DuPage Valley Conference
DeKalb (4-3, 2-2) at Neuqua Valley (6-1, 4-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Wildcats were 34-13 winners in Naperville last year.
About the Barbs: In last week’s 26-0 loss to Naperville Central, the Barbs were shut out for the first time since the first round of the 2018 playoffs, 17-0 to Lake Zurich. It was the first time they were shut out in the regular season since 2009, falling 55-0 to Geneva in the last year of the Western Sun Conference during a 2-7 season. They’ll face a Neuqua Valley team that has allowed fewer points per game than Naperville Central has.
About the Wildcats: Aside from a 10-7 loss to a Wheaton Warrenville South team that is missing the playoffs, they have been remarkable all year. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this year, although they’ve topped 30 just once. Last week, they held Waubonsie Valley to negative-30 yards in a 28-0 win over the Warriors. They played that game with Justen Crawford on the defensive line, but Gabe Willis had a couple deflected passes. It was their second shutout in a row after a 36-0 win against Metea Valley.
Friday Night Drive pick: Neuqua Valley
Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White
Sycamore (7-0, 4-0) at La Salle-Peru (5-2, 3-1)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: Sycamore won at home 23-0.
About the Spartans: The Spartans remain undefeated on the year after a 48-15 win against Woodstock North last week. This week they face what is likely to be the sixth of seven playoff-bound opponents on the year when they head south to La Salle.
“It’s a good test, right?” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. “They are a playoff-eligible team and we have to go on the road. It’s their senior night so it will be a good environment. It’s a good game to have this late in the season. If we want to sharpen things up going into the playoffs this will help us get there. They’re a good football team.”
Even with so many playoff teams littered across their schedule, the Spartans lead the conference in both points scored and points allowed. On the offensive end, the team has been diverse in being able to run the ball with Joe Puleo, Zack Crawford and Tyler Curtis or pass with quarterback Eli Meier and top receiver Burke Gautcher.
But Ryan said that success and diversity starts with the offensive line, which has shifted a lot this year due to injuries but has been consistent despite that.
The current line is made of Joey Ward and Tristan Countryman sharing time at right tackle, Gable Carrick at right guard, Ryn Blanken at center, left guard Lincoln Cooley and right tackle Brady Hollendoner. Ryan said tight ends Ethan Bode and Kaden Ladas play a role in that as well.
About the Cavaliers: L-P has won its last two games by a combined score of 55-7, including a 31-7 win over Ottawa last week for the Cavaliers’ eighth consecutive victory in the series. … Mason Lynch stepped in at quarterback last week for starter Brendan Boudreau, who was injured, and rushed 18 times for 108 yards and a touchdown. Boudreau will be back this week, L-P coach Jose Medina said. … Lynch led L-P’s defense last week, intercepting three passes. Caleb Burrell also picked off a pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. … The Cavs possessed the ball for 34:35 against Ottawa as they racked up 281 rushing yards. Maalik Madrigal ran for 84 yards on 15 carries and Peyton Ellermeyer added 60 yards on 14 attempts. … Over the last four seasons, L-P has only been held to less than 100 rushing yards in a game four times. Sycamore has done it the last two times it played L-P in 2019 and the fall of 2021. The Spartans won those games 23-0 and 45-0. … Sycamore has won all four meetings with L-P since the teams joined the same conference in 2010.
Friday Night Drive pick: Sycamore
Kaneland (4-3, 2-2) at Woodstock North (1-6, 0-5)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: Kaneland was a 56-21 home winner last year.
About the Knights: The Knights have won three of their last four, including a 44-3 win against Marengo last week. Coach Pat Ryan said the Knights have been getting better every game this year.
A win Friday and the Knights become playoff eligible.
“All three phases of the game are playing well and we’re looking to build o that and get another win,” Ryan said. “We’re looking to build on that and get another win. We’re trying to inch toward the playoffs with a few more wins.”
Chris Ruchaj raced the Knights to a 14-0 lead last week with touchdown runs of 73 and 20 yards and the defense took care of the rest. Johnny Spalasso and Sebastian Chavez each had an interception, Nicklaus McNamara had a sack and Marengo managed just 132 total yards.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of injury issues so that’s been a bonus,” Ryan said about the keys to success for the defense this year, which has improved from last year’s club. “As the season has gone on we’ve tackled better and played faster. We’ve made it simpler for the kids so they can play harder and not think as much and just play hard. The number of defensive calls we make dwindle each game and the kids play hard, fast and get turnovers. A lot of good things are happening on that side of the ball.”
About the Thunder: North lost to Sycamore 48-15 last week. … RB Landan Creighton led the Thunder with 10 carries for 79 yards last week, while QB Jay Zinnen ran for 55 yards. … FB Kaden Combs leads the Thunder with 452 yards rushing and Zinnen has 378.
Friday Night Drive pick: Kaneland
Big Northern Conference
Genoa-Kingston (5-2. 5-2) at Rockford Christian (1-6, 1-6)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: The Cogs were a 62-0 home winner last year.
About the Cogs: They were stunned on their homecoming against Dixon last week, losing 21-19 in overtime to the Dukes.
“It was a tough loss,” coach Cam Davekos said. “Nobody likes to take an L on homecoming. We kind of told the kids they need to let it hurt for 24 hours then flush it and get ready to get better the next day.”
Davekos said the line needs to start sticking with blocks through the whistle and recognize the point of attack. Nathan Kleba had a TD pass for the Cogs in the overtime of the loss.
About the Royal Lions: After scoring 32 points the first five weeks of the year, they have put up 18 points per game the last two weeks, including in a 49-18 loss last week to Rockford Lutheran. They started the year with a 14-0 win against Rock Falls and lost 14-8 to Oregon in Week 2, but have given up at least 42 points per game in every contest since.
Friday Night Drive pick: Genoa-Kingston
Hiawatha (5-2) at Central City, Iowa (6-1)
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: First meeting
About the Hawks: The Hawks undertake the 3-plus hour road trip on Friday and will play on an 80-yard field, as is traditional in 8-man football in Iowa.
“It should be a pretty good game,” coach Nick Doolittle said. “Iowa has been doing 8-man awhile now so we should learn something either way, win or lose.”
Doolittle said Central City is similar to the Hawks in that they like to establish the run to open up the pass. In Hiawatha’s case, that means a steady dose of Cole Brantley before Matt Korb can open up the passing game.
About the Wildcats: After rebuilding the past couple years, they are tearing through competition. Their lone loss came to another current one-loss team, Easton Valley, 49-6. But they’ve won two games since then 65-13 and 68-24. They also have more than 30 players on their roster. Mekhi Benton leads the defense while the offense is led by quarterback Jayen Hanson and running back Aiden Klostermann.
Friday Night Drive pick: Central City
Source: The Daily Chronicle