A practice countdown hangs in a Batavia High School hallway for all the Bulldogs to see.
The five sheets of paper serve as a stark reminder to the finality of November football. The first reads "5 playoff practices left," followed by Monday's date for postseason practice No. 11.
The second reads "4 playoff practices left," followed by Tuesday's date for postseason practice No. 12.
And so it goes. An X is drawn through each sheet of paper after that day's practice is complete.
Friday's sheet reads "Last practice of the year? Want more, go earn them."
"One more week. That's our motto," Batavia junior linebacker Luke Weerts said. "We're just happy for one more week."
The Bulldogs earned one more week of playoff football with last Saturday's 20-17 overtime win over Wheaton North. It bought them five more practices together and a quarterfinal date at No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (9-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Batavia makes its fourth quarterfinal appearance in seven seasons under coach Dennis Piron (70-11), who spread the credit for Saturday's hard-fought win among players and staff.
However, Piron reserved an extra attaboy for quarterback Riley Cooper, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior who threw 2 clutch touchdown passes last week. Not only did he tie the game with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tom Stuttle on fourth-and-13, he threw a walk-off, 8-yard pass to Eric Peterson in overtime.
"Really good job by him," Piron said after Cooper completed 10 of 15 passes for 110 yards and 3 touchdowns. "He's a (heck of a) player and he doesn't look like a high school quarterback. He looks like he should be captain of our chess team here at Batavia High School, but I'm telling you that's a tough, tough dude. Smart. Confident."
Cooper deflected the credit for Saturday's win to other pieces on Batavia's chess board.
"The biggest thing was our defense," the quarterback said of a unit that held Wheaton North to an overtime field goal. "Our defense stepped up when it mattered. They gave us a chance and then we gave it right back to them. It's a full team effort."
Year of the (rushing) quarterback: Prairie Ridge senior Samson Evans' game-winning, 66-yard touchdown run to defeat host Cary-Grove 17-13 in the final seconds last Saturday epitomized a season-long trend.
Like in college football, athletic, mobile quarterbacks have become more common at the high school level as the run/pass option becomes more widely used.
Evans, a triple-option quarterback committed to Iowa, is a special athlete who has rushed for 1,300 yards and 26 touchdowns on 138 carries (9.6 avg.) However, he's not the area's only sure-footed quarterback.
In 10 games, South Elgin senior Nate Gomez rushed for 1,249 yards and 18 touchdowns in 189 attempts. (6.6 avg.).
Also in 10 games, Huntley senior Eric Mooney carried 141 times for 1,125 yards and 19 touchdowns (8.0 avg.).
Another dynamic rusher was St. Charles East senior quarterback Clayton Isbell. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior was slowed by a high-ankle sprain for several weeks but still managed to rush for 675 yards and 8 touchdowns in 87 touches, an average of 7.8 yards per carry.
Don't turn in your pads quite yet: Marmion was knocked out of the Class 6A playoffs by Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin last Saturday, but football season isn't over just yet in Aurora.
For the first time since the Cadets joined the Chicago Catholic League in 2014-15, they have been invited to join the Chicago Prep Bowl playoffs. The Cadets were made aware of the invitation three weeks ago, coach Dan Thorpe said.
Marmion (6-5) will face St. Ignatius (8-3) on the synthetic turf at Mooseheart on Friday at 7 p.m. in a CCL semifinal. St. Ignatius defeated De La Salle 10-7 last week to advance.
If the Cadets find a way to solve the Wolfpack triple-option attack, they will advance to the CCL championship game at Fenwick next Friday. The winner of that game faces the Chicago Public League champion in the Prep Bowl at Soldier Field the day after Thanksgiving.
"How lucky are we that we get to put the shoulder pads on another week?" Thorpe said Wednesday. "We talked about it three, four weeks ago and we said we want to play Thanksgiving weekend no matter what, whether it be in the IHSA playoffs or in the Prep Bowl. We're hoping Friday night will bring us a nice crowd because people are looking for a high school football game."