Here is a look at Week 5′s football matchups across The Times area.
Seneca (4-0, 1-0) at Ridgewood (3-1, 1-1)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: first meeting
About the Fighting Irish: After an unexpected and unwanted virtual bye week because of a forfeit from Westmont, Seneca returned to the field and showed no rust in Week 4′s 73-13 handling of Elmwood Park. Next up for the Irish is Elmwood Park’s longtime rival, Ridgewood, a team that remains a bit of a question mark nearing the midpoint of the regular season. Seneca, however, is a known commodity, coming in with a 15-game regular-season winning streak and – in contrast to the Rebels they face this Friday – a run-first, power-T offense that is averaging 46.7 points per game this season in contests played, led by QB Nathan Grant (307 yards rushing, 228 yards passing) and RBs Asher Hamby (258 yards rushing) and Nathen Neal (202 yards). If the Irish defensive backfield can shut down Ridgewood’s receivers, that ground game should have the opportunity to wear down the Rebels.
About the Rebels: After a 2-0 start against Chicago teams, Ridgewood suffered what at the time looked like a bit of a head-scratching loss to Dwight/Gardner-South Wilmington in Week 3, 32-26, but rebounded Friday with a mildly surprising 42-27 win at St. Bede. The Chicagoland Prairie League’s second-largest member (IHSA enrollment 797.5) likes to move the ball through the air, led by senior QB Jaden Rodriguez, who is 50-for 82 passing for 940 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions., and leading receivers Luke Melendez (17 receptions, 419 yards, six TDs), Majd Saleh (14, 289, four TDs) and Niall Kenny (eight, 174, four). Nicco Camillo (212 yards, two TDs, 5.6 per carry) is the leading rusher for a Rebels team scoring 41.5 points per game and surrendering 19.8.
Friday Night Drive pick: Seneca
Marquette 1, Walther Christian 0 (forfeit)
About the Crusaders: Marquette learned Tuesday that Walther Christian would forfeit the scheduled Saturday meeting in Melrose Park. The Broncos have been outscored a combined 213-2 in their four losses this season. The Crusaders, with the forfeit, improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Chicagoland Prairie League ahead of Week 6′s home game against Ridgewood.
Heart of Illinois Small
Heyworth (3-1, 0-0) at Fieldcrest (2-2, 0-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Fieldcrest 47, Heyworth 0 (2017)
About the Hornets: A wing-T team in the tradition of the old Midstate Conference both teams used to call home, Heyworth enters averaging 29 points per game with wins over West Hancock, Tremont and last week’s 41-14 victory over Deer Creek-Mackinaw. Heyworth’s lone loss came in Week 2, a 47-13 defeat at Stockton, a team that is 1-3. QB Parker Bell and RBs Cooper Johnson and Brayden Brucker operate the Hornets’ deceptive, run-first offense. After allowing 75 points over its first two games, the Hornets have allowed 22 points the past two weeks.
About the Knights: Fieldcrest is 2-0 at Veterans Park this season and looking to make it 3-0 in its Heart of Illinois Small opener. Shutting down Heyworth’s running game while getting its own ground attack – led by RB Eddie Lorton’s 99.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game – going looks likely to be the winning formula in this one, as does Fieldcrest taking advantage of its size advantage along the lines. This is the first meeting between the longtime rivals in six years.
FND pick: Fieldcrest
Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White
Ottawa (2-2, 0-1) at Kaneland (2-2, 1-1)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Kaneland 41, Ottawa 14 (2022)
About the Pirates: Ottawa is coming off a 48-0 loss to KR/I-8 White co-favorite Sycamore in which the Pirates weren’t able to get much going, gaining only 125 yards from scrimmage, 41 of those on the ground. Sycamore, however, has done that to everybody it has faced this year, making this week’s visit to Maple Park to play Kaneland – a team many believe is in that second tier of the KR/I-8 White along with La Salle-Peru and Ottawa, albeit at the top of that second tier – a better barometer of where the Pirates stand heading into the home stretch. The Pirates on the season are about even in yards gained/allowed and points scored/allowed. Big games from the likes of RB Ryder Miller (360 yards, two TDs rushing), WR Paxton Miller (10 receptions, 120 yards, two TDs), LB Tyce Kubiak (4 1/2 TFLs), DB Garrett Cupples (21 tackles, one INT) and QB Colby Mortenson (41 of 59, 493 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT passing) will be needed for those numbers to stay that way.
