Let's deal with the elephant in the stadium.
There's no avoiding the storyline of Naperville Central junior quarterback Payton Thorne and senior receiver Jayden Reed facing their former Metea Valley teammates in Friday's DuPage Valley Conference football matchup.
As much as both sides would like to move past the uniform switch, the emotions remain. The duo's summer transfer to the Redhawks is still a talking point.
"I don't know why we have to give it so much continued attention," said Metea Valley coach Ben Kleinhans. "There's some built-in motivation with our kids with that. We have to make sure that we don't become consumed by emotion because that doesn't win any football games. It's about execution and playing good football against a real good football team."
Thorne and Reed made a seamless transition from Metea Valley to Naperville Central. In two games Thorne has completed 71 percent of his passes for 454 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. Reed leads the Redhawks with 15 catches, including 11 last week, for 236 yards and a touchdown.
Emotions or not, they'll be an obvious focal point for Metea Valley's defense.
"There will be different emotions on both sides, probably more on their side," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "And I understand that. We've talked about it with our kids, but we're not dwelling on it."
The Illinois High School Football Coaches Association, in a move supported by the Illinois High School Association, is looking for Illinois football programs to support those in Texas that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
A pair of IHSFCA Hall of Fame inductees, former Lake Park coach Bob Monken and Rochelle coach and IHSFCA President Kevin Crandall, are spearheading a program asking schools to designate a September football game to provide "athletic relief" for Harvey victims. The men have contacted the Texas High School Football Coaches Association, which will direct the funds as needed.
As Monken stated in the IHSFCA release, "This is a way we can help other players who lost their schools, their uniforms and maybe their season."
Questions can be directed to Monken at (630) 653-0856 or Crandall at (815) 561-3503. Donations are to be sent to IHSFCA Harvey Relief Fund, P.O. Box 5353, Peoria, IL 61601-5353.
Reversal of fortune:
The last two years Willowbrook entered the final week of the regular season with a chance to claim at least a share of the West Suburban Gold title.
Both years the Warriors faced Leyden, and both years they lost to the Eagles.
This season the WSC schedule rotated, meaning the final game of 2016 moved up to the first Gold game of 2017. Even though it's only the league opener, Willowbrook knows what the last two Leyden games cost the Warriors.
"If our guys can't get up for this, they're playing the wrong sport," said Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth. "We want to get off to a good start in the conference."
After splitting its first two games -- a 42-0 win over Grayslake North and a 27-21 loss to Hinsdale Central -- Willowbrook enters Gold play with hopes of winning its first conference title since 1982.
Beating the defending Gold champion in the opener would be a great start with Addison Trail and Hinsdale South looming the following two weeks.
"It'll be interesting to see our growth and how we've improved," Hildreth said. "It's a big stretch for us."
Johnny Always Wins:
Before kickoff of Montini's varsity game against Fenwick on Friday in Lombard, there'll be a midfield ceremony recognizing the late Johnathan "Johnny" Weiger, a former Broncos student and football player.
As a freshman lineman in 2011 Weiger was diagnosed with leukemia. After chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a bone-marrow transplant the leukemia was cured. However, as explained on a Montini website article, he then developed thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a blood disorder that hospitalized him for more than the first two months of his sophomore year. Weiger died on Nov. 4, 2012.
His plight and passing deeply affected his teammates, coaches, classmates and the entire Montini community. Armed with their memories, the slogan "Johnny Always Wins" helped inspire Montini toward a fourth straight Class 5A championship weeks after his demise.
This Friday the Broncos will break out their gray uniform tops with orange numerals, orange the color symbolizing leukemia awareness. Montini helmets have a sticker on the back -- an orange "76," Weiger's uniform number.
Quickly following Weiger's death the school established the Johnathan Weiger '15 Memorial Scholarship Fund, which benefits an incoming freshman. In 2013 it began an annual onfield salute, like this Friday's, when a current Broncos football player is presented the Johnny Weiger Memorial Football Award based on spirit, character, faith and sportsmanship. Previous recipients are Alex Melarkey, Sam Asta, Sam Detmers and last year's honoree, Brendan Rauen.
For the second straight week Wheaton Warrenville South allowed a crushing touchdown just before halftime. It didn't mean the difference between winning and losing, but it sure didn't help.
"Both weeks we've been in control and then lost the momentum going into the half," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "It'd be nice if we could get some positive momentum for a change."
In Week 1 the Tigers surrendered a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. Last week Lake Park got the ball with less than four minutes to play and drove 65 yards for a touchdown.
In one case a 7-0 lead became 7-7, and in the other a 14-0 lead was sliced to 14-7. Both games ended in a loss.
It's a trend the Tigers know they need to reverse.
"We're close," Muhitch said. "We just need some plays to go our way."
Difference a decade makes:
Westmont last started out 2-0 in 2007 when the Sentinels came out beating Peotone and Lisle.
Westmont's Week 1 victory, 19-6 over Lake View, and last week's 40-6 win over Chicago Tech won't set anyone's hair afire, but first-year coach Dan Woulfe felt good vibes -- "an expectation of winning."
"It's knowing you prepared, and having the confidence that you could play with someone," said Woulfe, who readied his team the past two weeks despite having a grand total of one two-minute Chicago Tech video to scout.
The former Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley assistant said Westmont's offensive line of Chris Doll, John Karesh, Tanner Plowman, Ivan Guzman and Dustin Samoulis was "absolutely" a positive in leading a 204-yard rushing effort against Chicago Tech.
Adversity will come down hard Friday at Wilmington, which has won 45 straight games against Interstate Eight Small opponents, sweeping to nine straight titles. From here on in confidence, and Westmont's ability to control the clock, will be most essential.
"We're in a fight for the rest of the season," Woulfe said.
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