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Scouting this weekend's Tri-Cities football games
 

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Scouting this weekend's Tri-Cities football games

By Dave Oberhelman

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

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Streamwood (1-7, 1-4) at Geneva (6-2, 4-1)

Upstate Eight River

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Streamwood 41, Elgin 30; Geneva 49, Metea Valley 45.

Last year: Geneva 35, Streamwood 34.

Outlook: If Geneva racks up another 578 yards of offense, as it did last week against Metea Valley, chances are very good the Vikings enter the playoffs 7-2. For some reason Metea Valley-Geneva means a track meet and quarterback Daniel Santacaterina was again up for it with 373 yards passing and 5 long-distance touchdown heaves -- including 5 catches, 138 yards and 2 scores to receiver Kyle Brown and 2 more touchdown strikes to Max Woodworth. With Streamwood bringing in quarterback Mason Polich targeting his younger brother, Noah, and receiver Cole Segar, and sophomore Travious Brown running for 177 yards against Elgin, Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said the Sabres remind him of athletic Larkin, but without the same explosion. "We're giving up 40 points a game (actually 33)," he said, "so everybody's got explosion against us." A reality is Elgin's defense, especially up front and at linebacker, is not as strong as Geneva's, regardless of that per-game scoring average by opponents. The Vikings won't want junior defensive back Jake Rocks to tie for the team lead in tackles again -- it's OK for linebacker Joe Boenzi to do that -- but with defensive ends Billy Douds and Matt Loberg getting stronger off the edge, those defensive backs may get a pick or two this week. Geneva could try to take the air out of the ball with the ground game of T.J. Miller and Liam Burns, because it's plain Wicinski thinks Streamwood is better than its record. "I'm not quite sure why they're where they're at," he said.

West Aurora (1-7, 0-6) at Lake Park (2-6, 1-5)

DuPage Valley Conference

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Live video streaming: @football.dailyherald.com, followed by postgame highlights.

Last week: Naperville North 52, West Aurora 30; Lake Park 37, Glenbard East 14.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: Well, here it is. After joining the DuPage Valley Conference in 1997 from out of the Upstate Eight, this will be West Aurora's last game in the DVC before returning to the UEC Valley Division next season. Forgive Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer for looking ahead. "We're 1-7, I think we're more focused on these kids and this year right now than thinking about anything for next year. I'd like to go out on a winning note with these kids." Lake Park goes through the same DVC grind, getting a nonconference win over Lockport and beating a Glenbard East squad which dented West Aurora 21-0, but if the Blackhawks play as they did against Naperville North they do stand a good chance of going out with a win. Just two days after Eimer told the Daily Herald it'd be nice for his team to get some breaks, he got a fumble recovery and pulled off an onside kick. West got 109 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns and 149 yards passing out of Quintez Jones, and trailed Naperville North 38-30 after three quarters. "I think our kids played their tails off. We just didn't finish," Eimer said. But Lake Park is dedicated to showing DVC émigrés Glenbard East and the Blackhawks the door in a very stern way, and the Lancers have a stout defense. Eimer calls linebacker Niko Danielo "awesome"; defensive end Michael Ferrante also is strong, cornerback Antonio Shenault is an athlete, all-state in both the 110 and 300 hurdles last spring, and Curtwan Evans can hurt teams both at linebacker and tailback. After watching film West Aurora coaches praised the play of the Blackhawks' right side of the offensive line -- Sam Deisher, Colin Stewart and Stephen Castellanos. They'll need a major push and must reach the second level to clear paths for Jones, Drake Spears and Daquan Cross. "Overall it's been a tough season," Eimer said. "It'd be nice to finish off with a win."

Montini (8-0, 6-0) at Aurora Central Catholic (6-2, 4-2)

Suburban Christian crossover

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

Live video streaming: @football.dailyherald.com, followed by postgame highlights.

Last week: Montini 49, Aurora Christian 0; ACC 13, Marmion 12.

Last year: Montini 38, ACC 7.

