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updated: 9/1/2011 11:30 PM

Tri-Cities Week 2 football previews

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Daily Herald report

Wheaton North (1-0, 0-0)

at Geneva (1-0, 0-0)

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Wheaton North 26, Bartlett 24; Geneva 27, Rock Island 14.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: This DuPage Valley Conference-Upstate Eight Conference clash appears to be a classic match between Wheaton North's speed and Geneva's grinders. Or, as Geneva coach Rob Wicinski put it: "They're all Petes and we're a bunch of Ralphs." Getting a game-winning, fourth-down touchdown pass on the game's final play to Coleton Hrgich from quarterback John Peltz (son of Wheaton College defensive line coach Jeff Peltz), Wheaton North surprised a Bartlett squad that took a 24-20 lead with 36 seconds left. The winning drive was set up by a 39-yard kickoff return by Mikey Sammer, a Falcons track sprinter like tailback Patrick Sharp, who torched Bartlett for 168 yards and touchdown runs of 71 and 29 yards. Receiver Johnny Daniels, who caught a pair of Peltz passes in that game-winning drive, is another burner. "We see this as a really great opportunity for us," Wicinski said. "I think they're one of the teams that is a favorite in the DuPage Valley Conference."

The coach said the Vikings will have to bring their A-game specifically against Wheaton North's fine offensive line, directed by old-school veteran and former Fenwick head coach Paul Connor. To that end, Wicinski hopes to return 225-pound defensive end Henry Zupke from a foot injury; in his stead last week senior Jimmy Clark filled the spot admirably. Against Rock Island, Geneva faced speed and while the defense bent -- to the tune of 293 yards rushing -- it rarely broke. Linebacker Jake Will made 9 tackles, and the man in the middle, Nick Caruso, hit it inside. After running only 38 offensive plays, 11 in the second half, a goal will be ball control to sideline Wheaton North's explosive offense.

Despite limited opportunities Geneva tagged Rock Island with 374 yards of offense including 104 yards rushing with 3 touchdowns by tailback Parker Woodworth in his first varsity start. Wicinski had been uncertain about that position, but Woodworth impressed. Quarterback Matt Williams hopes to duplicate his precision against Wheaton North after completing 8 of 12 passes for 140 yards with a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Connor Einck. Ben Rogers, last year's leading receiver who missed the opener with a calf pull, will provide Williams an athletic target. "We've just got to improve ourselves from the first week to the second week," Wicinski said. "We've got to get better at what we do and find out how that matches up against Wheaton North."

Next week: Naperville North (0-1) at Wheaton North, Sept. 9; Geneva at St. Charles East (0-1), Sept. 9.

Batavia (1-0, 0-0)

at Plainfield East (0-1, 0-0)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Batavia 36, Marmion 7; Metea Valley 38, Plainfield East 27.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: Before delving into Plainfield East, a bit about Batavia's opener. "It was a memorable night for me, as an old Batavian," said Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron, proud of everything in his head coaching debut from the drum corps leading the team onto the field through a "giant maze" of youth football players to Matt Holm's plan in his first game as defensive coordinator. He credited "old-school gym rat" Jon Gray's playmaking ability on 2 interceptions and a touchdown catch; the defensive output of linebacker Austin Higgins, which included 12 tackles and a 36-yard interception return for touchdown; and kicker Brandon Clabough's 3 field goals. About the only negative in a game Batavia led 30-0 at halftime was the knee injury to junior linebacker Tyler Miller.

One more piece of excitement, though: senior Cole Gardner should come back against Plainfield East from a knee injury that held the 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior out of the opener. Gardner will take his spot at tight end on offense and at linebacker and on the defensive line, though his reps may be limited. "I think he improves our run, pass and defensive game," Piron said. While the bulk of Marmion's success came late against Batavia, no-huddle Plainfield East also displayed a never-say-die attitude. Metea Valley led the Bengals 31-0 in the second quarter until senior Myles Walker returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Walker later added a 41-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Robert Zamora among his 6 receptions for 97 yards. Walker isn't even considered Plainfield East's top receiver; that's 6-foot senior Jawan Straughter, who finished with 5 catches for 69 yards. Having gained only 34 yards rushing -- 33 alone by Shekeal Taylor, who also caught a touchdown pass as Plainfield East struck twice in the fourth quarter -- Batavia's defensive key is eliminating mental mistakes in pass coverage.

"We can't let people get behind us," Piron said. "We've got to find their special players in space." Against Plainfield East's 4-4 defense Batavia senior quarterback Noel Gaspari looks poised to add to his 12-of-24 opener for 208 yards -- but 2 interceptions -- though last week's 81-yard ground game could be improved to run some clock. Last week was memorable, but success is earned weekly. "It's one game and we better not get too excited because we have a lot of games to play," Piron said.

