The midpoint of football season doesn't hit Eyes on Five until Week 7.
It's a standing policy. That's because we always expect a Week 14 state title game appearance from our teams.
Regardless, this is a pivotal moment for Eyes on Five as we pass the middle of the regular season.
1. End of an era:
I can't believe I'm writing this but ... are we about to witness the final football game between Naperville Central and Wheaton Warrenville South?
They play Friday in Naperville in their last DuPage Valley Conference matchup before WW South joins Glenbard North, Lake Park and Wheaton North to form the DuKane Conference next school year. They won't meet in the playoffs because they're in different classes, and there are no plans for a nonconference meeting in the near future.
Is this the end of one of the state's greatest rivalries? Depends on whom you ask.
"We'd play them in a heartbeat in a nonconference game, and that offer is always there for any of those four teams," said Naperville Central coach Mike Stine. "In a few years I guess it's possible."
Given the emotions regarding the breakup of the DVC, it's difficult to say when any of the rivalries might be renewed. Next year Metea Valley is the only one of the five remaining DVC teams scheduled to play anyone in the DKC. The Mustangs play Lake Park and WW South.
As for Naperville Central and WW South, it's a sad goodbye.
They've won more DVC football titles than any other teams, and they've met four times in the playoffs, including a 22-21 win by the Tigers in the 1995 Class 6A title game.
Please. Let's hope this isn't the last game.
"We were two of the schools that put DVC football on the map," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "I've always felt it was a very respectful relationship between the players and coaches."
2. Sign of the times:
Because of -- what else -- shrinking participation numbers, next season the East Suburban Catholic Conference will shift football levels. Instead of its current arrangement of playing at the freshman, sophomore and varsity levels, next year it'll compete at freshman, junior varsity and varsity.
By replacing the sophomore level with junior varsity, it allows flexibility depending on where the numbers are in different classes. A small sophomore class and large junior class might be a common JV mix, for example.
The days of six-level football will become more and more rare. Naperville Central's sophomore B team wound up in such need for a game last week that it played Buffalo Grove's junior varsity team.
Such is life for modern-day prep football.
3. No contact leagues:
In the name of improving player safety, the IHSA Board of Directors in 2015 approved rules to limit practice contact during the football season. It's a trend that continues to grow.
Last season the Ivy League eliminated full-contact tackling in practice, and last week the Canadian Football League did the same. Time will tell if it decreases the number of injuries, but the mission now is to coach proper technique without contact.
I discussed this with former Glenbard West, University of Iowa and National Football League player Matt Bowen, who is an assistant coach at IC Catholic Prep and an NFL analyst for ESPN. He believes there are multiple ways to teach technique in simulations that don't involve contact.
It starts in summer camp, he said, and must continue throughout the season. Teaching sound technique is critical, whether it's with tackling sleds or live drills that stop short of bringing another player to the ground.
If less contact in practice helps keep the game he loves safer, Bowen is all for it.
"The awareness is so much better with player safety than when I played," Bowen said. "When I had concussions, it was because I didn't tackle properly. I'm just being honest. If we can enforce better techniques and core fundamentals, I think it will definitely help."
4. Interstate Eight debate:
Another shoe is about to drop in the statewide game of conference roulette.
This time it's in the Interstate Eight Conference, where Seneca will depart at the end of this school year to shrink the league to 11 members. In August eight of those 11 gave notification they'll be leaving the IEC at the end of next school year, leaving behind Westmont, Plano and Sandwich.
Nothing is etched in stone, but it's likely that some or all of the departing group -- Lisle, Coal City, Herscher, Manteno, Peotone, Reed-Custer, Streator and Wilmington -- will wind up in another conference together.
It's a shame to see the IEC's unique grouping of smaller northeastern Illinois schools break up. If Westmont, with an enrollment of 448, can't be in the IEC, what are the other options?
The Sentinels might find a home in the Metro Suburban Conference, but the five public schools in the MSC are all at least twice as large as Westmont.
Definitely a shame for the IEC but, given the climate of conference shuffling, not a surprise.
5. Stat time:
According to retired Lake Park assistant coach Dean Bladel, Lancers senior Zach Deardorff set a program record in Friday's 21-14 DuPage Valley Conference loss to Naperville North.
Deardorff kicked a 50-yard field goal, breaking the previous program record of a 48-yarder booted by Ted Brinkman in 1970.
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