Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/12/2017 5:58 PM

Looking both ways before spotting early-season trends

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  • Glenbard West's Ryan Diver, left, runs for first half yardage past Maine South's Rory Hayes.

      Glenbard West's Ryan Diver, left, runs for first half yardage past Maine South's Rory Hayes.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Drake Davis, Naperville North varsity football quarterback player during practice on August 14, 2017.

      Drake Davis, Naperville North varsity football quarterback player during practice on August 14, 2017.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer


First game, we get our feet wet.

Second game we adjust to those wet feet.

Third game? That's enough of a sample size to gain a sense of what we can expect this football season.

This week's edition of Eyes on Five looks at the first third of another fascinating football campaign in DuPage County.

1. Double duty:

Nearly every coach I talked to in the preseason mentioned the looming need to have their top athletes play on both sides of the ball.

Blame it on shrinking rosters.

Even the holdouts hoping to two-platoon found out quickly the best players must be on the field as much as possible. Luckily for the coaches, the top players typically never want to leave the field anyway.

Glenbard West is one of the more prominent area teams starting to rely on two-way play. So far, it's made a big difference.

The Hilltoppers surrendered 62 points in a Week 1 loss to Maine South and, in response, they added defensive duties for some of their offensive standouts to bolster a young lineup working in three sophomores and some juniors.

Between running back Ryan Diver, receiver Alec Pierce and tight end Sam Fenske, it looks like the defense has stabilized. Diver is strong in the run game, Pierce knocks down passes and pressures as an edge rusher, and Fenske does a little bit of everything -- including 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and 8 tackles from the line last week.

In an ideal world two-platoon football would remain the norm. Teams like Glenbard West, though, are making the best of a situation that's getting tougher.

2. Combos:

The two highest-profile transfers heading into the season have made huge impacts on their respective teams. Naperville Central junior Payton Thorne, from Metea Valley, and Naperville North senior Drake Davis, from Bureau Valley, both quarterback 3-0 teams.

While Thorne has completed 71 percent of his passes for 628 yards, 8 touchdowns and no interceptions, Davis has thrown for 942 yards and 13 touchdowns. They've been terrific, and so have their targets.

Naperville North's Nick Calcagno and Ryan Laurenzo have combined for 42 catches. The Redhawks' Jayden Reed, another Metea Valley transfer, and Tommy Coyne have 31 catches.

There are no better passing combinations in the area, which should make for an interesting cross-town matchup in Week 7. Especially if both remain unbeaten.

3. Drought busters:

Five DuPage County programs came into the season with a playoff drought of at least five years. Will any of them break it?

Time will tell, but each team has work to do.

Lake Park (last playoff appearance in 2009) and Westmont (2006) are 2-1 and coming off their first loss of the season. Getting to five wins is more realistic than six, although Lake Park has a better chance of qualifying with five wins based on playoff points.

Four of Lake Park's final six opponents have winning records. The Sentinels face only three teams with winning records. Each has a decent shot at qualifying.

West Chicago is an interesting case at 1-2. While the Wildcats play unbeaten South Elgin and West Aurora back to back in Weeks 6 and 7, there's still a margin for qualification the last two weeks against winless teams. This week's Larkin (1-2) game is pivotal.

Even if the Wildcats finish at 5-4, though, a lack of playoff points might be an issue.

The other two teams trying to break a drought -- Glenbard East (1999) and York (2011) -- may have to wait another year. Each is winless with tough games ahead.

4. Week 10:

So how many of DuPage County's 28 football teams will qualify for the playoffs?

Based on my not-so-scientific projections, I've got 14 teams making it to Week 10. A lot of variables figure into the field, not the least of which is a six-week span where anything can happen.

I've got to think our last two unbeatens -- Naperville Central and Naperville North -- will make the playoffs, along with a bunch of current 2-1 teams like Benet, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, IC Catholic Prep and Neuqua Valley.

The interesting thing to watch will be the playoff points for some 2-1 teams. If they finish with five victories, will they have enough points to qualify?

Then I look at the DuPage Valley Conference and wonder how many teams will qualify. Specifically, will preseason contenders Glenbard North and Waubonsie Valley rally to overcome their 1-2 starts?

As we say here often, stay tuned.

5. Stat time:

The Metro Suburban Conference is in its fourth season of playing Week 3 and Week 4 crossover games between the (now) Blue and Red divisions. As usual, last week the Blue got the better of the Red.

The Blue Division has a 37-5 advantage in seven crossover weeks since the series began in 2014. Last week, for the second time, the Blue went 6-0 against the Red.

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