Next week: Batavia at Larkin (0-1), Sept. 9; Plainfield North (1-0) at Plainfield East. Sept. 9.

St. Charles East (0-1, 0-0)

at West Aurora (1-0, 0-0)

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Cary-Grove 28, St. Charles East 0; West Aurora 48, East Aurora 6.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: This is the first meeting between the two teams since 1996, after which West Aurora broke from the Upstate Eight to play in the DuPage Valley. (St. Charles High won 35-14.) It's also the first game to be played on Ken Zimmerman Field's new synthetic turf surface, which should not only inspire the host Blackhawks but make them even faster. "Their speed is just something," noted St. Charles East coach Mike Fields. Some of it even comes on the defensive line, along with a bit of size and a lot of attitude. After Cary-Grove limited St. Charles East to 24 yards rushing and 41 passing. Fields said the Saints' offensive line "needs to take that next step" particularly when it comes to handling blocking assignments. He praised quarterback Dean Bowen in his first start, liked what Charlie Fisher (4 catches, 34 yards) could do at receiver and appreciated how Chris Segretto handled himself punting. But 7 punts is not what the offense doctor ordered.

Defensively, Fields believed the Saints hung in there, and middle linebacker Joe Hoscheit continued in the leadership mode that helped earn an all-UEC honor as a sophomore. "We need to play a real good game to be in the same game with them," Fields said of West Aurora. Given that the Blackhawks' entire DVC schedule awaits this may very well be a must-win contest to nab their first playoff berth since 1994. Dominating East Aurora obviously is not a good indicator, as West has now won 11 straight over the Tomcats. Still, limiting East Aurora to 28 yards of offense -- just 3 net yards rushing -- shows this squad has some chops. Nate Eimer, the West Aurora grad who won his head coaching debut, said linebacker Kendall Williams led his team in tackles, but the entire group did the job. Led by pulling guards Marco Guarnizo and Austin Beebe, running backs like Shon Enoch, Nate Zinzer and Booker Ross combined for 194 yards on just 17 carries, an 11.4-yard average. That will almost certainly not be repeated against St. Charles East.

Also, quarterback Richie Renner, 3-for-3 passing against East Aurora, will face a meaner rush and a safety like the Saints' Tim Leibforth. Making good on Eimer's preseason props for his special teams ability, last week Josh Campbell returned a punt 40 yards for a score. That's the kind of stuff West needs to capitalize on, and which St. Charles East must negate with execution. "We need to find a way to use our speed, on both sides of the football," Eimer said. "And if we do that we think we can compete with a lot of football teams."

Next week: Geneva (1-0) at St. Charles East, Sept. 9; West Aurora at Wheaton Warrenville South (0-1), Sept. 9.

Plainfield Central (1-0)

at St. Charles North (0-1)

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Plainfield Central 41, Amundsen 15; Hinsdale Central 27, St. Charles North 26 (OT).

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: On paper St. Charles North did everything but win its opener. The North Stars gained more first downs than Hinsdale Central and compiled 431 yards to the Red Devils' 316. Senior quarterback Collin Peterson threw for 270 yards with touchdowns to Zach Kirby and Ben Kaplan in Peterson's varsity debut. Things crept onto the field that had the North Stars finish second. Like a second-quarter fumble in their own end zone which Hinsdale Central recovered for a touchdown, and a knee strain to kicker Michael Schroeder that, without a true backup, shaped coach Mark Gould's play-calling in the game's waning moments and in overtime. With the ball at Hinsdale Central's 11-yard line with 11 seconds left in a tied game, Schroeder's normally on for a field goal. (The senior, also a cornerback, should return against Plainfield Central.)

Gould admitted there were crucial mistakes -- getting sucked up on a play-action pass for a touchdown was one -- but much of it was timing, including the fumble. "At times it was picture perfect, it looked good," Gould said of line blocking. "At other times there were breakdowns." The North Stars defense, led in the opener by middle linebacker Sam Scorby and nose tackle Shawn Meaney, will have to avoid those against Plainfield Central's double-wing offense which sent Jordan Ellingwood over 100 yards and for 3 touchdowns against Amundsen. Coach John Jackson's Tigers also offer 6-foot-3 quarterback Tim Blake, big left tackle Joe Fisher and three-year starting linebacker Collin Rogers. Capitalizing on an obviously outmatched opponent, Plainfield Central led 14-0 "before you could blink," Gould said, scoring on its first drive then returning a fumble for a second touchdown.

