With both Upstate Eight Conference River Division teams entering Friday night with 3-4 records, it was do or die time for St. Charles North and Larkin.
After the Royals gave an unfriendly welcome to the visitors, the North Stars ran away with it as running back Evan Kurtz (21 carries, 129 yards) led St. Charles North to a 48-20 victory at Memorial Field in Elgin.
"It was a huge game for us," said Kurtz, who finished the game with 1,021 rushing yards and 16 TDs on the season. "Coach (Rob Pomazack) was calling this a playoff game, and it was. From the offensive line to our team defense, we all came ready."
Larkin's (3-5, 2-3) defense greeted the North Stars (4-4, 3-3) by forcing a three-and-out on the game's first possession, and on the Royals' first offensive play Damion Clemons found a hole and ran 86 yards to the end zone.
The North Stars responded with touchdowns on their next three possession, 4-yard and 8-yard runs by Kurtz and an 11-yard run from Dominick Sidari, and Clemons was held to 18 more rushing yard the rest of the game.
"Obviously (Clemons) is an extremely talented running back, and he's lighting in a bottle," Pomazack said. "We did a poor job closing the gap on that play, but we adjusted and our offense answered right back."
The Royals pulled to 21-14 early in the second quarter when quarterback Kemmerin Blalark (17-for-35, 239 yards) ran 3 yards for a score, and trailing 27-14 Larkin marched down to North's 2-yard line in the final minute of the half but could not score.
In the second half, Larkin was unable to get its running game going with negative yards on the ground, and the Royals wouldn't score again until 4:13 was left in the game when Blalark threw a 24-yard TD pass to Dante Bonds (7 receptions, 129 yards) for the final score of the game.
"They've got good size, and at this point in the season we've been beaten down a bit," said Royals coach Mike Scianna. "We just couldn't keep up with them for whatever reason."
North QB Erik Miller (5-for-6, 171 yards) threw a 48-yard TD pass to Garrett Johnson in the second quarter, and Kurtz added TD runs of 12 yards and 1 yard in the second half. Nicholas Edlund added an 11-yard touchdown run for the North Stars.
St. Charles North needs to defeat South Elgin on the road next Saturday for playoff contention. For Larkin, Scianna hopes his team finishes the season on a high note against St. Charles East.
"It's going to be a tough one for the seniors, and it's my last game as well," said Scianna, who announced last week that he would be stepping down as head coach at the end of the season. "This last game, we want to leave it all out on the field."