Ottawa. It cost Marquette its final regular-season home game, but the silver lining is it also delivered Marquette a seventh win that makes it likely the Crusaders will have a Week 10 home game to open the Class 1A playoffs. Marquette can all but guarantee it with a win Friday night against a one-win Sherrard team and will be aiming to work out any rust early, build a comfortable lead and then rest starters and remain healthy late for what the Crusaders hope is a deep postseason run.
About the Tigers: A member of the Three Rivers Conference, Sherrard has been outscored by an average of 36.7-20.7 this season and has been competitive in its seven losses with the exceptions of Week 4′s 51-20 loss to now 5-3 Monmouth-Roseville and Friday’s 53-7 hammering at the hands of 4-4 Orion. The Tigers lost to 6-2 St. Bede by only 14 points and 7-1 Rockridge by just 14, meaning they’ve shown the ability to play good teams tough, a fact underlined by the Tigers’ lone win of the season – a 26-22 upset in Week 5 over a now 4-4 Morrison team. QB Holland Anderson and dual-threat RB Carter Brown are both reliable weapons the Crusaders will have to keep in check to get that eighth win.
Friday Night Drive pick: Marquette
Dwight/GSW (2-6, 2-2) at Seneca (8-0, 4-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Seneca 42, Dwight 6 (fall 2021)
About Trojans: If the Vermilion Valley Football Alliance North gave out team awards and assuming Seneca would claim the “Best Team” award as instead as conference champion, the honor of “Most Improved” almost certainly would go to the Trojans. Dwight/Gardner-South Wilmington has played three-win Fithian Oakwood (32-27 loss) and five-win Clifton Central (48-36 loss) tough since mid-September, and also in that stretch climbed out of the VVFA North’s cellar with a 33-28 win over three-win Momence (33-28) and a 41-9 smashing of one-win Watseka (41-9). But have the Trojans – led by QB Connor Telford and RB Austin Burkhardt, both dual threats – improved enough to avoid another blowout defeat at the hands of Seneca in their regular-season finale?
About the Fighting Irish: Seneca cannot afford to look past a rival on its way to the playoffs, but the Fighting Irish have been impressive as they look to finish a regular season undefeated for the first time in 22 years. The multiple-ball carrier, power-T running attack directed by QB Nathan Grant has piled up the most single-season points in Seneca football history (301) despite a forfeit being in the mix, while on defense the stingy Fighting Irish have not allowed an opponent to score since Salt Fork got a fourth-quarter touchdown on Sept. 10. The Fighting Irish’s last four on-the-field decisions have gone down 62-0, 35-0, 54-0 and 28-0. Dwight/GSW is improved and dangerous, but it seems unlikely enough so to avoid a similar fate the way Seneca is playing right now.
FND pick: Seneca
Tremont (1-7, 0-4) at Fieldcrest (1-7, 0-4)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Tremont 50, Fieldcrest 14 (fall 2021)
About Turks: Unlike Fieldcrest, Tremont has one on-the-field win this season, that coming in Week 1, 14-8 over the Sangamon Valley co-op. Outside of that, the Turks have a trio of close defeats – 20-16 to LeRoy in Week 3, 24-14 to Madison in Week 5 and 28-26 at the hands of Nokomis in Week 7 – as well as lopsided losses in all of its Heart of Illinois Large contests, including last Friday’s 34-8 home loss to playoff-bound El Paso-Gridley. Tremont is averaging 11.9 points scored per game on offense with a wing-T attack run by QB Blane Williams and featuring WB Ty Fuller. Tremont is surrendering 35.7 per game to opponents – by a long way the Heart of Illinois Large’s worst points-allowed average outside of Fieldcrest’s 43.1.
About the Knights: Fieldcrest has not recorded an on-the-field victory since the spring 2021 season. This, from the beginning of the season, has looked to be the Knights’ best opportunity to snap that negative trend. WR Landon Modro, RB Eddie Lorton and QB Brady Ruestman have developed into consistent weapons despite the fact the Knights are averaging only one touchdown per game, and in this season finale they’ll get the opportunity to go up against a Turks defense that has allowed 33 points or more to every opponent since accepting a Week 3 forfeit win from Fisher. That stretch includes allowing 41, 59 and 64 respective points to Tri-Valley, Stockton and Dee-Mack over the past three weeks. Fieldcrest should be able to score. The question is can they stop the Turks?