Things won't be as easy at St. Charles North, which hit Hinsdale Central with Kaplan's 89-yard kickoff return for touchdown and got good games from backs William Ohlrich and George Edlund running behind left tackle A.J. Diehl. Receiver Oshay Hodges' 5 catches were 3 more than he had all of last season, and the North Stars offensive line gets healthier with the return from injury of left guard Dan Cassidy. Entering the season, Gould's main concern was aggressive play. He got that. "I'm pleased with how physical we were," he said. "If we can improve on some of the little things we're expecting success."

Next week: Minooka (0-1) at Plainfield Central, Sept. 9; St. Charles North at Neuqua Valley (1-0), Sept. 9.

Huntley (0-1)

at Kaneland (1-0)

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Crystal Lake Central 28, Huntley 6; Kaneland 44, Brooks 0.

Last year: Kaneland 40, Huntley 12.

Outlook: Although Kaneland swamped Brooks 41-0 by halftime, Knights coach Tom Fedderly believes his team did get something out of the nonconference opener. "I think that was great for the confidence of our young players who didn't have that much experience," he said. "It was a great game for Drew (David, sophomore quarterback) to start out with. He hit his first eight passes." The first one was an easy toss but not for Brooks, as the David-to-Quinn Buschbacher screen play went 67 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. "I hope he understands that the rest of the season usually doesn't work out that way," Fedderly said.

David went on to complete a sweet 14 of 20 passes with another touchdown to Sean Carter, a 22-yarder. Buschbacher took the jet sweep for a team-high 47 yards rushing, scoring 3 times on the ground. Headed by nose tackle Ben Kovalick, inside linebacker Ryan Lawrence and defensive back Jacob Razo, who intercepted a pass in the end zone, the Knights allowed 190 yards of offense and just 31 on the ground as Fedderly started subbing in the second quarter. Also, David didn't get sacked. "If all our skill guys are doing what they do that means our line is doing its job. Now, this is a pretty big team," Fedderly said, turning to Huntley. The Raiders offer several 260-pounders, but Kaneland offensive linemen such as 270-pound Alex Snyder, 235-pound center Kovalick and 245-pound Zach Theis are no cream puffs.

Fedderly said Huntley's 5-2 defense is big, physical and will aggressively attack the quarterback. On offense the Knights will key 140-pound tailback John Walker, who scored the Raiders' touchdown last week; and quarterback Jake Brock, dangerous if he can bootleg outside. As it is most often, whichever side can control the line of scrimmage will probably prevail. "Just like we did with them last year, we've got to keep extra guys in to block, make sure we protect our quarterback," Fedderly said.

Next week: Prairie Ridge (1-0) at Huntley, Sept. 9; Kaneland at Dixon (1-0), Sept. 9.

Fenwick (1-0)

at Marmion (0-1)

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Fenwick 34, Hales Franciscan 12; Batavia 36, Marmion 7.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: Week 2 of the toughest opening three-game span in Marmion coach Dan Thorpe's seven-year tenure offers a big step up from last year's foe, Mundelein. Thorpe called the Fenwick Friars "the real deal" after scouting their win over Hales -- which Fenwick beat only 14-13 in 2010. Before leaving the stadium with Fenwick ahead by three touchdowns, Thorpe was told by another person scouting that "this is only Page 1 of their multiple-page playbook." Regardless of the window dressing, the Cadets' success hinges on wrapping up 6-foot-3, 225-pound tailback Jack Stibich, who gets spelled periodically by another load, 6-foot-2, 210-pound Robert Spillane.

Junior quarterback Pat Hart is another thick player, at 6-2, 215. As opposed to Marmion, none of Fenwick's linemen play on both sides of the football, and with Fenwick unloading 65 players off its bus to Marmion's 44, and only linebacker Stibich going both ways, stamina in the anticipated heat could be another factor. "They do a ton of stuff (offensively) so we are going to have to make checks," Thorpe said. "We proved that was difficult for us last week." Yes, the highlight of last week's loss to Batavia was cornerback A.J. Friedman's 2 interceptions, and nearly a third had he not been interfered with. Both Jake Ruddy, Cody Snodgrass and Kyle Kozak all had decent averages running the ball and go-to guy Garret Becker ran for 113 yards with a 77-yard touchdown jaunt, but that only wrapped up the scoring. "When there was a hole Garret hit it and he hit it hard. There weren't many holes," Thorpe said.

One lost fumble and 4 interceptions put the Cadets in a hole, though with two inexperienced quarterbacks against Batavia's experienced squad that may have been expected. What Thorpe did not count on was his defense, which returned six starters, delivering what he saw as a lackluster performance. That certainly can't happen again this week. "If you get beat playing with passion so be it, but I didn't see us flying around," he said. "So, the word of the week is flying around."

