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Article updated: 9/25/2012 8:02 PM
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Playoff outlook yields some sure things, some longshots
 

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Playoff outlook yields some sure things, some longshots

My, how time flies.

It's hard to believe but we've already reached the unofficial halfway point of the high school football regular season (5 of the 9 weeks completed).

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With 4 weeks remaining, all 9 of our local teams are mathematically alive for postseason berths.

Some teams need just another win to land a spot in the state playoffs.

Others can't afford any more losses.

All but in

Aurora Christian (5-0): How good are the defending Class 3A state champions?

Good enough to have outscored their first 5 opponents by a staggering 242-31 margin.

The Eagles may have lost standout quarterback Anthony Maddie (Western Michigan) to graduation but they haven't missed a beat thanks in part to the play of signalcaller Ryan McQuade (19 touchdown passes).

Amazingly, the Eagles may be more balanced offensively this season with an even stingier defense.

Whatever the case, they're still racking up impressive victories.

"This is one of the signature wins in Aurora Christian football history," Eagles coach Don Beebe said following his team's 41-14 triumph over Class 5A power St. Francis last weekend.

Considering the fact that Beebe owns an 80-21 record the past 8-plus years and his 2008 squad placed second in Class 4A, there have been plenty of signature wins to choose from at Aurora Christian.

Playing without NIU-bound Chad Beebe (39 catches, 595 yards, 10 TDs), who suffered a broken left arm against Wheaton Academy a week earlier, Aurora Christian turned to their ground game against St. Francis.

Bruising back Joel Bouagnon rushed for 208 yards and a pair of TDs on just 17 carries against the Spartans.

Outlook: Another win and the Eagles will be heading to the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.

Batavia (5-0): Batavia is another team that has had to cope with the graduation loss of a top-notch quarterback -- 3-year starter Noel Gaspari (North Central).

Junior Micah Coffey has made the adjustment period a lot easier, as he has tossed 12 TD passes -- 9 of them to senior wideout Zach Strittmatter (32 catches, 506 yards).

Offensively, the Bulldogs have been a consistent force, topping the 30-point mark in every game this season.

Defensively, they've allowed 20 points per game and Lake Park quarterback Zack Gehant threw 3 TD passes during last weekend's 33-29 win over the Lancers.

It would be hard to find a head coach who has had as much success in such a short time as Batavia's Dennis Piron, who has guided the Bulldogs to a 17-1 record with the lone loss coming to eventual champion Prairie Ridge in last year's 6A state semifinals.

Outlook: The Upstate Eight Conference River Division title could come down to an Oct. 12 meeting with St. Charles East at Norris Stadium.

Kaneland (5-0): For the third straight season, Kaneland is off to a 5-0 start.

Junior quarterback Drew David has thrown 12 TD passes with 5 interceptions, as the Knights have averaged nearly 40 points per game (194 points).

Kaneland, which opened Northern Illinois Big 12 East action with last Friday's 34-6 victory over previously unbeaten Rochelle, figures to be tested down the stretch with its final 3 games scheduled against teams (Yorkville, Sycamore, Morris) with combined records of 12-3.

The Knights also seem to enjoy bus rides. They're 14-0 in away games over the past 2-plus seasons, with their last road defeat coming in 2009.

Outlook: Kaneland is on course to reach the postseason for the 16th time in 17 years.

Looking good

Aurora Central Catholic (4-1): In past years, a 33-0 Week 3 loss would have a lasting impact on the Chargers.

Not anymore.

Since being blanked by Immaculate Conception in Week 3, Aurora Central Catholic has earned victories over Chicago Christian (59-19) and St. Edward (25-7) to improve to 4-1 overall.

Now in his third year at the helm, coach Brian Casey's Chargers have provided one of the better feel-good stories so far this season.

By beating Walther Lutheran Friday night, they'll inch a little closer to securing their first playoff berth in 15 years. In fact, ACC's last winning season came in 1997 -- the same year it reached the postseason.

Outlook: It's hard to root against the Chargers, who won just 8 of 63 games from 2003-09.

Arrow pointing up

St. Charles East (3-2): St. Charles East has already matched its victory total from each of the last 2 seasons, and is currently tied with state-ranked Batavia atop the UEC River standings with a 2-0 mark.

Last Saturday, the Saints spoiled Elgin's 50th anniversary celebration of Memorial Field with a 58-14 triumph over the roster-depleted Maroons.

This weekend's challenge will be much more difficult against Geneva. Not only does Saints coach Mike Fields have to contend with Homecoming week festivities, he'll try to guide St. Charles East to its first win over the Vikings since leaving Geneva's coaching staff for St. Charles 3 years ago.

Last weekend, the Saints welcomed back senior tailback Erik Anderson, who returned from an injury to haul in a 25-yard TD pass from quarterback Jimmy Mitchell.

The Saints' losses have come against unbeaten teams -- Cary-Grove and Neuqua Valley.

Outlook: With 3 of their last 4 games at home, the Saints have a solid shot at their first playoff berth since 2009.

St. Charles North (2-3): After beginning the season with 3 straight losses, the North Stars can climb back to the .500 level with a win over host Streamwood Friday night at Millennium Field.

"We've got to make it three in a row," said linebacker Reece Conroyd, who has led the team's defensive resurgence.

"He has been all over the place," North Stars coach Mark Gould said of Conroyd. "He had 14 tackles in the first half against Elgin. He never stops."

Last week's 25-7 win over Geneva was like "a playoff game," according to Gould.

"This was a big win," said Gould. "As you look down the road, you've got Batavia and South Elgin (left on the schedule) so this was the one we felt we had to get."

Outlook: If the North Stars can win 3 of their last 4 games, they'll give Gould a great retirement gift -- the team's first postseason berth since 2009.

Need to win out

Geneva (1-4): Vikings coach Rob Wicinski knows that nobody is feeling sorry for his team these days as its 8-year playoff run appears in jeopardy.

"We've got to keep going," said Wicinski, whose team is in danger of its first losing season since 2002. "You've got to keep your chin up and you've got to get better because there's no back door. Our backs are against the wall so let's see how they respond."

If the Vikings can knock off St. Charles East Friday night, their last 3 games are against teams with combined records of 3-12.

Outlook: Don't count out the Vikings, who have a legitimate offensive threat in tailback/kick returner Bobby Hess.

Marmion (1-4): Like Geneva, Marmion is another recent powerhouse struggling to record victories this season.

The Cadets, who have reached the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 years, placed second in the state (Class 6A) in 2010.

This time around, coach Dan Thorpe's squad must finish the regular season on a 4-game winning streak -- a feat made even more difficult with their next 3 contests against teams (Aurora Christian, St. Francis and ACC) with combined records of 12-3.

Outlook: While the odds are stacked against them, the future appears bright with sophomore RB Jordan Glasgow (83 carries, 463 yards, 4 TDs).

West Aurora (1-4): It has been a season filled with tough losses for coach Nate Eimer's Blackhawks (26-21 to STC East, 14-7 to WW South, 28-14 to Glenbard North).

Fresh off of back-to-back 4-5 campaigns, West Aurora hasn't played a postseason game since 1994.

Outlook: An improved defense hasn't been enough for the Blackhawks, who must upset unbeaten, state-ranked Wheaton North Friday night to keep its playoff hopes alive.

You can reach Craig Brueske at csb4k@hotmail.com

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