Hampshire High School will honor two-time state champion football coach Ron Ellett during a ceremony before Friday's homecoming game against Crystal Lake South.
Considered the founding father of Hampshire football, Ellett was the program's first coach upon its inception in 1963-64. He led the Whip-Purs for 21 seasons through 1983-84 to a record of 124-68 (.644).
Ellett's career was highlighted by Class 1A state titles in 1976 and 1979 and a runner-up finish in 1978.
"He's the one who built this program," said Mike Brasile, the fourth coach in Hampshire history. "It's an honor for us to be able to recognize coach Ellett on the 40th anniversary of his first state championship."
Anyone who played for Ellett's Hampshire teams is invited to join their former coach on the field for the ceremony between games, when he will be presented with a plaque in recognition of his service to the school. Members of the 1976 state championship team also will be introduced.
New high water mark: West Aurora (5-0) continues to set school records in what is shaping up as one of the most successful seasons in program history.
Last week, the Blackhawks defeated defending Upstate Eight Valley champion South Elgin 50-40 to take sole possession of first place with division games remaining against West Chicago (1-4) and Bartlett (2-3).
In last week's victory, the offense set new single-game school records for rushing yards (558) and total yards (584). Six ball carriers contributed: DaVion Cross (15 carries, 183 yards, 3 touchdowns), DaQuan Cross (7-118-1), Nick Catalono (13-90-2), JaQuan Buchanan (7-85), Cionte Carter (9-58-1) and Trevon Tittle (3-24).
"Breaking school records here, that's special," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said of a football program established in 1895. "Three years ago we would have lost a back-and-forth game like this where a team keeps answering us. We hung in there and never gave up the lead."
Beating the Storm was a critical step for a program seeking its first conference title since 1983. The Blackhawks travel this Friday to Huntley (3-2) for a nonconference battle between 2015 Class 8A playoff participants.
The West Aurora offense faces, arguably, its best test of the season against a stout Huntley defensive front, led by Illinois-bound defensive end Lere Oladipo (18 tackles) and senior end Caleb Jones, the latter of whom leads the Red Raiders in tackles for loss (5) and sacks (4).
"Their defensive line is the best we've seen all year. I mean, holy moly," Eimer said.
However, the Huntley defensive line lost a key cog two weeks ago against Hampshire when Tyler Hartline (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) left with a knee injury. The senior is not expected to return this season, Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said. Hartline was averaging 1.8 tackles per game.
Senior Tony Bucaro (6-1, 200) and sophomore Alexander Pitrone (6-2, 270) are expected to help pick up the slack in Hartline's absence this week. "Tony can move around and his quickness helps us inside," Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said. "Andrew is a young kid with a big motor who is going to be great down the line. He may get a shot."
All good things ... : Batavia's 34-game Upstate Eight River winning streak came to an end last week in a 28-7 loss at league-leading St. Charles East (5-0, 3-0), but the Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1) didn't have time to dwell on the defeat with rival Geneva (2-3, 1-2) scheduled to drop by this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"It's pretty easy for the kids to get focused since we're playing Geneva," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "Getting them up for the game is a nonissue. It's a very important game for us. I talked to some kids who played other years and they said to tell the guys not to worry about (the streak) because the most important game is coming up. If they want to worry about winning any game this season, this is it. Our guys are pumped."
M*A*S*H: St. Edward (4-1, 0-1) lost more than just a football game last week when the Green Wave dropped a 49-3 Metro Suburban Blue decision to IC Catholic Prep, the top-ranked team in Class 3A.
St. Edward's already modest roster of 22 players took a hit due to a slew of injuries, most notably a fractured and sprained ankle for sophomore running back Angel Garcia, who also plays part time at middle linebacker. Garcia had carried the ball 61 times for 391 yards (6.4 avg.) and 4 touchdowns.
Also injured against IC and expected to miss at least this week's game against Fenton (2-3, 0-1) are leading receiver Saveon Smith (17 rec., 345 yards, 6 TD) and starting defensive end Brandon Broetjes (18 tackles).
Complicating matters further, another unnamed wide receiver broke a finger in practice this week but is expected to play Friday at Fenton (2-3), according to St. Edward coach Mike Rolando.
"We still have capable kids in there," Rolando said. "It's small-school football. We've played with less. We'll be fine. We're just not going to have the rest for our starters that they normally got when we had the perfect, delicate mix of players.
"We'll be fine, but we're going to be tested, that's for sure. I remember the days when we would have given our left pinkie to be 4-1 after five weeks. We're still in position to make the playoffs, but we need this game because we're going to need 6 wins to make it."
