North Boone (7-1, 4-1) at Burlington Central (5-3, 4-1)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Rocket Hill
Last year: Burlington Central 49, North Boone 7
Last week: Richmond-Burton 35, North Boone 14; Rock Falls 29, Burlington Central 21
Outlook: A playoff berth and a share of the Big Northern East title are on the line for Burlington Central in its regular-season finale. The Rockets are playing for their playoff lives. Though they already have the 5 wins necessary to qualify for postseason consideration, they enter Week 9 with only 31 playoff points. Win and they're in for the second straight year; lose and they would need a lot of help, probably too much help. Thus, it likely comes down to beating North Boone. "We're going into it thinking we have to get a win to get in," Central coach Rich Crabel said. A victory would also give the Rockets a share of the conference title. Richmond-Burton (6-2, 4-1) handed North Boone its first loss of the season last week, thereby forging a three-way tie for first place entering Week 9. If Harvard knocks off host R-B, the winner of the Central-North Boone game would win the outright Big Northern-East title. The winner will at least gain a share. North Boone operates an offense similar to Rock Falls, which threw for 334 yards in upsetting Central last week. North Boone's spread offense is triggered by senior quarterback Austin Baden. He has thrown for 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns on 106-of-194 passing and has rushed for 868 yards and 13 scores, according to the Rockford Register-Star. For Central to win, they must limit Baden to numbers similar to last week, when Richmond-Burton held him to 15 yards on the ground and 120 through the air on 11-of- 27 passing. "We had to cover some routes last week and we just didn't, which was very surprising to me because I thought those were some of the things we generally thought we'd do well," Crabel said. "We've changed some things up a little bit. The Rock Falls quarterback threw the ball extremely well. I know their quarterback is good at North Boone, and he will run the ball better." The Rockets still had a chance to win last week despite committing 5 turnovers.
Crystal Lake Central (6-2, 4-1) at Hampshire (3-5, 2-3)
When: today at 7:15 p.m.
Last year: Crystal Lake Central 55, Hampshire 6
Last week: Crystal Lake Central 28, Johnsburg 0; Woodstock North 49, Hampshire 14
Outlook: Though Hampshire was eliminated from the playoffs last week, the Whips have undoubtedly taken a step this season. They've already won 3 games on the heels of 1-8 finishes in 2010 and 2011. A fourth victory would match a total last accomplished in 2009. "Really, we were just a couple of plays away from winning two other games against (Burlington) Central and Woodstock," Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said. "I definitely feel like we've made some big strides this year." Beating playoff qualifier Crystal Lake Central is a tall order. The Tigers still have a chance to gain a split of the FVC Fox title with a win over Hampshire coupled with a victory by Woodstock North (6-2, 4-1) over Grayslake North (7-1, 5-0). On Senior Night, the Whip-Purs will rely on veteran leaders like safety/quarterback Kyle Anderson (403 rushing, 360 passing), linebacker/center Nick Denardo, defensive back Tyler Crater and running back Phil Lapointe (112 carries, 664 yards, 12 TD). "We'll point to the positives and try to go out on a high note playing for the seniors," Cavanaugh said. "Central runs the ball right down your throat so we have to match their physicality and stop the run."
Prairie Ridge (3-5, 1-4) at Cary-Grove (8-0, 5-0)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Al Bohrer Field
Last year: Cary-Grove 22, Prairie Ridge 21, OT
Last week: Prairie Ridge 41, McHenry 7; Cary-Grove 46, Dundee-Crown 13
Outlook: The Cary-Grove grove freight train rolled on last week with sophomore quarterback Jason Gregoire directing the offense. He subbed for injured starting quarterback Quinn Baker, who has a broken finger on his non-throwing hand. Baker could be cleared to practice fully next Wednesday. Meanwhile, Gregoire will start against Prairie Ridge, coach Brad Seaburg said this week. Against McHenry, Gregoire rushed twice for 43 yards and completed 3 of 6 passes for 73 yards. Sophomore offensive lineman Michael Gomez was cleared to return to practice this week and will see action for the first time since breaking his tibia in Week 4 against Hampshire. Ryan Mahoney returned to the lineup last week after a four-week injury absence and made 3 catches. "We've had starters go down this season and we really didn't miss a beat," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "That's not a slight on Quinn or Gomez or Mahoney, it's a tribute to our kids. It's been a great year from the standpoint of seeing guys who at the beginning of the year weren't getting opportunities because the guys ahead of them were better, then stepping up and filling in when injuries happened." Gregoire's smartest move last week was handing the ball off to senior fullback Kyle Norberg, who erupted for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. He averages a whopping 11.2 yards per carry for the season (109 carries, 1,221 yards, 14 TD). "
The Trojans have already clinched a share of the FVC Valley Division title. A victory over Prairie Ridge would complete the program's sixth undefeated regular season since 2004 and secure its seventh outright FVC title in that same span.