Next week: Fenwick at St. Rita (1-0), Sept. 9; Marmion at Montini (1-0), Sept. 9.

Chicago Academy (1-0, 0-0)

at Aurora Christian (1-0, 0-0)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Chicago Academy 31, Mather 28; Aurora Christian 38, Stillman Valley 20.

Last year: Aurora Christian 54, Chicago Academy 0.

Outlook: It was hard for Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe to detail what Chicago Academy will be doing without roster or game film, but based on experience he figured a spread offense and 3-4 defensive front that also sends solid athletes blitzing from all angles. "Expect the unexpected," Beebe said. Given the Cougars enjoyed a Week 1 victory, Aurora Christian won't discount their ability regardless of last season's outcome, and Beebe said a key is to score a couple quick touchdowns to get their dobber down. The Eagles did that last season, getting 5 touchdown passes by Anthony Maddie plus a punt return and interception return for scores all before halftime. Aurora Christian's defense held Chicago Academy to 1 first down and 18 total yards.

The going was decidedly tougher last week against Stillman Valley, but in a costly comeback victory Aurora Christian wore down Stillman to earn a No. 7 ranking in this week's Class 4A poll. The Eagles lost left tackle Jonah Walker to torn knee ligaments, and also receiver Grayson Roberts to a broken collarbone; in practice leading up to the opener receiver Chad Beebe also suffered a broken collarbone. "This is the deepest team we've ever had," said his father, the coach, "and it's going to be put to the test." Filling in as Aurora Christian overcame a 20-14 halftime deficit were tackle Julian Sosa plus sophomore receivers Brandon Walgren and Noah Roberts -- Grayson's kid brother -- to complement Brandon Mayes and Cory Windle, who finished with a team-high 79 yards receiving.

Adding to the scoring bounty was kicker Alec Eickert, who knocked a 44-yard field goal and was 5-for-5 on extra points; Eickert's transfer from St. Charles North wasn't made official until last week, Beebe said. The big key last week, as it will be each week for Aurora Christian, was Maddie. He completed 21 of 27 passes (78 percent) for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns and added 64 yards and 3 touchdowns including the 17-yard jaunt that topped Stillman Valley for good. "From a quarterback standpoint," Beebe said, "he really played a flawless game."

Next week: Chicago Academy at DuSable (1-0), Sept. 10; Aurora Christian at Chicago Christian (0-1), Sept. 3.

Marengo (1-0)

at Aurora Central Catholic (1-0)

Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday.

Last week: Marengo 49, Chicago Christian 7; ACC 35, Rockford Lutheran 20.

Last year: ACC 19, Marengo 7.

Outlook: The host Chargers, coming off their first season-opening victory since 2005, seek their first 2-0 start since 2002 when they beat Mendota and Rockford Lutheran. They'll have to strap it on defensively, particularly against the run. According to Northwest Herald writer Andrew Hansen the Marengo Indians gained 467 yards against Chicago Christian including 396 yards rushing. ACC coach Brian Casey said to be on the lookout for the Pro I combo of fullback Cody Bauman and tailback John Lesiak, who actually run counter to their positions -- Lesiak a power back and the shifty Bauman getting the draw plays and screen and play-action passes. Casey calls inside linebacker Clayton Zimmerman the cream of Marengo's 3-4 defense.

"We have a size advantage on the offensive line, and should be much faster than them all around," Casey said. That panned out in the Chargers' season debut against Rockford Lutheran. ACC dominated on the ground and in pressuring Rockford's backfield. ACC quarterback Kyle Clechenko only threw 5 passes but ran for 178 yards and a touchdown; Steven Amoni scored twice while earning 58 yards on the ground, and Luke Dickerson ran for 53 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers recorded zero 3-and-out possessions. "Our no-huddle (offense) kicked their rear ends," Casey said. Dickerson also returned a kickoff 63 yards.

Defensively, Marengo will have to face a Chargers squad that recorded a special-teams touchdown on Brian Bohr's punt block recovered in the end zone by linebacker Pat Marcoux. Defensive lineman Izzy Ros tallied a safety on one of ACC's 8 sacks, 3 by Marcoux, while linebacker Nick Holzer made 16 tackles. "We were able to get pressure from a lot of different people, a lot of different areas of the field," Casey said. Should Marengo opt to pass the Chargers will have to square away their assignments after allowing Rockford Lutheran a 60-yard pass play and another that led to a touchdown. The Chargers may get more support in that area should cornerback Anthony Andujar return from a knee injury that held him out of the opener.

Next week: Byron (1-0) at Marengo, Sept. 9; Immaculate Conception (1-0) at Aurora Central Catholic, Sept. 9.