Outlook: If beating Marmion was Aurora Central Catholic's biggest win in 15 years or more, as Chargers coach Brian Casey told the Daily Herald's John Lemon, pulling off an upset of four-time defending Class 5A state champion Montini would be the biggest since 1994 when Mike Curry led ACC past Marian Central to the 3A semifinals. Montini -- which had Casey as its starting quarterback as a senior in 2000 -- is bigger, more physical, faster and has more weapons on both sides of the ball than does Marmion. Even if the Broncos don't dress Ohio State-bound defensive end Dylan Thompson there is Division I recruit Nile Sykes, a solid offensive line, championship quarterback Alex Wills, great linebacker Mike Maduko, speedy receivers Tyler Tumpane and Leon Thornton III and much, much more. The Broncos are starting to get a between-tackles ground game with Nikko Italia, but Montini's vaunted bubble screens will test ACC linebackers Cody Ekstrom and Roman Padilla on the edge, and the entire secondary of Colin Hendricks, Jordan Henricks, Patrick Canning and Jordan Audiffred-Zauner. "We need to stay in it through halftime," said Casey, which is what he told his players before the Marmion game. Bolstered by turnover-causing plays in crunch time from Padilla and linebacker Karlo Valenzuela, wingback Julian Rios and quarterback Matt Schaefer paced a 200-yard offense without attempting one pass as the Chargers clinched their second straight playoff berth. But if there's a hint of weakness on Montini it's in the secondary, and given the Broncos' excellent defensive front seven, ACC will have to expand its playbook to include the forward pass or somehow get Rios in space. Regardless, this looks to be the best ACC team in years, and confidence from a huge win can do wonders. "We hope to play well this weekend and play better than last week, and find a way to continue into the playoffs with some momentum and keep playing good football," Casey said.

St. Charles East (5-3, 3-2) at Larkin (3-5, 2-3)

Upstate Eight River

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Live video streaming: @football.dailyherald.com, followed by postgame highlights.

Last week: Batavia 47, St. Charles East 14; St. Charles North 48, Larkin 20.

Last year: St. Charles East 26, Larkin 0.

Outlook: St. Charles East shook the memory of last week's loss to Batavia as fast as it could, leaving the positive thought that the Saints remain in good shape to qualify for the playoffs, win or lose against Larkin. Losing certainly isn't a desirable option, though, and Mike Fields' mantra this week is finishing -- blocks, tackles, pass routes, quarters, halves. He points to the 41-point second half against Jacobs and the overtime win over St. Charles North, which happened in early September. "Since Week 2, 3, we haven't finished a game," he said. Helping the cause this week will be the return from injury of linebacker Michael Candre, who with usual suspect Brannon Barry and Jon Finn can reign in Larkin's go-to guys, quarterback Kemmerin Blalark and senior Damion Clemons. Candre also will resume his punting duties to help the Saints to better field position. Fields said Larkin likes to run bunch routes on the pass, works Blalark on the option, gets Clemons outside. "Get the ball in their hands and let them go," he said. Of import is this will be Larkin coach Mike Scianna's last game after he announced he's stepping down for more family time. That and the Royals' desire to potentially halt St. Charles East's playoff possibility are dangerous facets. The Saints could take the wind out of their sails by establishing a running game. Granted Larkin is no Batavia, but last week East managed minus-4 yards rushing in the first half -- mainly due to 4 sacks on quarterback Jimmy Mitchell -- and Erik Anderson led the team with 19 yards on 8 carries. The Saints aim to finish the regular season stronger than that. "We've had a good week of practice, lively," Fields said. "I think they know what's at stake."

St. Charles North (4-4, 3-3) at South Elgin (3-5, 3-3)

Upstate Eight River

Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.

Last week: St. Charles North 48, Larkin 20; South Elgin 46, Bartlett 6.

Last year: South Elgin 14, St. Charles North 6.

