Burlington Central (6-2, 3-1) at Marengo (4-4, 2-2)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Rod Poppe Fields
Last year: Burlington Central 57, Marengo 0
Last week: Burlington Central 49, North Boone 7; Marengo 40, Genoa-Kingston 17
Outlook: Each team has much to play for in this Big Northern Conference East Division finale. Coach Matt Lynch has the Indians one victory away from qualifying for playoff consideration for the first time since 2004. Marengo has 33 playoff points and would likely gain a bid with a fifth victory. Coach Rich Crabel has the Rockets playoff-bound for the first time since 2007, but they'd like a higher seed. A seventh victory combined with 37 or 38 projected playoff points could well be enough to land Central a first-round home game in Class 5A. "That's been our goal," Crabel said. "We hope to have a chance to bring that kind of excitement to Rocket Hill." The Rockets have won 6 straight in this series. Central running back Joel Bouagnon surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau last week. The junior has gained 1,036 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 135 carries (7.7 avg.). Junior quarterback Ryan Ritchie also topped 1,000 yards last week. Ritchie has completed 75 of 141 attempts for 1,002 yards. He has thrown 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Central will play without starting center Dan DeLoncker (5-11, 270) due to a knee strain. He could return for the playoff opener, Crabel said.
Hampshire (1-7, 1-4) at Crystal Lake Central (5-3, 4-1)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Owen Metcalf Field
Last week: Woodstock North 34, Hampshire 12; Crystal Lake Central 40, Johnsburg 0
Outlook: This is a crucial game for Crystal Lake Central. With a win the Tigers can clinch a playoff berth and tie Grayslake Central for a share of the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division title. Woodstock North can also claim a share of the Fox Division crown with a win at Grayslake North. The Whip-Purs need a win to avoid a second straight 1-8 season. Though this young team didn't fare well against a brutal early schedule Hampshire's first five opponents own a combined record of 27-8 the players have remained focused in an effort to improve. "They've practiced hard and played hard all year," Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said of his team. "We're going to go out and give it our best shot and have some fun and see what happens. That's the way we've approached the entire season." Hampshire has talent in the pipeline. The sophomore team can win the Fox Division title outright with a victory. That team lost only to Cary-Grove. The Hampshire freshman team is .500.
Cary-Grove (6-2, 3-2) at Prairie Ridge (8-0, 5-0)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Prairie Ridge Athletic Field
Last meeting (2009): Cary-Grove 40, Prairie Ridge 7, Class 6A semifinal
Last week: Cary-Grove 49, Dundee-Crown 0; Prairie Ridge 55, McHenry 19
Outlook: The Trojans are the only team standing between Prairie Ridge and an undefeated regular season. Meanwhile, Cary-Grove is only a break or two away from being undefeated itself. The Wolves, tied for the No. 1 ranking in this week's Class 6A Associated Press poll, can seal their first title in the Valley Division of the Fox Valley Conference with a win over the Trojans, ranked No. 10 in Class 6A. A Cary-Grove victory would allow Crystal Lake South to grab a share of its second straight Valley title.
Cary-Grove has qualified for the playoffs for the eighth straight year. The Trojans have rushed for 2,411 yards in the triple option offense, however, they've thrown for only 303 yards in 42 pass attempts. Is the offense diverse enough to challenge the stingy Wolves? "We'll have to be diverse enough," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "That's something we've really worked on. We really do have to be more effective when we do throw the ball." The passing game got a lift recently from the insertion of former quarterback Corey Laktas as the X receiver. The senior has 3 catches for 82 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown last week from junior Quinn Baker. Seaburg said Laktas' blocking is improving daily, which is the X receiver's No. 1 assignment in the option scheme.
Huntley (2-6, 1-4) at McHenry (3-5, 1-4)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at McCracken Field
Last year: Huntley 43, McHenry 13
Last week: Huntley 49, Woodstock 7; Prairie Ridge 55, McHenry 19
Outlook: The Red Raiders played their most complete game of the season last week. They'll try to finish the season on a high note by notching their first 2-game win streak of the season. "McHenry is always a pretty aggressive team," Huntley coach Matt Gehrig said. "They are particularly aggressive on special teams, so we'll have to make sure we're sound there. Both teams are looking to finish strong. I think we've shown that somewhat recently." The Warriors' spread offense is led by senior Robert Tonyan, who this week committed to I-AA Indiana State. Tonyan has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards. Huntley running back Ethan Connor rushed for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns last week on 18 carries, which elevated his season total to 592 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns.
