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As Illinois high school football teams head into the final 2 weeks of the regular season, some playoff spots already have been clinched while others are still up for grabs.
According to Illinois High School Association figures, a total of 115 high school teams have earned automatic postseason bids -- with 141 of the remaining 256 berths yet to be determined.
That should make for some very intriguing storylines to be played out over the next 2 weeks.
One thing is becoming increasingly clearer -- 2013 figures to be a banner year for our local football teams.
Three teams -- Kaneland (7-0), Batavia (6-1) and Marmion (6-1) -- have nailed down playoff berths and are attempting to clinch outright titles in their respective conferences.
Four more schools -- Aurora Central Catholic, Aurora Christian, Geneva and St. Charles East -- own identical 5-2 records and are 1 win away from sealing an at-large playoff berth.
Based on playoff points (opponents' win total), all 4 teams appear to have enough to reach the postseason -- even with 5-4 records.
Seven local schools have never made the state playoffs before in the same season. Six of the 9 teams reached the postseason in 2007 and 2009.
And St. Charles North (3-4) still holds onto hope of making it 8 local playoff qualifiers.
Opponents' wins: 37.
Remaining schedule: At Sycamore, Oct. 18; at Morris, Oct. 25.
Kaneland clinched a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season and 18th in 19 years with last weekend's 41-0 victory over Yorkville. But the Knights haven't earned the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference East quite yet. That will be determined Friday night when Kaneland visits fellow unbeaten Sycamore.
The Knights, who have won 35 straight regular season games, have allowed just 60 points in 7 games. Coach Tom Fedderly's team can also light up the scoreboard, evidenced by its 41-points-per-game average (287 total points).
As of Monday, Kaneland ranks third in Class 5A behind Sycamore and 4-time defending state champion Montini.
Opponents' wins: 28.
Remaining schedule: St. Charles East, Oct. 18; Elgin, Oct. 25.
Batavia locked down its fourth straight playoff berth and 10th in the last 11 years with last Friday's 44-7 triumph against St. Charles North.
Offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari, who guided the Bulldogs to a second-place Class 6A state finish in 2006, reminded the 2013 squad about the significance of reaching the postseason moments after head coach Dennis Piron's congratulatory pep talk.
"You guys are going to the state playoffs," said Gaspari. "That is a BIG deal. It is something to be proud of."
Despite losing starting guard Mitchell Krusz to a knee injury last weekend, Batavia is getting healthy at the right time as it attempts to secure the Upstate Eight Conference River Division outright title Friday night against St. Charles East.
"I can't say enough about the character of these kids," said Piron. "They really care about one another and play well together."
Batavia is ranked 12th as the largest school in Class 6A.
Opponents' wins: 34.
Remaining schedule: At Aurora Central Catholic, Oct. 18; at Walther Lutheran, Oct. 26.
After a 1-year hiatus, Marmion is back in the playoffs thanks in part to last weekend's 26-20, come-from-behind victory over St. Francis.
Coach Dan Thorpe's Cadets may have started their playoff push last season when they won their last 3 games by a combined margin of 104-20 to post a 4-5 record. The juniors and sophomores from last year's team have carried that momentum into this season.
Led by quarterback Brock Krueger, tailbacks Jordan Glasgow and Josh Meyers, and defensive back/wide receiver Tyler Eberth, the Cadets are ranked fifth in Class 6A
Aurora Central Catholic (5-2)
Opponents' wins: 35.
Remaining schedule: Marmion, Oct. 18; Montini, Oct. 25.
With back-to-back wins over Walther Lutheran (41-6) and Guerin (45-14), Aurora Central Catholic has all but clinched a playoff bid for the second consecutive season.
Coach Brian Casey's Chargers figure to have earned enough playoff points to reach the postseason even if they lose their last 2 games -- a distinct possibility considering the fact that Marmion and Montini own a combined record of 13-1.
The Chargers are ranked 14th in Class 4A.
Aurora Christian (5-2)
Opponents' wins: 33.
Remaining schedule: Montini, Oct. 19; at Guerin, Oct. 26.
The Eagles have lost more games than they did all of last season when they went on to repeat as Class 3A state champions with a 13-1 record.
But this is a much different football team from the 2012 version that featured NIU-bound seniors Joel Bouagnon, Chad Beebe and Brandon Mayes, especially without the services of talented junior quarterback Austin Bray, who suffered a separated shoulder in a 35-14 Week 6 loss to Marmion.
But don't count out the Eagles just yet.
Senior tailback Legend Smith has explosive ability and Bray may return just in time for the playoffs.
Aurora Christian is ranked 12th in Class 3A.
Opponents' wins: 32.
Remaining schedule: At Metea Valley, Oct. 18; Streamwood, Oct. 25.
Geneva may have turned its season around in Week 3 when it outlasted Larkin 41-34 at Memorial Field. Since then, the Vikings have swept the 2 St. Charles schools and extended their win streak to 4 with last weekend's 42-20 victory over Elgin.
Armed with playmakers like quarterback Daniel Santacaterina, tailback T.J. Miller and receivers Kyle Brown and Pace Temple, the Vikings possess a high-scoring attack. Averaging nearly 33 points per game, Geneva has scored at least 20 points in all 7 contests.
The Vikings' first 2 nonconference opponents -- Oswego and Wheaton North -- own a collective 11-3 mark.
Geneva currently ranks 18th as the second-smallest school in Class 7A.
St. Charles East (5-2)
Opponents' wins: 30.
Remaining schedule: at Batavia, Oct. 18; at Larkin, Oct. 25.
The Saints may still need at least another victory to clinch their second consecutive playoff berth -- and third in coach Mike Fields' 5 years at St. Charles East.
Knocking off first-place Batavia Friday night might be a tall task considering the Saints' defense has allowed 28 points per game (and the Bulldogs average 42 ppg).
Led by quarterback Jimmy Mitchell and receivers Brannon Barry, Mitch Munroe, Phil Hopper, A.J. Washington and Mo Flanigan, the Saints have scored at least 21 points in every game this season.
St. Charles East is ranked 19th in Class 8A.
St. Charles North (3-4)
Opponents' wins: 25.
Remaining schedule: at Larkin, Oct. 18; at South Elgin, Oct. 26.
There's no wriggle room left for the North Stars.
"It's a 2-game season and both teams are good," St. Charles North first-year head coach Rob Pomazak said of his team's last 2 opponents. "I think South Elgin is better than what their record shows (2-5) -- they can put a lot of points on the board. And Larkin is so athletic. They've got good skilled players.
"I think we're good enough to come out of these next two games at 2-0 but it starts next week," added the coach. "And then it just comes down to (playoff) points. We're on the low end but we'll take our chances at 5-4."
St. Charles North is ranked 38th in Class 7A (top 32 teams qualify).
You can reach Craig Brueske at email@example.com.
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