Honestly, this column is a blast to write.
There's so much to talk about with DuPage County football, I'm never struggling for content. But then there are weeks like this. Weeks where it's not as much fun.
This week's Eyes on Five column looks at some tough news for one of DuPage County's true champions.
1. All the best:
Eyes on Five sends its best to IC Catholic Prep's Luke Ricobene, whose season came to an end with a knee injury suffered in last week's 26-23 loss to St. Laurence.
Fellow Daily Herald prep football writer Dave Oberhelman confirmed the news with Knights coach Bill Krefft, who leaned on his senior quarterback in each of Ricobene's four varsity seasons.
"Obviously you can't replace Luke," Krefft said. "He's the best quarterback I've ever coached."
It's tough to overstate the impact Ricobene had on IC Catholic Prep's program. He started every game since his freshman year -- 36 of 38 games at quarterback, and the other two he started at cornerback his freshman year.
Ricobene threw for 6,071 yards and rushed for 1,038 yards, accounting for a total of 82 touchdowns.
Most important, though, was Ricobene's leadership and desire to win. Along with graduated all-state running back Jordan Rowell, Ricobene powered the Knights to the Class 3A semifinals as a junior before romping to a 14-0 record and a 3A title last season.
Krefft is correct. You can't replace Luke.
The Knights will move on confidently with talented junior Khalil Saunders behind center. The playbook won't change, and neither will the goal of another state title.
What does change, though, is Ricobene's role.
"Priority No. 1, we have a new member of our coaching staff," Krefft said. "(Ricobene's) going to learn to coach. He still is the leader of our team. He'll still be doing that from a different spot on the field."
2. Silver and Gold:
The West Suburban Conference last weekend continued its tradition of playing Week 2 crossover games between the seven teams in the Silver and Gold divisions. A second crossover -- the natural rivalry game -- spreads throughout the final seven weeks with one team a week from each division playing each other.
While the natural rivalry game remains popular, some WSC coaches question the usefulness of the Week 2 crossovers. Simply put, it could cost teams a playoff berth.
In 2015 Willowbrook was one of 10 statewide football teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs despite having a 5-4 record. The reason was because the Warriors had a low number of playoff points, a strength-of-schedule statistic representing the total number of wins by the opponents on your schedule. It's used as a tiebreaker when deciding 5-4 qualifiers.
One of the Week 2 crossovers that season was York vs. Leyden. Willowbrook played both teams, meaning the Warriors could only get 1 playoff point from that York-Leyden game. Had the two teams played Week 2 games outside the conference, they both could have won and gained Willowbrook 2 playoff points.
As it turned out, the extra playoff point wouldn't have made a difference for Willowbrook. But what if it did mean the difference between qualifying and staying at home for the playoffs?
Getting rid of the Week 2 crossover is on the WSC's radar. The WSC has the option of crossing over with another conference, or the 14 teams could seek out their own nonconference games.
Either way, it opens up interesting scheduling opportunities.
3. Numbers game:
You could see it coming in Week 1 when Bowen forfeited to Fenwick and Dunbar did the same to Nazareth. Chicago Public School football is beginning to fade away.
Nearly a dozen Chicago schools have canceled their football seasons due to dwindling participation numbers. What remains to be seen is if it's a sign of lagging interest in the city or a general sign of the times.
As we've talked about for a while now, participation numbers are shrinking everywhere.
North Shore Country Day in Winnetka competed in football for nearly 100 years. Due to decreasing numbers the school played eight-man football the last couple of years, and last summer the administration decided to end the football program.
Westminster Christian in Elgin, a program started in 2013, shifted to eight-man football this season. After struggling with 19 players last season, numbers dipped to 13 this year.
Before the season even began, though, three games were dropped from the schedule because of -- you guessed it -- opponents dropping their programs.
Again, it's a storyline we'll continue to monitor.
4. Walking wounded:
Dave Oberhelman and I filmed a video at Glenbard East last week, and we were stunned when told the number of Rams coaches who were dealing with various surgical situations.
One assistant coach had double knee replacement, another had a hip replacement. One even had a heart transplant.
On Saturday I went to Glenbard West's game, where I saw one assistant coach on crutches and another with a sling on his arm from recent surgery.
It seems like old football injuries are starting to take their toll on coaching staffs throughout the county.
Be careful out there, folks!
5. Stat time:
Time for a shameless stat plug.
This Friday the Daily Herald will begin publishing football stats in our DuPage County edition. You'll see county leaders in rushing, passing, receiving, scoring, etc., every Friday between now and the end of the season.
It's something you won't find anywhere else, and you won't find it online. Be sure to pick up a copy of Friday's newspaper!
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