Win-come inequality: Through five weeks there is a growing separation between the haves and have nots in the Fox Valley Conference.
Prairie Ridge (5-0, 4-0) has already beaten second-place Cary-Grove (4-1, 4-1) and third-place Huntley (3-2, 3-2) to put a stranglehold on first place. None of the three has been challenged by another FVC team.
McHenry is 4-1 under first-year coach Nat Zunkel, but the Warriors were thrashed 42-14 by Cary-Grove in Week 2. They have yet to play Prairie Ridge and Huntley.
Thus, McHenry, Hampshire (3-2, 2-2), Jacobs (2-3, 2-3) and Crystal Lake Central (2-3, 1-3) will scramble to win enough games over the last four weeks to qualify for a playoff berth.
Crystal Lake South (1-4, 1-4) plays at Hampshire on Friday at 7 p.m.
"There's the big three in the FVC right now and there's everybody else," Hampshire coach Mike Brasile said. "It's a meat grinder trying to win games in this league. Even though Crystal Lake South is 1-4, they're still huge."
CL South coach Chuck Ahsmann, whose Gators defeated Dundee-Crown 35-34 last week for their first win of the season, agrees the difference between wins and losses is paper thin against teams in the middle of the FVC pack.
"It's a couple of plays here or there in every game," Ahsmann said. "Other than the Prairie Ridge loss, all our games were two or three plays here or there that changed the game."
Knight line: Kaneland (3-2, 1-1) suffered a setback in last week's 49-31 loss to league-leader DeKalb, which makes this week's game at Northern Illinois Big 12 East rival Sycamore (2-3, 0-1) pivotal to the Knights' playoff chances.
Kaneland's last 3 games are against Morris (4-1, 1-0) at Geneseo (4-1) and Ottawa (1-4).
Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said the Knights don't intend to look past the Spartans.
"We're pretty excited about the future, but each week is a big game," Fedderly said. "We can't be looking ahead because Sycamore is very well coached. It's going to be a grind. They have a really good running quarterback (Tyler Sulaver) who does a really good job with their scheme. They run lots of counters and iso plays with the quarterback."
Fedderly said his defensive lineman -- junior end Jacob Brown (6-2, 203), nose guard Drew Hahn (6-0, 245) and senior end Sam Suggs (6-1, 210) -- will be key to containing Sycamore's quarterback.
"They have to play well," Fedderly said. "It sets up our whole defense and lets our linebackers make plays."
Homecoming hope: The work to improve continues at Burlington Central (0-5, 0-2), which seeks its first win of the season in Friday's homecoming game against Kishwaukee River Conference foe Woodstock (3-2, 1-1).
First-year coach Brian Melvin has made some difficult personnel decisions in recent weeks in an effort to jump start an offense that has scored 27 points. Most notably, he reassigned a senior quarterback and started mobile sophomore Johnny DiCostanzo under center in Week 3.
"It's been rocky, but our kids remain motivated to do anything that changes this program around, so much so that it inspires us as coaches every day," Melvin said. "The kids want (a win) more than I do. They had a great week of practice.
"We're the biggest school in this new conference so there's no reason we can't be successful year in and year out. Our sophomores are 4-1 using our system and we have teams coming up through the seventh- and eighth-grade levels that haven't lost a game in years. We're going to rebuild this program and this is going to be a distant memory. Hopefully, this week will be an important step in that building process."
Westminster on track: Westminster Christian (4-1, 4-1) faces a difficult challenge Friday at Northeastern Athletic Conference co-leader Ottawa-Marquette (5-0, 4-0), but the Warriors are in good position to make their second straight playoff berth whether they prevail or not. They are 0-3 against the Crusaders, who won last year's meeting 41-7.
Senior Xavier Brown, who led the team in rushing a year ago, is concentrating more on defense this year and leads the team in tackles as a middle linebacker. But the offense still has firepower in quarterback Tannor Park and senior wide receiver/cornerback Scott Graziano.
Park has completed 28 of 40 passes for 722 yards and 13 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions. His top target has been Graziano, a three-time all-NAC selection. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior has 14 receptions for 470 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averages 33.6 yards per catch.
"Some of the plays he's making are truly unbelievable," Westminster Christian coach John Davis said. "He's just a bigger, stronger, faster version of what he's always been, which has been a coachable player with a nose for the ball who makes plays. Scotty has always been a playmaker."
The quote: "It's cool to see our kids competing all the way to the end. It's night and day compared to how we were a few years ago." -- third-year Larkin coach Dragan Teonic on Nate Kohler's blocked punt for a touchdown with 2.9 seconds left that lifted Larkin (3-2, 1-1) to a 27-24 win at Geneva.