FND pick: Fieldcrest
Woodstock (2-6, 1-4) at Ottawa (4-4, 1-4)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Woodstock 24, Ottawa 20 (fall 2021)
About the Blue Streaks: Woodstock’s two wins have come in Week 2 (31-13 over Limestone) and Week 5 (a 27-20 triumph over rival Woodstock North). The Blue Streaks also managed a close loss in Week 1 to Rochelle (14-7), but other than that have been on the wrong side of a number of lopsided affairs, leading to their being outscored this season by an average score of 31.5-9.8. With 78 points, Woodstock – led on offense by the running of RBs Adrian Perry and Kaden Sandoval along with the receiving of WR Caden Monti – has scored the fewest points in the Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White by a significant margin and 121 points fewer than the Pirates. Woodstock had to play last week’s game vs. Johnsburg without starting QB Jackson Lyons, with backup Charlie Walrod taking over and leading the team in both passing (114) and rushing (20) yardage.
About the Pirates: This is it for the Pirates: win and they’re likely in the postseason field for the first time in a decade; lose and they’ll likely find themselves home next weekend following playoff scores through Friday Night Drive’s social media channels. Outside of a 3-0 nonconference start for Ottawa (against Plano, Streator and Harvard) and a 1-2 nonconference slate for Woodstock (against Rochelle, Limestone and last week’s 30-6 loss at Johnsburg), the Pirates and Blue Streaks have had common results against their KR/I8 White opponents, both beating Woodstock North and losing handily otherwise. On paper the Pirates – led to this point by the two-man rushing attack of Julian Alexander (342 yards, 1 TD, 5.2 per carry average) and Ryder Miller (360 yards, 7 TDs, 5.8 per carry average), QB Colby Mortenson (858 yards, 9 TDs passing), top receiver Levi Sheehan (27 receptions, 332 yards, 5 TDs) closing in one more program receiving records and defensive secondary ballhawk Conner Price (five INTs) – look like the more dangerous team on paper, but they have to get it done Friday on the field to have another opportunity to play next week.
FND pick: Ottawa
Coal City (5-3, 4-2) at Streator (2-6, 1-5)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Coal City 41, Streator 6 (fall 2021)
About Coalers: Coal City has three losses, all three – 49-10 to Morris in Week 1, 17-7 to Wilmington in Week 3 and 58-14 at the hands of Reed-Custer last week – coming at the hands of powerhouses. In its other six games against Bishop Mac and the nonpowerhouse teams of the Illinois Central Eight Conference, Coal City has outscored its opponents a combined 200-34. Offensive centerpieces include sophomore RB Landin Benson and QB QB Braden Reilly, while defensively the Coalers have notched two shutouts (over Lisle and Manteno in Weeks 5 and 6). Already qualified for the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season in which there has been a postseason, the Coalers should be motivated to bounce back from last week’s drubbing and earn a better postseason seed.
About the Bulldogs: Streator will close a once-promising season trying to avoid carrying a six-game losing streak into the offseason. Throughout 2022, the Bulldogs have shown sparks of brilliance on both sides of the ball, but they haven’t been able to string together four strong offensive and defensive quarters in the same game since Week 1′s 52-0 blowout of East Peoria. While this will be the career finale for prominent seniors such as RB/DB Aneefy Ford, RB/LB DJ White and OL/DL Sabby Nieto, Streator has a multitude of players eligible to return next season including QB/LB Christian Benning (already the program’s all-time leader in career passing yardage) and WR/DBs Matt Williamson, Anthony Mohr and Isiah Brown. A strong showing against a playoff-bound Coalers team would go a far way to building some positive momentum.
FND pick: Coal City
8-man: FCW (2-6) at AlWood/Cambridge (7-1)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last meeting: first meeting
About the Falcons: Statistically speaking, Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland has played the Illinois 8-Man Football Association’s most difficult schedule this season, with its nine opponents currently holding a collective 53-19 record (.736 winning percentage) and seven of them above .500. It’s made for tough sledding for an FCW team whose only wins have come in Week 3 (20-16 over River Ridge) and Week 6 (44-38 in overtime against Martinsville). That schedule is not letting up this week, but the Falcons have continually found a way to put up mostly competitive efforts against eight-man’s best led by the likes of RBs Payton Quaintance and Jesse Simpson, QB Masen Persico and OL/LB/short-yardage RB Kesler Collins.
About the Spartans: It is the first year playing eight-man for AlWood/Cambridge, and it’s safe to say the move to this point has been a success for the I8FA playoff-bound Spartans after a winless 2021 playing 11-man football in the Lincoln Trail Conference. The Spartans are outscoring their opponents this season by an exact 2-to-1 ratio, with 404 points scored and 202 allowed. High-scoring shootouts are what they like, providing a challenge for the Falcons defense (AlWood/Cambridge has scored at least 34 points in all eight of its contests) but an opportunity for the FCW offense (the Spartans have surrendered at least two touchdowns every time out). RB Gavin McDonough is the centerpiece of the run-first attack.
FND pick: AlWood/Cambridge