It's a brief history, but fourth-year football program Metea Valley is enjoying its first 2-0 start in the Upstate Eight Conference's Valley Division. The hungry Mustangs hope to add another win Friday against South Elgin.
"We're in a place we've never been before, having some success in conference, going on the road to beat Bartlett, which year in and year out is in the top two or three in our conference," said Mustangs coach Ben Kleinhans, whose squad won 20-6 last Friday in the program's biggest triumph to date.
"That was a big step for us, for our kids and our program. But with that win comes some expectations. We told our kids we're only as good as the next game, the next Friday night."
A possible turning point came after Bartlett scored the game's first touchdown, Metea Valley cornerback Peyton Mitchell blocked the extra-point try, then Metea (2-2) answered with a 6-play touchdown drive capped by Blaise Bell's touchdown pass to Nick Dodson.
"That's a point where maybe in the past we don't respond well," Kleinhans said.
Bell started the second half completing 9 straight passes and finished the game completing 13 of 20 with no interceptions. Gaining control of the game by holding Bartlett's ground game in check, Metea could salt the game away behind tailback Jay Parker's 178 yards on 28 carries, with a 26-yard touchdown run.
This week Metea faces a pass-first South Elgin squad that earned its first win last week.
"They have the same goals as we do," Kleinhans said. "We're looking to go on a run."
With backup quarterback Michael Perry down with an injury, last week Lake Park coach Chris Roll needed to give practice reps to someone. Just in case.
Zach Zimmerman, normally a slot receiver, jumped in and had two days of limited practice time behind center. When starting quarterback Bobby Accetura hurt his thumb and couldn't play the second half, in stepped Zimmerman.
"He's a tough kid, and he played quarterback freshman and sophomore year," Roll said. "I just took a look at him and told him to start warming up."
The Lancers' defense got a turnover on Glenbard North's opening possession of the second half. Zimmerman and the offense responded three plays later with a 12-yard touchdown run by Antonio Shenault.
Lake Park lost 41-12, but Zimmerman's effort showed Roll the never-say-die attitude of his team.
"He took some huge hits, but he held on to the ball and kept getting back up," Roll said. "He did a real nice job."
What a kick:
Anticipating a defensive struggle last week at Crete-Monee, Benet coach Pat New asked Redwings kicker John Duvic at what distance he'd be able to kick a field goal that night.
Duvic told him he'd be good from 55 yards out. The senior may not have hit a 55-yarder, but he did something even better.
With 5 field goals -- including a 50-yarder -- Duvic set an IHSA state record for field goals in a game. He averaged 40 yards a field goal and all went at least 34 yards.
"It's huge for us to have a weapon like that," New said. "It shortens your field tremendously. Sometimes all you need is a first down and you'll practically be in scoring position."
New said the Redwings probably could have tried an additional field goal. Duvic also missed a 35-yarder, meaning he could have ended the game with 7 field goals.
Five were plenty, however, as the Redwings beat the defending Class 6A champions 30-6.
Hard to handle:
Bartlett has to pick its poison this week, defending Waubonsie Valley.
Tailback Jon Fizer's 153 yards and 4 touchdowns added to an offensive party that since a 23-10 Week 1 loss to Naperville Central has seen the Warriors score 152 points in three games, albeit against teams a combined 2-10.
"We're running our plays fast and letting our speed dictate what we're able to do against our opponents," said Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy. "Probably the most progress we've made since the Naperville Central game is getting to the perimeter to make some big plays. We've been able to mix the run and throw pretty good and keep teams off balance, and that's what we're going to need to do this week against Bartlett."
Fizer and wide receiver Christian Gibbs can give opponents enough to worry about. But Waubonsie (3-1) adds Devin Strickland as a slot receiver and Tony Durns going from slot in a one-back set to joining Fizer in a two-man backfield.
"We knew Tony Durns could be dangerous and he's every bit as dangerous as we thought he could be," Murphy said of a junior who returned West Chicago's opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown last week.