Outlook: St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said a distinct goal is to finish above .500 for the first time since 2009. That might appear to be a more realistic goal for the North Stars than a playoff berth even if they were to beat South Elgin and finish 5-4. St. Charles North has 30 playoff points (total wins by opponents) and might figure to get only 4 more this week, leaving them shy of the traditional upper-30 cutoff. Steve Soucie, the playoff pairing prognosticator on EdgyTim.com of Rivals, estimates this year's cutoff to be 38, and picks the North Stars to be one of several potential 5-4 teams to be left out. As Pomazak said, by game time Saturday they'll know pretty much how things look. And realistically, looking ahead does no one any favors. "We're just going to try to control what we can control, going 1-0 this week," Pomazak said. "That's always our goal." Another goal, which will help keep South Elgin's pass-first offense off the field, will be to continue to pound the ball with 220-pound Evan Kurtz, and a little Dom Sodari, Nick Edlund and quarterback Erik Miller tossed in. Kurtz ran for 122 yards and 4 touchdowns last week to break the barrier with 1,015 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year. A 278-yard team ground game also does wonders for the pass, and Miller had a smart 7-of-8 passing for 195 yards with a 47-yard touchdown to Garrett Johnson. Against South Elgin, the North Stars might be wise to avoid a shootout. Storm quarterback Rob Cuda is an all-conference slinger who last week threw touchdown passes to four different receivers, 2 to Jordyn Cruz, and also ran in 2 scores. Tyler Christensen caught 5 balls for 110 yards while 5-foot-7, 170-pound sophomore back Shawn Griffin ran for 123 yards. However, a passing game runs straight into St. Charles North's slew of ballhawks in the secondary. Pomazak hopes to add pressure up the gut with nose tackle Rich Mix, defensive tackle James Glavin and, off the edge, Jordan Bergren and speedy disrupter Mark Rubige. And let the chips fall where they may. "I'd like to think we have a great opportunity," Pomazak said.

Aurora Christian (5-3, 3-3) at Guerin (2-6, 0-6)

Suburban Christian crossover

Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.

Last week: Montini 49, Aurora Christian 0; St. Francis 56, Guerin 7.

Last year: Aurora Christian 49, Guerin 0.

Outlook: Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe much prefers a 6-3 record to 5-4 regarding a first-round playoff foe. That wouldn't seem to be trouble against a Gators team that has lost six straight games, with injuries still plaguing the Eagles it cannot be dismissed out of hand. "They've got nothing to lose," Beebe said. The good news is he's hoping to dress, if not play, lineman Matt Ward, receiver Noah Hagerty and the big-play receiver-safety duo of Noah Roberts and Brandon Walgren. Tight end-defensive end Jackson Carpenter is a possibility. Regardless of who's active Aurora Christian wants to expand the passing game of freshman quarterback Ben Weerts should junior Austin Bray not be ready for the playoff opener. A more active Weerts means sophomore receiver Eddie Velarde and sophomore tight end Dusty Barrett will be more involved. The Guerin offense features running back Jason Cockrell, scrambling quarterback Tyler Flynn, leading receiver Julian Gutierrez and a solid tight end-linebacker, Joe Topping. Even without injured Jonah Walker on Aurora Christian's offensive and defensive lines, however, the edge up front favors the Eagles by far, and that's good news to workhorse back Legend Smith, up to 797 yards and 8 touchdowns. "We've got to win this game," Beebe said.

Elgin (0-8, 0-5) at Batavia (7-1, 5-0)

Upstate Eight River

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last week: Batavia 47, St. Charles East 14; Streamwood 41, Elgin 30.

Last year: Batavia 49, Elgin 12.