Grayslake Central (7-1) at Crystal Lake South (7-1)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Ken Bruhn Field
Last year: Crystal Lake South 34, Grayslake Central 3
Last week: Crystal Lake South 21, Jacobs 6; Grayslake Central 44, Grayslake North 34
Outlook: The Gators don't get any breaks from the schedule maker, evidenced by this tough Fox Valley Conference crossover. The Rams have already clinched a share of the Fox Division title, though Woodstock North and Crystal Lake Central can each gain a share of the title with victories tonight. CL South still holds out hope for a title of its own. The Gators can celebrate a FVC Valley split championship if Cary-Grove upsets division leader Prairie Ridge. Regardless of what happens elsewhere, the Gators want to take care of business and improve their playoff seed in Class 7A. They enter this game ranked No. 6 in Class 7A. "We've got to take care of ourselves and play one game at a time," said CL South coach Chuck Ahsmann, whose team has stretched its area-best streak of consecutive playoff appearances to 11. "We could be a No. 2 seed if the IHSA splits us into two groups of eight, but who knows. Just when you think you have the IHSA figured out, they send you east-west instead of north-south." The Gators allow only 50 yards rushing per game. That total will be tested by Joel Valdivia and the Rams. Grayslake Central averages 186 yards rushing per game, led by Valdivia. He has 1,144 yards rushing, 383 yards receiving and 22 total touchdowns. The senior set single-game school records last week for rushing yards (381) and touchdowns (6).
Dundee-Crown (0-8, 0-5) at Jacobs (6-2, 3-2)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Jacobs Athletic Field
Last year: Jacobs 41, Dundee-Crown 0
Last week: CL South 21, Jacobs 6; C-G 49, D-C 0
Outlook: Jacobs has won eight straight against their District 300 rivals, though the Chargers still hold a 16-12 lead in the all-time series. The Golden Eagles are likely to make it nine in a row over the Chargers, who have lost 25 straight contests overall. Expect Jacobs to put points on the board early and often. The Golden Eagles boast the area's most prolific offense at 383 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Chargers allow 380 yards per game, the most of any team in the Fox Valley coverage area. D-C started eight sophomores on defense last week. "That's a good thing," Chargers coach Vito Andriola said. "Mentally, these guys aren't sophomores anymore." Jacobs wants another win to improve its seed when the Class 7A pairings are announced Saturday night. The Golden Eagles have reached the postseason for the second straight year, only the second time in program history they've done so back to back (1998-1999). "It's important for us to worry about ourselves and play well," said Jacobs coach Bill Mitz, whose team looks to rebound from two straight losses. "We're upset with the way we played last week. It's Senior Night and we could get a first-round home game if we win, so this is big for us."
Streamwood (6-2, 3-2) at Batavia (8-0, 5-0)
When: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Batavia 50, Streamwood 0
Last week: Streamwood 22, Larkin 12; Batavia 42, St. Charles North 0
Outlook: The Sabres feel they could have played a much closer game against Geneva a few weeks ago had only a couple of plays gone differently in the first half. Instead, they were blown out. They get another shot to prove themselves against the conference elite when they face the Bulldogs, who can wrap up their first outright football title as a member of the Upstate Eight Conference with a win over the Sabres in the River Division finale. "Here's a top-notch team and we're excited about the challenge," Streamwood coach Cal Cummins said. "It's an opportunity for our team to step up and see where we're at. I'd like to see us play some solid football and see if we can find some weak spots. Their weak spots are hard to find." The Sabres attack offensively with senior running back Alex Morrow, who leads the Fox Valley area with 1,190 yards rushing and 16 total touchdowns. Morrow leads South Elgin's Adolfo Pacheco by 94 yards for the Fox Valley area regular-season rushing title. Senior linebacker Sean Oroni paces the Bulldogs defensively with 64 solo tackles and 31 assists. Senior Jon Gray has accounted for 5 of Batavia's 15 interceptions.
Elgin (1-7, 0-6) at Metea Valley (3-5, 1-5)
When: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Elgin 50, Metea Valley 14
Last week: St. Charles East 10, Elgin 0; Lake Park 35, Metea Valley 21
Outlook: Two teams with struggling offenses hope to put points on the board in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division finale in Aurora. The Maroons were shut out last week, when they threw 5 interceptions and lost 2 fumbles. In between, senior Dennis Moore ran for 92 yards on 27 carries despite wearing a cast on his broken hand. "We're able to move the ball, but we just can't put points on the board," Elgin coach Dave Bierman said. "We're still our own worst enemy with turnovers and penalties. The kids are still working hard. They want to finish this thing the right way, which is a tribute to them." Metea Valley usually plays a 4-3 defense, but the Wildcats may line up in a 4-4 to stop the run until the Maroons can prove they can do damage with their passing game. Sophomore quarterback Ran Sitter hurt his hand on a follow through last week and was unable to finish the game, but Bierman expects him to start. The Mustangs broke out of an offensive slump last week with 3 touchdowns, 2 of them on runs of 70-plus yards by senior Tre'Sean Mackey. Metea Valley had scored just 6 points in its previous four games combined. The Mustangs enter on a five-game losing streak. The Maroons have dropped 7 straight.
