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updated: 9/26/2013 8:31 PM

Eyes on Five has eyes on Fitz

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  • Video: Justin Jackson

  • Video: Clayton Thorson


Football teams spend an entire week preparing for anything and everything from an opponent.

Then, sure enough, the unpreparable comes along.

This week's "Eyes on Five" scatters its thoughts again, including thoughts on something for which no team could have prepared.

He gets around:

Wandering Wheaton North's sideline last Friday for its game against Naperville North, it wasn't hard to notice Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald standing near the end zone.

Made sense. He wanted to get a firsthand look at Wheaton North quarterback Clayton Thorson, who last spring committed to play for the Wildcats.

Then it really made sense. Fitzgerald went to Wheaton after first stopping by Carol Stream to see fellow Northwestern recruit Justin Jackson, the standout Glenbard North running back.

It's clear Fitzgerald has become comfortable in DuPage County. In the Wildcats' backfield alone this season, Northwestern relies on Wheaton Warrenville South grad Dan Vitale and Wheaton North grad Mike Trumpy.

Jackson showed off his skills last week by rushing for 328 yards and 5 touchdowns in a Panthers win. Thorson completed 23 of 38 passes for 275 yards in a Wheaton North victory.

No wonder Fitzgerald has found a recruiting home in DuPage County. Expect to see more of him in the future.

2. If we knew you were coming...:

Area coaches this week expressed shock that Maine East coach Gabe Corey fielded a JV team against cross-town Park Ridge rival Maine South last week to rest his injured starters for upcoming Central Suburban Conference North play.

The result was a 49-0 victory for Maine South and a lot of head-shaking.

The sentiment with coaches was common. With only nine guaranteed games, how could he deny his starters one of their chances to compete? Especially for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1977 -- its only postseason berth.

The teams hadn't played each other since 2008, ending a four-year span that saw Maine South beat Maine East by a combined score of 250-21.

That margin sums up the historic levels of success at both programs. Maine South has made the playoffs 21 straight years with five state titles during that time. Maine East has not had a winning record since 1978 and didn't win a game between 2005 and 2008.

Maine East, however, started the season 2-0 before losses to Niles West and Maine South. With only one opponent sporting a winning record the rest of regular season, the Blue Demons could be looking at earning that elusive playoff berth.

Which is where last week's decision comes in. Maine East suffered a slew of injuries during the second and third weeks of the season, way too many for a roster that numbers in the 30s to support.

In turn Corey chose to sit every major contributor in favor of backups against the perennially powerful Hawks.

Not sure how I feel about the whole situation. At first glance it leaves a troubling impression that the health of starters is more important than the health of backups who are likely less physically prepared for a team of Maine South's caliber.

Some area coaches went as far to say Corey should be fired for making a mockery of the game. Forfeit if you don't want to play, they suggest.

A tough situation and a tough decision. Glad I didn't have to make it.

3. The other Cup:

The Napervilles have each other and so do the Wheatons.

Now Glenbard North has Lake Park.

We're talking rivalries, of course. And while Glenbard North and the Lancers aren't quite cross-town rivals, there is a community bond they share.

They announced to the world the start of their DuPage Valley Conference rivalry before last week's football game by unveiling the Stratford Cup, a trophy (not a cup) that went to Glenbard North after a 41-12 victory.

"One of the positives about joining the DVC was gaining a local rival," said Lake Park coach Chris Roll. "We wanted to make it official."

To show the sportsmanship between the schools, coaches, players, administrators and even superfans met on the field before the game to share the beginning of what is hopefully a long, competitive, healthy relationship.

4. Prognosticating:

An update to last week's suggestion that in the future, teams may want to consider petitioning the IHSA to move up from Class 7A to 8A for competitive purposes.

This week the IHSA released its first playoff outlook of the season, dividing teams into the eight postseason classifications based on enrollment. Class 7A cuts off at an enrollment of 2,408, which means current unbeatens Mt. Carmel, Schaumburg and Edwardsville fall in 7A for now. Glenbard North (2,486) and Maine South (2,460) sit in 8A.

Stay tuned, though. Things could change as teams drift in and out of the playoff picture.

5. Stat time:

Glenbard North's Justin Jackson continues to pile up eye-popping numbers.

The senior running back, committed to Northwestern as previously mentioned, has rushed for 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 31 carries through four games.

As a third-year varsity member, Jackson's total stands at 4,402 rushing yards. If Jackson averages 167 yards the remaining five regular-season games, he'll be among the top 10 rushers in Illinois history.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit

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