About the Knights: Kaneland bounced back from a 10-point loss to conference co-favorite Morris in Week 3 with a 42-0 blanking of winless Woodstock last Friday. The Knights’ two losses this season (33-27 to Washington, 43-33 to Morris) have come at the hands of powerhouse programs, a descriptor Kaneland seems on the verge of regaining. The Knights’ offense is led by QB Troyer Carlson, who both threw and ran for more than 170 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Morris, RB Jonah Mauthe and Carlson’s top target, Dominick DeBlasio. Kaneland has allowed the same number of points as Ottawa through four weeks, 89, while scoring 142 to the Pirates’ 99.
FND pick: Kaneland
Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 Blue
Johnsburg (2-2, 0-2) at Sandwich (3-1, 1-1)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Johnsburg 35, Sandwich 0 (fall 2021)
About the Skyhawks: Coming off a 25-18 home loss to Marengo that slipped through Johnsburg’s hands in the final minutes, the Skyhawks have lost two straight after opening the season 2-0 with close wins over Woodstock North and Reed-Custer. Their other game, a 48-0 loss to Rochelle to open KR/I-8 White play, has been their only blowout. A balanced offense led by QB A.J. Bravieri, WR Kaeden Frost and RB Brett Centnarowicz has averaged 20.8 points per game but scored only 18 combined points over the past two weeks. Johnsburg’s defense is allowing 30.5 points per game.
About the Indians: Despite taking their first loss of the season last week, a 49-7 defeat to league favorite Richmond-Burton in a meeting of unbeatens, the Indians are in an excellent spot heading into the back half of the season. Led by RB Simeion Harris with Nick Michalek in a supporting role in its wing-T offense, Sandwich has scored four or more touchdowns in every game before last week’s loss while allowing just six combined scores over that three-game stretch. Winless Harvard and perennial playoff entrant Rochelle loom the next two weeks.
FND pick: Sandwich
Herscher (0-4, 0-2) at Streator (1-3, 0-2)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last meeting: Streator 16, Herscher 12 (2022)
About the Tigers: Herscher was been competitive for the most part despite its 0-4 start, with a Week 1 blowout loss to Charleston (42-13) followed by three relatively close games with Bishop McNamara (14-7), Manteno (34-33) and Reed-Custer (36-20) in which the Tigers have fallen a score or two short. Herscher has thrown for more yards than it has run for, 604-443, arguably playing into the Streator defense’s strength, the defensive backfield. QB Tanner Jones (44 of 84, 604 yards, two TDs, 5 INTs) and top target Jaxon Ruder (19 receptions, 229 yards, four TDs) are the Tigers’ main weapons, with sophomore RB Alek Drapper (242 yards, 1 TD rushing) getting the vast majority of the carries when Herscher does run it.
About the Bulldogs: Streator feels as if it let one get away in last Friday’s 47-26 loss to Manteno at Doug Dieken Stadium, a game which the Bulldogs led three times until three Panthers touchdowns over the final 3:51 of the third quarter turned the tide. Backup QB Isaiah Weibel rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another 85 yards backed by RB Isaiah Brown’s 59 yards and one TD, but the Bulldogs missed QB Christian Benning (shoulder), still categorized as day-to-day as of midday Wednesday by coach Kyle Tutt. Whether it’s Weibel or Benning behind center, it will fall upon the Bulldogs’ defense to play better than the 47.7 points per game it’s allowing during this three-game losing streak if Streator wants the homecoming victory.
FND pick: Streator
Illinois 8-Man Football
St. Anne (1-3) at FCW (2-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday (at Flanagan)
Last meeting: first meeting
About the Cardinals: One of the best feel-good stories in Illinois high school football, St. Anne – located in Kankakee County – brought back football to the school of 175 students for the first time since last fielding its own team in 1977. The Cardinals scored their first win in some 4 1/2 decades in Week 3, defeating winless Peoria Quest 50-6, but has lost its other three contests somewhat handily. St. Anne is allowing 33.5 points per game while scoring 24.5, although the Quest game betters those numbers significantly. RB/LB Brandon Schoth is the Cardinals’ featured weapon on both sides of the ball.
About the Falcons: Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland snapped a two-game losing skid Saturday with a 63-14 dismantling of Danville Schlarman that got the Falcons back to .500 and firmly in the Illinois 8-Man Football Association playoff picture. A win here and next week at also 2-2 Alden-Hebron would do wonders for FCW’s hopes to return to the playoffs, led by RB Payton Quaintance, who’s averaging 155 yards per game, and a defense that, aside from the high-scoring 54-40 loss to Milford-Cissna Park in Week 3, has held opponents to three or fewer touchdowns per week. This will be FCW’s final regular-season home game in Flanagan this season, with Week 8′s home contest scheduled to be played at Woodland.
FND pick: FCW