Outlook: Batavia's senior night should not be disrupted. Elgin will be motivated to avoid its first winless season since 1935, according to Illinois High School Association records, but right now the Batavia defense is coming at teams in waves. "The defense has been fantastic the last couple weeks," Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron confirmed. Maroons three-year starting quarterback Ryan Sitter, facing a 35-8 halftime deficit against Streamwood, pulled out all the stops with 230 yards of passing -- 100 yards to 5-foot-8 wideout Johnny Higgins -- and 2 touchdowns plus his own 1-yard TD run. But another Elgin veteran, senior running back Jaylen Clemons, mustered a reported 26 yards on 12 carries against Streamwood. Sitter and Clemons are quality players, but Batavia linemen including Ryan Minniti, Dino Simoncelli, James Millette and the junior defensive end combo of Josh Leonhard and Noah Frazier have been overwhelming. The thing Piron likes about this game in particular is Elgin coach Kyle Rohde runs a base 5-2 defense and several option looks plus a play-action pass that the Bulldogs may see in the playoffs. "Elgin will get our very best week of preparation," Piron promised. Offensively, Batavia quarterback Micah Coffey and tailback Anthony Scaccia were each able to rest the second half after Coffey threw 3 touchdown passes and Scaccia scored 4 times. Receiver Jordan Zwart is becoming a larger part of the offense; he caught 3 passes last week for 74 yards. "The offense is getting into a groove," Piron said.

Kaneland (7-1, 3-1) at Morris (3-5, 1-3)

Northern Illinois Big 12 East

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Live video streaming: @football.dailyherald.com, followed by postgame highlights.

Last week: Sycamore 31, Kaneland 21; Morris 31, Rochelle 28.

Last year: Kaneland 33, Morris 30.

Outlook: After traditional heavy Morris graduated 21 of 22 listed starters from its 2012 Class 5A runner-up, NIB12 East teams were salivating at the thought of kicking the club while it was down. This included, perish the thought, a Week 5 loss to a Yorkville squad Kaneland beat 41-0. But the giant was reawakened last week, capitalizing on 5 Rochelle turnovers according to the Morris Daily Herald, to beat a good Hubs team. "They've been really improving over the course of the season, and they're playing pretty well right now," said Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly. Placed in the spoiler role for a change, there's nothing Alan Thorson's Morris team would like more than to knock the Knights from being a possible first-round playoff host. Running back Jake Walker, operating out of power-I, spread and full-house formations, will lead the way after he gained 215 yards and a touchdown against Rochelle. Kaneland middle linebacker Gary Koehring continues to make plays. He has 17 tackles for loss and 70 overall, 31 more than the Knights' second-leading tackler, defensive tackle Justin Diddell. Kaneland's focus will be Kaneland after Sycamore snapped the Knights' 35-game regular-season win streak. Not that it was foremost in Fedderly's thoughts. "The streak I want is in the playoffs," he said. Against Sycamore the Knights outgained the Spartans and controlled the ball more than 8 minutes longer but committed 14 penalties for 94 yards and committed 2 turnovers. "We did some thing that hurt ourselves that we've got to take care of. I hope it's motivation," Fedderly said.

Marmion (6-2, 4-2) at Walther Christian (2-6, 2-4)

Suburban Christian crossover

Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.

Last week: Aurora Central Catholic 13, Marmion 12; IC Catholic Prep 41, Walther Christian 12.

Last year: Marmion 49, Walther Lutheran 6.

Outlook: The question is, what did Marmion, at the time rated No. 6 in Class 6A, get out of losing to Aurora Central Catholic for the first time since 2007, snapping a three-game win streak over ACC? "It wakes us up, (shows us) that you're not invincible," said Marmion coach Dan Thorpe. "Do we use it as a reality check or does it drag us down even more?" Against Walther Christian, which has a scrambling quarterback with a live arm in David Walton and a good receiver-defensive end in Kurtis Duff but not as stiff a line as what either Marmion or ACC has, last week's loss may not have that much of an impact. Yet Thorpe still feels his offense has been too inconsistent throughout games, and the two late turnovers against in ACC territory foiled the Cadets' comeback chances, twice. The loss of offensive guard Andy Matthews two games ago, joining John Gauthier with a season-ending knee injury, has Thorpe and offensive line coach Jim Juriga working with center-guard combinations. Working in with left tackle Oscar Garza, left guard Zach Siwiec, right tackle Tim Clohecy and center-right guard Luke Juriga are juniors like Ben Freda and Gabe Groom. Defensively, against Walther, the lateral mobility of linebackers like Mike Montalbano and Sam Breen will be tested but should hold against Walton. If the line starts gelling, that's the key. "They have a lot of kids going both ways, so we've got to come out, take care of business and wear them down," Thorpe said.

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