Jacobs (4-4, 2-3) at Dundee-Crown (3-5, 1-4)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at the D-C Bowl
Last year: Jacobs 49, Dundee-Crown 0
Last week: Crystal Lake South 32, Jacobs 29; Cary-Grove 46, Dundee-Crown 13
Outlook: Jacobs must win to get into the playoffs. Dundee-Crown can match its best record since 1998 with a victory. Jacobs has won nine straight games to trim D-C's all-time series lead to 16-13. The improved Chargers have won 2 of their 3 home games this season and would like nothing better than to block their rival's postseason path. "It's a rivalry game and it's a big one," D-C coach Vito Andriola said. "Playing Jacobs means a lot to the kids and means a lot to the community. They're a good football team, well coached. They've done a great job over there. I'm always more concerned about what we're doing." Jacobs quarterback Brett Mooney has thrown for nearly 1,800 yards. He and receivers Hunter Williams and Jake Gierlak have been in sync. Williams has 24 receptions for 564 yards and 5 touchdowns while Gierlak has 37 catches for 495 yards and 3 scores. "Offensively, I think we've done a lot of great things," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "The only thing that stops us is ourselves. We can't be putting the ball on the ground and making mistakes. Defensively, we've got to be able to stop (Cody) Lane and (JT) Beasley. They are very good players. We have to wrap up and tackle. I think we've improved defensively since the Cary-Grove game, no doubt about it." Lane has rushed for 1,208 yards and 18 touchdowns. Beasley has 453 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Crystal Lake South (5-3) at Grayslake Central (2-6)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at William Eiserman Stadium
Last year: Crystal Lake South 32, Grayslake Central 14
Last week: Crystal Lake South 32, Jacobs 29; Grayslake North 49, Grayslake Central 7
Outlook: The Gators opened the season 1-3 against stiff competition but have since rallied to win 4 straight. Last week's victory over Jacobs guaranteed Crystal Lake South its 12th straight playoff appearance. Extending the win streak to 5 could give CL South a chance to host a first-round playoff game. "We have a lot of playoff points (42) so we might get lucky and have a home game at 6-3," Gators coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "At least we'll have a shot. Plus, if you're 5-4, you have to go play an 8-1 or 9-0 team at their place, which makes it awfully tough." The CL South offense continues to impress, though the normally stout defense has shown some vulnerability to big plays lately. In the last two weeks they've allowed 2 touchdown passes of 40 yards and 2 touchdown runs of 60-plus. Ahsmann has been picking his spots to play quarterback Austin Rogers at cornerback. When Rogers played defense in the second half against Jacobs, the Gators allowed only 1 touchdown. "We can't go into the playoffs giving up the big play," Ahsmann said. "We've been working hard on tackling well, good pass coverage and communication on defense. If we do those things, we'll be OK." Toledo-bound offensive lineman Boston Matthews returned to practice this week and is expected to play. He has not played since Week 2 due to injury. Ahsmann calls Matthews "a difference maker who in practice just dominates the guy in front of him." The Gators will wear stickers on their helmets this week in memory of Anthony Pauls, a member of the 2008-09 team that reached a state semifinal. Pauls, an engineering major at Illinois, was killed last Saturday by an alleged drunken driver in a hit-and-run accident in Champaign. Many members of the CL South football team and coaching staff attended services for Pauls this week. The sticker will include Paul's initials (AP) and the uniform number he wore for the Gators (46). Rogers will pay tribute to Pauls by wearing No. 46 against Grayslake Central.
McHenry (3-5, 1-4) at Huntley (5-3, 4-1)
When: today at 7:15 p.m.
