Unlike recent football games between District 300 rivals Jacobs and Dundee-Crown that have lacked intrigue, Friday's meeting at the D-C Bowl bursts with compelling storylines.
Jacobs enters the game with a 4-4 record and 37 playoff points. The Golden Eagles are guaranteed 2 more points and will likely finish with 41 or 42, which should be enough to secure one of the remaining 92 berths in the 256-team playoff field if they win. The playoff-point threshold last season was 40, the highest total in a decade. It was 39 in 2010.
So Jacobs' mission objective is clear: win and get into the postseason.
A Jacobs victory also would be notable for the streaks it would extend. The Golden Eagles can nail down their third consecutive playoff berth, an accomplishment the program has not achieved in its 34 seasons.
"There's a lot on the line for us," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "To get Jacobs to the playoffs three straight years for the first time in history would mean a lot for us. Then if you get in, you never know what will happen. I think our kids are up for the challenge."
Additionally, Mitz has two personal streaks on the line. He has led a team to the IHSA playoffs for 23 consecutive seasons, 21 of them at "the other place," as he refers these days to Stevenson.
And no Mitz-coached team has finished with a sub-. 500 record since 1988.
For the Eagles, extending the aforementioned streaks hinges on extending another; Jacobs has won 9 straight games against Dundee-Crown to draw within shouting range of D-C's all-time series lead (16-13).
Dundee-Crown (3-5, 1-4) has already demonstrated clear improvement over the past few seasons and is headed in the right direction, led by second-year coach Vito Andriola. The team made headlines by halting a school-record, 26-game losing streak in a season-opening blowout of Elgin.
The Chargers then sandwiched victories against Streamwood and Prairie Ridge around a loss to McHenry to improve to 3-1. Spirits were soaring at that point, but the schedule got tougher. With a lineup still dominated by juniors, D-C lost its next 4 games against playoff qualifiers Huntley (31-28), Woodstock North (25-20), Crystal Lake South (36-22) and Cary-Grove (46-13).
One more D-C victory along the line would have made Friday's tilt a de facto IHSA wild-card playoff game with both teams 4-4 and battling for a postseason slot. It didn't happen.
So why is this game so critical for the Chargers beyond bragging rights over their childhood friends?
"It's important because if we can be 4-5, it would be the best record for any Dundee-Crown team since 1998, which is scary," Andriola said. "We could also take fourth in the conference behind only Cary, Huntley and (Crystal Lake) South. That would really set us on the way for next year."
Though quantitative improvement has already been achieved by the Chargers after consecutive 0-9 seasons, being able to hang their helmets on a statistic like the program's best record in 14 years would only provide more off-season incentive. It would further hammer home the staff's point that improved weight-room attendance in the spring and summer equates to a better record in the fall. The process of program building would take another step.
"It's really a program game for us," Andriola said. "We don't want to end with a 5-game losing streak."
From a fan's standpoint, it should be an entertaining, high-scoring contest. Both teams are better on offense than defense.
The Dundee-Crown ground-based attack averages 28.6 points and 321 yards per game, led by junior 1,208-yard rusher Cody Lane (18 TD) and senior JT Beasley (453 yards, 6 TD). They'll face a Jacobs defense that has allowed 30.6 points and 389 yards a game.
Jacobs counters with the area's top-ranked offense. The Golden Eagles average 32 points and 410 yards per outing, led by 6-foot-4 quarterback Brett Mooney. The junior has completed 55 percent of his pass attempts for 1,797 yards and 14 touchdowns. He'll try to exploit a Dundee-Crown defense allowing 27.3 points and 322.5 yards.
Mitz has been at Jacobs for only three seasons and Andriola at D-C for just two. Each said this week he has yet to feel the full impact of the District 300 rivalry at full force. That's probably because there hasn't been much question in recent years as to the outcome. Nor was much on the line.
That all changes Friday night.
"I'm absolutely sure Vito will have them fired up because their kids can knock us out of the playoffs," Mitz said.
An intriguing storyline to say the least.