At the helm is first-year starting varsity quarterback Jack Eddy, who has completed over 65 percent of his passes. Enabling that success is the offensive line of Jon Harris, Tyler Caldwell, Anthony Napolitano, Bailey Burns and Noah Szott.
"I think we're a better pass-blocking team than we thought we were going to be," Murphy said.
Things could get even better for Waubonsie. Demario Webb, the big back, returns after a two-week hiatus due to injury. Wideout Keaton Casey has yet to have a breakout game but has the speed and ability to do so.
"It's been a fun group to coach because we've got so many movable parts," Murphy said. " ... When you've got four guys that can go vertical in your offense, you've got to pick your poison with us."
Things are going well for the Warriors, but they'll be playing Bartlett with a heavy heart, after Laura Eddy, the quarterback's mother, passed away Saturday.
Here's the kicker:
Lisle senior place-kicker Ben Buchelt has had a hand -- or foot -- in both Lions wins this season. Last week, situated at the left hash mark, he perfectly split the uprights from 37 yards out with 0.9 seconds left as Lisle (2-2) beat Interstate Eight Small Division foe Reed-Custer 24-22.
A state wrestling qualifier at 145 pounds as a junior, Buchelt shrugged off a timeout by Reed-Custer coach Nick Klein, called so late Lisle long-snapper Billy Loconsole had already delivered the ball to holder Alec VanVolkenburg.
"He's got that wrestler mentality," Lisle coach Dan Sanko said of Buchelt. "He really doesn't get flustered."
Buchelt could have had jitters after missing a pair of extra points in a 21-20 season-opening loss to Manteno. But Sanko said he's taken extra time after practice, working on occasion with former Lisle and Bowling Green kicker Nick Iovinelli.
"I saw his will to want to get better," Sanko said. "I thought, we may be OK."
In Week 2 Buchelt nailed a late 32-yard field goal to extend a 6-point lead to 9 in a 23-14 win over Herscher. Last week he knocked the game-winner after a huge 31-yard pass to Alan Simpson from Lions quarterback Griffin Huba. Without that Buchelt wouldn't have gotten his chance.
Kicking is a lot about confidence. Sanko appreciated not only did Buchelt feel good about the 37-yard try, his teammates did, too.
"He said, 'I got this, coach.' This time it was different because I saw the people around him have the same look," Sanko said.
Now it gets tricky:
IC Catholic (3-1) finished a two-week skein in which it beat Aurora Central Catholic 21-14 and St. Edward 21-17.
Here comes a real grind.
As Knights coach Bill Krefft said, "Now we go through Alabama, LSU and Georgia," officially known as Marian Central, Montini and Aurora Christian. They are, respectively, Nos. 10 and 1 in Class 5A and No. 1 in Class 3A. IC, with an enrollment of about 320, is a 3A school.
"It's always fun to go from playing teams like us to playing college teams," Krefft said, kind of joking.
Knights players such as senior Clark Brinkman, sophomore Rashaun Epting and freshman Jordan Rowell can give IC an edge against many opponents. Against this big three the advantage levels out. On the line of scrimmage, particularly this year when the Knights don't have the size as in the past, they'll hope quickness and technique can counter mass.
The good news is, year in and year out, no team is as well prepared for the playoffs. Provided they get in and are healthy.
"We're looking forward to being able to compete with these guys and going after them like we always do," Krefft said.
Montini players suspended:
On Tuesday two Montini football players were suspended indefinitely from school for using a credit card that was not theirs at the Dick's Sporting Goods at Butterfield and Meyers roads, Lombard.
Broncos coach Chris Andriano said Wednesday that complete details of the incident had yet to be learned but that he believed the incident occurred last week.
"I don't have the whole story yet, and I don't have their story yet," the coach said.
The students were identified by in-store surveillance cameras. Andriano said police met with the students' parents, Montini principal Maryann O'Neill and school deans on Tuesday.
The coach was to meet with Montini athletic director Bob Landi on Thursday but said there would be no further police involvement or criminal charges brought and that the incident would be handled in-school.
"This one kind of tugs at your heart," the coach said.