Last year: McHenry 31, Huntley 27
Last week: Prairie Ridge 41, McHenry 7; Huntley 49, Woodstock 21
Outlook: Huntley is in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, thanks to last week's convincing victory at Woodstock. The Red Raiders will attempt to win their sixth game in seven outings and improve their playoff seed. With 43 playoff points already, Huntley has an outside chance of landing a home game as a 6-3 team. McHenry has lost four of its last five games. The Warriors hold a 4-2 series edge since Huntley joined the Fox Valley Conference in 2004. The Huntley defense turned in one of its best performances of the season last week by holding Woodstock to 77 rushing yards. Offensively, the Red Raiders have developed into a multifaceted attack. They boast the area's most prolific receiver in 6-foot-4 Bryce Beschnorner. He leads the area in receptions (38) receiving yards (695) and touchdowns (10). If he's double covered, they can turn to 6-2 senior receiver Jake Lackovic (19-368-6). The running game has become more of a factor as the season has progressed. Since senior power back Ethan Connor returned to full strength against Jacobs in Week 6, he and speedy junior running back Jake Scalise have combined for 477 yards and 5 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Kam Sallee is a threat by land or air. He has rushed for 489 yards and 5 touchdowns on 93 carries and has completed 76 of 169 attempts for 1,162 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Larkin (2-6, 1-4) at St. Charles East (5-3, 4-1)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Norris Stadium
Last year: Larkin 26, St. Charles East 20
Last week: St. Charles North 33, Larkin 22; Batavia 16, St. Charles East 9
Outlook: Larkin fullback Mario Randazzo is not expected to play. Otherwise, the Royals are as healthy for this game as they have been in weeks. The Saints have 39 playoff points so this isn't a must-win, but they want to improve their playoff seed with a sixth victory in their final home game. The Royals will see a familiar face when they glance at the opposite sideline: former Larkin boss Matt Gehrig, now an offensive line coach for the Saints. "Our seniors remember him," said Larkin coach Mike Scianna, who coached on Gehrig's staff and succeeded him three years ago. "We threw a wrinkle in for our offensive line to have a little fun. That's how we want to play this game, loose. Losing has not been fun, but it's been easy to come to work these last three weeks because the kids have been great, which is what you want as a coach." Scianna said he'd like to see one last solid performance from his all-conference hopefuls: linemen Adam Hamiel and Alex Schabert, running back Mo Jackson and defensive back Alejandro Duran. Schabert (6-foot-2, 320 pounds) was invited this week to participate in the FBU International Games, a series of games between international all-star teams to be held at the Alamodome in San Antonio this January. Duran, A 5-foot-5, 145-pound junior, has been a steady contributor on defense. He is tied for the area lead with 3 interceptions, has blocked two punts, forced two fumbles and recovered another. "He's a tough kid, a wrestler," Scianna said of Duran. "He typifies the toughness of our team. It's been really nice the last two weeks because the other coaches have complimented us, saying even though we have less than 30 players we hit hard and play hard. I want our guys to keep earning that kind of respect."
Batavia (8-0, 5-0) at Elgin (1-7, 0-5)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Field
Last year: Batavia 49, Elgin 0
Last week: Batavia 16, St. Charles East 9; Streamwood 27, Elgin 8
Outlook: Batavia, ranked No. 4 in Class 7A, can wrap up the outright title in the Upstate Eight Conference's River Division with a victory. Though this game is a mismatch on paper, the Maroons hope to conclude a character-building season with a fundamentally solid performance against the Bulldogs. "I just want these kids to finish what they started," Elgin coach Dave Bierman said. "They've seen Batavia on film and they're a very good football team, no question about it. I want our kids to try to continue to improve and finish and do the best they can. I give our kids credit because it would have been easy to cash it in. It would have been easy to be at practice but not really be at practice mentally. It hasn't been that way. They're still working, still trying to get better. Sure, you'd like to be successful and you'd like to win, but they've learned some valuable lessons about staying with what they started and that will surely pay dividends for them in the future." Bierman said sophomore Dontrell Gaddy will get some playing time at quarterback this week.
Geneva (3-5, 2-3) at Streamwood (3-5, 2-3)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Millennium Field
Last year: Geneva 42, Streamwood 0
Last week: Streamwood 27, Elgin 8; Geneva 61, Metea Valley 48
Outlook: The Sabres shoot for their fourth victory of the season against a Geneva team that was eliminated from the playoffs three weeks ago.
While 4 victories might not seem impressive in the wake of a playoff appearance in 2011, it's not bad for a program that won 4 games between 2006-2009 combined. "It's always nice to win that last game," Streamwood coach Cal Cummins said. "It would leave everyone with a better feeling if we can get a couple in a row at the end here." Senior Tyler Hendershot will start at quarterback for the second straight week due to an injury to starter Mason Polich. Hendershot performed well, completing 8 of 9 pass attempts for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. He connected with NIU-bound receiver Blake Holder and senior Kustrim Berisha for touchdown passes of 31 and 13 yards, respectively. Polich has been medically cleared to play but is still not 100 percent, so Hendershot will again start at quarterback. The Streamwood offense benefitted last week from the return of Vince Williams, who had been limited to defense. He gained 47 yards on 4 carries and opened holes for junior Lenard Brown to rush for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries. The Streamwood defense is tasked with stopping Geneva running back Bobby Hess, who has rushed for 1,351 yards and 20 touchdowns. "I feel like we've been playing some pretty good defense for the most part," Cummins said, "but we've been turning the ball over a lot and giving the other offense good field position. We hope to come out and give a solid performance and make Geneva earn their yards." Cummins said he'd like to see the seniors who contributed to last year's playoff squad go out on a high note, including Holder, two-way performers Mike Murawski (6-2, 202) and A.J. Mitchell (6-0, 264) and defensive tackle Trent McCaw (6-4, 220).
