Lisle football has a simple credo.
"The expectation of our players and our community is for us to play well on Friday night," said Lions coach Paul Parpet Sr., who came in with this senior class. He'd cemented an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame resume over 29 seasons at Addison Trail.
Depending on how well Lisle plays the next two Fridays it could achieve something not seen in decades. Lisle's last conference football title came in 1981 in the since-disbanded Northeast Conference. It joined the Interstate Eight in 1991.
Lisle (3-1, 2-0) enters Friday's game against 1-1 Peotone at Benedictine University tied with Wilmington atop the IEC Small standings. On Sept. 29 Lisle visits Wilmington, winner of 47 straight IEC Small games and the past nine conference titles.
Lions quarterback Jay McGrath and tight end-wingback Cameron Stitt had career days in last week's 28-6 win over Reed-Custer. McGrath passed for 250 yards and Stitt caught 5 passes for 163 yards with a 54-yard touchdown grab.
But the Lions pride themselves on defense.
"Our goal is to be in the top five defenses in DuPage County," Parpet said. "That's not me talking, that's the kids."
Lisle allowed 346 yards in its opening win over Sandwich but just 442 yards since. Stitt, a linebacker, and defensive end Ben Laning helped hold Reed-Custer to 2 first-half rushing yards. Lisle limited Seneca to minus-4 yards passing and allowed Coal City 4 yards rushing in Lisle's sole loss on a 61-yard touchdown pass in the last 15 seconds.
When Parpet surprisingly landed at Lisle his emphasis was simple -- for his players to have fun and provide "quality, consistent performances." Epitomized by all-conference offensive tackle Jeff Marach, who hasn't missed a varsity practice or game in three years, that hasn't changed.
"When we take the field on Friday night we expect to have a quality performance," Parpet said.
After Naperville North pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 18-point victory in Week 3, Wheaton North last Friday watched Metea Valley break out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. An interception on the Falcons' first possession and a bad punt snap on their second possession turned into Mustangs touchdowns.
"It was definitely a bad start," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski. "We tried not to get too worked up on the sideline. The kids didn't panic, and that was good to see."
The start was similar to last season when the Falcons were 2-0 before losing back-to-back games to Naperville North and the Mustangs. It was a stretch that eventually cost Wheaton North a playoff berth.
This time, however, Wheaton North held Metea Valley scoreless the rest of the game and rolled to a 36-14 victory. Sam Singleton's 72-yard touchdown run and a safety on a bad punt snap flipped the momentum in the Falcons' favor.
"That turned the tide," Wardynski said. "We needed a big play."
Chevy and Cam:
Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said the Wildcats are starting to play faster, and that's a scary thought.
A key has been figuring out how to get the best out of running backs Will "Chevy" Chevalier and Cameron Raupach. Headed by Raupach's 195 yards rushing and Chevalier's 89 yards receiving, the duo combined for 332 all-purpose yards in the Wildcats' 35-14 win over Wheaton Warrenville South.
"It definitely gives us a nice 1-2 punch with the two of them back there, and also allows us to spread them out if we need to and put them in the passing game," Ellinghaus said.
Another key to game speed is the all-new offensive line of Jake Bruner, Alex Waldinger, Austin Mesnard, Chaz LaPoint and Ken Shultz.
"Our offensive line probably has been our most-improved unit since the start of the season," Ellinghaus said.
Receiving loud and clear:
When Western Michigan-bound senior Jayden Reed transferred from Metea Valley to Naperville Central in the off-season, Redhawks coach Mike Stine knew there'd be a positive trickle-down effect.
Reed is the obvious top target for junior quarterback Payton Thorne, who also transferred from Metea Valley. In four games Reed has caught 30 passes for 477 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Tommy Coyne is the next leading receiver with 16 catches, but several others have stepped up. In last week's comeback win over Waubonsie Valley, Ethan Allgauer had 4 catches for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns including the game-winning grab in the final minute.
With Cade McDonald, Jared Suchevits and Riley Keltner, Thorne has no trouble finding quality receivers. It all starts with Reed, but the depth of talent makes the offense that much more effective.
"We've got four, five, six guys who make catches for us," Stine said. "Payton knows how to spread it around. He's smart enough to go to the No. 2 and No. 3 receiver out there."
Another heart broken:
How much heartbreak can one team take? Lake Park doesn't want to find out.
For the second straight week the Lancers suffered a loss that came down to the game's final minute.
In Week 3 DeKalb beat the Lancers 20-17 on a 33-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left. Last week Naperville North beat Lake Park 21-14 after an 82-yard drive led to the game-winning touchdown and 2-point conversion with 23 seconds left.
Needless to say, it hasn't been an easy time for the Lancers.
"It's hard right now but we're holding it together," said Lancers coach Chris Roll. "We just let them off the ropes at the end."
Lake Park faces Wheaton North on Friday in a game that'll be critical for the Lancers' playoff hopes. Last season's loss to the Falcons came in the midst of a six-game losing streak the Lancers aim to avoid this year.
"You either overcome it and use it as fuel, or you get worn down by it," Roll said.
Glenbard East may not have a victory, but coach John Walters sees a championship attitude.
Visiting 3-1 St. Charles North on Friday in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover, the winless Rams' first five opponents boast a cumulative record of 16-4.
"They've stuck together," Walters said. "Our record's our record."
And his players can electrify. Starting in place of injured quarterback Bret Bushka, last week senior Jared Rech completed 27 of 43 passes for 408 yards in a 26-20 loss at unbeaten West Aurora -- which came in having scored 133 points and allowing 3.
Glenbard East receivers Kenny Adams, Jeremy Johnson and Matt Shockey each caught at least 8 passes for 128 yards.
To Walters it's clear that Glenbard East, captained by Bushka, linebackers Jack Baka and Alec Wolff, offensive lineman Jack Crackel and defensive back Kevin Saxon, is keeping the faith.
"Our guys are working hard and swinging away. They want to find a way to win a football game. It's an awesome experience for me," Walters said.
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