It could be a very interesting November for the area's five football teams that are headed to this weekend's state playoffs.
Defending Class 6A state runner-up finisher Marmion (5-4) faces an uphill climb in its quest to return to Champaign as the 15th-seeded Cadets prepare to visit No. 2 seed Prairie Ridge (8-1) Saturday afternoon in Crystal Lake.
However, three other teams Aurora Christian (8-1 in 3A), Batavia (9-0 in 6A), and Kaneland (9-0 in 5A) all earned No. 1 seeds in their respective classes.
It wouldn't surprise me to see a couple of these teams make the trek to Memorial Stadium during Thanksgiving weekend.
Geneva (7-2 in 7A), meanwhile, will be making its eighth consecutive postseason appearance and figures to be a tough out in spite of a difficult path that could include top-ranked Glenbard West in second-round play.
First, the Vikings must get past a defensive-minded Lake Zurich (7-2) team that qualified for its 10th straight playoff appearance and has allowed just 8.1 points per game.
All five local teams are blessed with above-average talent and coaching.
Aurora Christian is led by Western Michigan-bound quarterback Anthony Maddie, and Eagles coach Don Beebe appeared in an NFL-record 6 Super Bowls with Buffalo and Green Bay.
Batavia quarterback Noel Gaspari has had a tremendous senior season, flanked by a stable of quality running backs and a couple bruisers in Alec Lyons and Cole Gardner.
Kaneland senior speedster Quinn Buschbacher and sophomore quarterback Drew David have put up video game-like numbers.
Northern Illinois-bound quarterback Matt Williams might be the best athlete in Geneva, while Marmion has a bona fide Division I player of its own in 6-4, 270-pound offensive lineman Ryan Glasgow.
But all of these teams also have some unsung heroes players who may not find their names in weekly game stories.
Without them, who knows where these teams would be?
"I'd definitely say it's our entire offensive line," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of guards Brock Batka, Zach Schoettes, guard-tackle Adam Hunger, tackles Nick Pappas and Sebastian Vermaas, and centers Ben Link and Tim Wiley.
Of the seven, only Pappas is a returning starter from last year's 5-5 squad.
"All of the others were either JV players or on the sophomore team last year," said Piron. "They've all worked very hard in the weight room and have maximized their skills. Plus, they're all good buddies."
Together, they've made life a lot easier for Gaspari, who has gone entire games without being touched by a defender.
"He's hardly been sacked at all," said Piron. "And our run offense has been phenomenal, averaging 10 yards per carry against some real good football teams.
"They're smart kids who care a lot and understand the importance of film study and working together."
Beebe, who has guided Aurora Christian to 8 straight playoff berths, including a second-place finish in 2008, singled out 2-way starter Roman Czerwinski as an unsung hero.
"Roman is the leader of our team," said Beebe. "He's our center on offense and middle linebacker on defense. He makes most of our calls on the line and also has tremendous responsibility doing the same thing on defense.
"The poor guy gets it from both sides from me calling the offensive plays and from my little brother (Dan) on defense. He watches more film than anybody."
Beebe knows the importance of having a player like Czerwinski on his side.
"He's the type of guy that makes you a winning program," said the coach.
At center, Czerwinski's role is multi-faceted.
"We've got so many offensive line calls," said Beebe. "You've got to make sure all 11 guys are on the same page. One bad snap or interception or fumble can be costly because mistakes like that are way bigger in football than other sports.
"Plus, I'd say 75 percent of our snaps are out of shotgun formation so that puts an extra burden on the center. There's a certain art and rhythm to it. The quickness of getting the ball back (to the QB) is huge."
At Kaneland, David has thrown for 2,413 yards and 33 touchdowns most of them landing in the arms of Buschbacher (13 TDs) and Sean Carter (12 TDs).
The Knights possess one of the state's most prolific offenses, averaging 43 points per contest, and have scored at least 30 points in all 9 of their games.
They've also benefited from the leadership of 2-year starting center Nick Sharp. The presence of the 6-0, 230-pound junior surely isn't taken for granted by the Knights' coaching staff.
"Nick had a little rough time there in the middle of the season," said Fedderly. "He got a staph infection and ended up missing three games. He missed LaSalle-Peru, Rochelle, and DeKalb. We were really worried about him."
Sharp returned to the lineup earlier this month for the Week 7 clash with Yorkville.
"He's just a tremendous leader for us," said Fedderly. "He makes a lot of the calls up front, so we were really happy to get him back. He's a great player for us."
Another valuable player often overshadowed by his team's high-powered offense is Geneva defensive linemen Henry Zupke.
Zupke, a 6-3, 225-pound senior, has provided consistency and leadership for coach Rob Wicinski's defense.
One of his season highlights came in Week 7 when he recorded a team-high 6 tackles during the Vikings' 42-0 romp over playoff-bound Streamwood.
After a storybook-like season a year ago, Marmion has been hit hard by the injury bug this year.
However, the Cadets persevered and qualified for their third straight postseason berth, thanks to the help of a couple guys nicknamed 'Moose' and 'Bubba.'
Mike 'Moose' Eberth, a 6-1, 240-pound senior, is a 2-way starter at center and defensive tackle for the Cadets.
"Moose is one of our unsung players," said Marmion coach Dan Thorpe.
Tyler 'Bubba' Boyd, a 6-0, 265-pound senior, has been a mainstay on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Cadets, who lost Glasgow in Week 8 with a shoulder injury.
"He loves football and he loves to practice," said Thorpe, who also praised senior inside linebacker Mike Shares for his ability to bounce back from a midseason injury to stabilize the Cadets' linebacking corps.
"These are the type of kids who are in the weight room all of the time," said Thorpe.
Just like a coach wants.
You can reach Craig Brueske at email@example.com