Bartlett (6-2, 4-1) at Neuqua Valley (8-0, 5-0)
When: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Bartlett 34, Neuqua Valley 7
Last week:Bartlett 27, South Elgin 7; Neuqua Valley 53, Lake Park 23
Outlook: A playoff berth is already sewn up by Bartlett, but a victory over state-ranked Neuqua Valley might earn the Hawks a home game in Round 1. Bartlett can also win a share of the Upstate Eight Valley title for the third straight season, but the task is tall. Neuqua, ranked No. 4 in Class 8A, averages 44.4 points and 350 yards per game. The Wildcats are led by senior running back Joey Rhattigan, who has carried 159 times for 1,137 yards and 19 touchdowns. Neuqua senior quarterback Dylan Andrew is a precision passer. He has completed 61 of 95 attempts (64 percent) for 983 yards and 13 touchdowns. Andrew has been intercepted just once this season. Last week, he threw 3 touchdown passes, including a 70-yarder to junior Mikey Dudek. "We have a chance, but the team we're facing is awfully good," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said. "They're good and they're big up front, a lot bigger than we are on defense. They run the power-I like us. And Dudek is a speedster. He's tough on reverses, screens and down-the-field routes." The Neuqua offense will be challenged by a Bartlett defense limiting opponents to 16.1 points and 220 yards per game. Senior Nick Andreucetti leads the Hawks with 3 interceptions. Bartlett can take some stock from its performance against common opponent Waubonsie Valley. The Hawks trailed by 6 points late in that game before 2 late interceptions led to Waubonsie touchdowns. Neuqua had to play two overtimes to beat Waubonsie two weeks ago. "Who knows? Maybe we'll catch a break and force some fumbles in the rain," Meaney said. "We just have to come to play and get up for it." Bartlett's offense is led by senior tailback Aaron Everson, who has accounted for 1,729 of Bartlett's 2,082 rushing yards this season. Everson has scored 25 total touchdowns, including two kickoff returns.
South Elgin (3-5) at St. Charles North (4-4)
When: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting (2010): South Elgin 52, St. Charles North 12
Last week: St. Charles North 33, Larkin 22; Bartlett 27, South Elgin 7
Outlook: The North Stars have enough playoff points (37) to likely make the postseason if they can pull out a victory over the Storm in coach Mark Gould's final regular-season home game. South Elgin needs a victory in this Upstate Eight crossover to match last year's 4-5 record. The North Stars went 4-2 in River Division games; South Elgin was 2-4 in the UEC Valley. St. Charles North's attack is led by senior running back George Edlund, who has 702 yards and 8 touchdowns on 136 carries. Junior Evan Kurtz (6-3, 215) carried 15 times for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against Larkin to up his season totals to 356 yards and 5 scores. South Elgin junior quarterback Robert Cuda has thrown for 1,578 yards and 18 touchdowns (10 interceptions). He should get his top weapon back this week with senior receiver Joe Crivolio set to return from a sprained ankle after missing two weeks. Though South Elgin is not playoff eligible, coach Dale Schabert said he is proud of the way this unit performed against a tough schedule that included Benet Academy (7-1), Neuqua Valley (8-0), Waubonsie Valley (7-1) and Bartlett (6-2). "We play in such a tough division and our nonconference games are tough, so we challenge our kids," Schabert said. "Three of the teams we played were state ranked at the time. We're not the biggest and we're not the fastest all over the place, but our kids have played hard and put a good effort in to win and sometimes that's the hardest part of the battle for a coach. You want them to value their teammates and work together toward something. Our kid shave done that and I'm so proud of that."
St. Francis (4-4, 2-4) at St. Edward (2-6, 1-5)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Greg True Field
Last year: St. Francis 49, St. Edward 21
Last week: St. Francis 49, Guerin 0; Marian Central 52, St. Edward 6
Outlook: St. Francis would become playoff eligible at 5-4, but the Spartans are long shots to make the 256-team playoff bracket with only 32 playoff points. Last year's cutoff was 40. Nevertheless, St. Edward will face a motivated team that snapped a 4-game losing streak last week. "They might only be 4-4 but St. Francis was ranked in the top 10 in (Class) 6A for the first part of the season and they're still a darn good football team," Green Wave coach Mike Rolando said. "I think they have more 200-pound guys on their roster than we have guys on our roster. For us, it's Senior Night and our last home game. I want to see us come out and play loose. I'd be satisfied if we can clean up the mistakes, the turnovers, the missed blocking assignments we see on film that nobody else knows about. If we can do that and Francis has an off day, maybe we can win a football game, too." The already light St. Edward roster was further thinned this week due to illnesses. Leading rusher Devontae Elam and senior Danny Favela missed practice all week. Favela is not expected to play and Elam is questionable, Rolando said.