Geneva (6-2, 4-1) at Larkin (3-5, 2-3)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Field
Last year: Geneva 69, Larkin 27
Last week: Streamwood 22, Larkin 12; S. Elgin 36, Geneva 21
Outlook: It's Senior Night for the Royals, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week with a loss at Streamwood. The Royals fell victim to a rash of late-season injuries, many of which were inflicted in a Week 6 loss to Waubonsie Valley. Larkin held leads in the second half of each of their last two games, but depth became too big an issue to overcome without injured performers like linebacker Drew Shore and center Alex Schabert. "Last week one guy went down on the offensive line and three other guys had to switch positions so we could fill in," Larkin coach Mike Scianna said. "We've had a good week of practice this week. We'll play our seniors. It's a good group of kids I started to coach when they were freshmen. They've helped us get the organization going in the right direction." Larkin senior Kyle Newquist has thrown for 1,069 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Aurora East (0-8, 0-5) at Bartlett (6-2, 5-0)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Millennium Field
Last year: Bartlett 62, Aurora East 13
Last week: Bartlett 34, Neuqua Valley 7; Waubonsie Valley 68, Aurora East
Outlook: Bartlett has already clinched a share of its second consecutive Valley Division championship in the Upstate Eight Conference. A win tonight over winless East Aurora would give the Hawks the title outright. They shared the UEC Valley title last year with Waubonsie Valley. "We've very happy and the kids are excited," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said of winning the title. The Hawks would like to score early and play multiple reserves on Senior Night. The team will gather at the Hitting Zone in Bartlett Saturday for a party to celebrate the program's 11th postseason bid in the last 12 seasons. Are the Hawks built for a long playoff run? "We have a little bit of depth at most positions," Meaney said. "We still have to improve every week to be able to make a good run, but I think we're built for the long haul if we can maintain our confidence, keep the turnovers down, force turnovers on defense and our special teams come through for us."
South Elgin (4-4, 3-2) at Waubonsie Valley (7-1, 4-1)
When: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Waubonsie Valley 20, South Elgin 10
Last week: South Elgin 36, Geneva 21; Waubonsie Valley 68, Aurora East 0
Outlook: It's a straightforward challenge for South Elgin: win and the Storm qualify for the playoffs for the third straight year. That's easier said than done against the physical, athletic Warriors. "There are still things at stake for them," Storm coach Dale Schabert said of Waubonsie. "They're going for a higher seed and they're trying to make sure they get a home game. We're fighting just to play one more game. No. 1, we can't have any turnovers. We can't let things get crazy right away. We have to play solid football and give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter." South Elgin has given itself a chance at a playoff berth by winning two straight, including last week's impressive victory over state-ranked Geneva. The Storm rushed for 415 yards, led by Adolfo Pacheco's school record 318-yard, 4-touchdown performance. That outburst lifted him from fifth to second in the area rushing race. Overall, Pacheco has rushed for 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns on 92 carries for an area-best average per carry of 11.9 yards.
St. Edward (4-4, 1-3) at St. Francis (6-2, 2-2)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at College of DuPage
On the air: WRMN 1410-AM, and streaming live at www.wrmn1410.com, announcers Jeff Myers and Kyle Bault
Last meeting (2008): St. Francis 28, St. Edward 12
Last week: Aurora Christian 55, St. Edward 22; St. Francis 18, Immaculate Conception 0
Outlook: Can the Green Wave pull off the improbable upset to earn their fifth win and the accompanying playoff berth? For the fourth straight week St. Edward faces the difficult task of beating a state-ranked team to qualify for the playoffs. After dropping lopsided contests to Marian Central, Montini and Aurora Christian, St. Edward faces old rival St. Francis for the first time since 2008. The Spartans, ranked 10th in Class 5A, have already clinched a playoff berth. St. Francis is led by DuPage County's second-leading rusher, Jack Petrando (1,112 yards, 15 TD). The Green Wave have allowed 17 touchdown passes in their last three games. "Fortunately, St. Francis is a running team," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "Unfortunately for us, they are very good at it. They have some good-sized boys and some good running backs. We're going to be outsized so we'll have to make up for that with heart. We have to try to stay in this one and hope for a couple of big plays. Then you never know."