Running backs ran wild in District 204 this season.
Waubonsie Valley's Austin Guido has set nearly all program records for single-season and all-time rushing. Neuqua Valley's Joey Rhattigan is approaching his team's marks. At Metea Valley, junior Cameron Wilcox is in the process of setting the standard against which future Mustangs backs will be measured.
Entering the playoffs, Guido has 3,575 yards rushing, far surpassing the 3,000 yards Tyrone Gooch earned from 1993-94. The senior has 1,826 rushing yards this season, eclipsing Marcus Forrest's 1,692 in 1994. Guido's 27 rushing touchdowns this season have him No. 1 in a season and give him the record of 50 for a career. Guido set Waubonsie's mark with 38 carries in a game early this season and with 219 is approaching Gooch's season 1994 record of 235. Guido has run the ball 489 times on the varsity squad, topping Gooch's 455.
Another senior back with three years varsity experience and two as a starter, Rhattigan has run for 45 touchdowns on the varsity, breaking Anton Williams' 40 TDs from 2005-07. Rhattigan will attempt to set Neuqua's season and all-time rushing marks this week against Naperville North in the Class 8A playoffs. He's run for 1,313 this season and 2,783 on varsity; Wilkins ran for 1,485 in 2007, and 2,886 overall.
Metea's Wilcox finished his junior season running the ball 207 times for 1,280 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a sophomore he had 93 carries for 622 yards and 7 touchdowns for varsity marks of an even 300 carries for 1,902 yards and 22 touchdowns.
To be continued.
As soon as the game clock struck 0:00 last week in Naperville North's 21-14 loss to Glenbard North, Huskies football coach Sean Drendel knew the fallout.
"We had a feeling we'd see Neuqua Valley again," Drendel said.
"Again" being the key word, Naperville North (5-4) is poised for a rematch of its season-opening 43-20 loss to Neuqua Valley (9-0) in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs. The Wildcats, top-seeded in the lower bracket of 8A, are heavily favored against No. 16 Naperville North, but both sides know this isn't your typical first-round game.
While Neuqua Valley clearly showed the ability to hit the ground running at the start of the season, it took until the last few weeks for Naperville North to hit its stride. Since Week 1 the Huskies have changed three starters on offense and five on defense.
Despite last week's loss the changes paid big dividends as Naperville North surged to four wins in its last five games. A dedication to the run game with running backs Sharad Crosby, DeSean Brown, Kendall Veluvolu and quarterback Johnny Brown has forged success behind a dominant offensive line.
Drendel and the Huskies hope the improvements are enough to stage an upset Friday.
"The key to the game is whether we've improved or not and how far we've come," Drendel said. "We're not coming up with any tricks or gimmicks. We're just going to work on what we do."
With three Glenbard schools qualifying for the playoffs, times are good in District 87. And with Glenbard North, South and West competing in different classes, it allows for plenty of district camaraderie.
Glenbard South opens against St. Patrick in Class 6A, Glenbard West hosts Elk Grove in 7A, and Glenbard North plays Fremd in 8A.
"Our coaches know a lot of their coaches, and we all get along pretty well," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "We all have a good relationship."
The programs even took to Twitter to express their support for each other. After Glenbard South tweeted "Good luck during the 2nd season" to Glenbard North, the Panthers responded with "Go Raiders! Let's see all 3 playoff Glenbards advance!"
Glenbard West has an obvious connection with South because Raiders coach Jeremy Cordell is the former defensive coordinator at West. The respect between the Glenbard football programs, however, spans far wider.
"I think we always kind of root for each other," Hetlet said. "We're excited for all the Glenbards."
On the fly:
At the beginning of the season, coming off a 1-8 campaign, Benet took its goals one step at a time.
The Redwings wanted to break a 10-game East Suburban Catholic Conference losing streak, something accomplished with a 44-6 Week 5 win over Marian Catholic.
When Benet notched its fifth win a week later, virtually clinching a playoff berth, the goal shifted to moving past the five-win mark and avoiding a matchup with an unbeaten top seed in the first round. That happened in 2010 when Benet had to play eventually state champion Wheaton Warrenville South in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Eight wins clearly met that goal, and it also allowed Benet to vie for its first ESCC title. Closing the regular season with wins over Nazareth, Marist and Joliet Catholic, the Redwings are indeed conference champions.
"There's no pressure on us because this kind of success wasn't expected of us," said Benet coach Pat New. "We're just going to play our game and see how far we can go from there."
As the second seed in the lower bracket of the Class 7A playoffs, behind Batavia, the goals may need to shift again. Benet has shown it is capable of just about anything this season.
"Who knows?" New said. "A lot of crazy things have happened in the playoffs."
Their best shot:
Entering Week 9 against 6-2 Sandwich, Lisle had only 32 playoff points and a 4-4 record. The Lions knew their chances of earning a playoff slot were slim at most.
Coach Dan Sanko, paraphrasing his pregame speech, signaled as much.
"Most likely, guys, we're really not going to be able to get enough points," he said. "But this is senior night, your last home game. Play with some pride."
That they did in a 20-14 victory. Linebacker Kevin Coppin made what Sanko called the play of the game on his strip of all-conference back Seth McDonald on Sandwich's first-and-goal from Lisle's 2-yard line in the last five minutes. He made 12 tackles, while Bailey Welch made 13 and both Ryan VanVolkenburg and Cliff Krause made 10. Griffin Huba blocked a field goal.
Offensively, quarterback Nick Saul dropped perfect passes to Krause and Dawon Burrell "under duress and good coverage," Sanko said.
"They played their hearts out. It was a total team effort," he said.
Lisle finished with 35 playoff points, below the threshold of 38. The Lions had the satisfaction of finishing on a win in "by far the best game we played," Sanko said. They were 2-2 against Interstate Eight Conference Large Division opponents who overall went 19-5 against Small teams.
St. Francis was even closer, finishing with 37 playoff points. The 5-4 Spartans won their last two games, but it wasn't enough to counter a four-game skid from Weeks 4-7. Lisle and St. Francis were among 16 teams with five wins not to reach the postseason.
"Any time you get on a four-game skid and you're still fortunate enough to be in the hunt, we asked our kids to rally and win the last couple of games and we were able to do that," said Spartans coach Greg Purnell.
"We at least won five games. That's the first time in the history of St. Francis that we've had five winning seasons in a row, and it would have been the first time we've had five playoff teams in a row."
Purnell is not one for excuses, but he has a valid one in the summer knee injury to senior running back-linebacker Jack Petrando. As a junior in 2011 Petrando was named the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division co-offensive player of the year while also leading St. Francis in tackles a second straight season. In the last three games this season he ran for 395 yards and 5 touchdowns.
"Jack Petrando was the offensive player of the league last year. I think that kind of puts it in perspective," Purnell said. "When you lose someone like that for two-thirds of your season it's definitely going to have an impact. More important than his yards, his leadership for us was something that could have helped us an awful lot. But what a kid, he worked awful hard to come back and play three games for us."
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