Playoff picture starting to clear up
The ins and outs of the Fox Valley area playoff picture are coming into focus with two regular-season games remaining.
Five teams have clinched playoff berths. Batavia (7-0) and Cary-Grove (7-0) did so two weeks ago. They were joined last weekend by St. Charles North (6-1), South Elgin (6-1) and West Aurora (6-1).
Three teams with 5-2 records can seal postseason spots with Week 8 victories: Bartlett (at South Elgin), Huntley (at Naperville North) and Kaneland (vs. Morris).
St. Charles East (4-3) can become playoff eligible with a DuKane Conference victory at Wheaton North (3-4). The Saints conclude the regular season next week against Lake Park (2-5).
Aurora Christian (4-3) will make the playoffs with a win over Guerin on Friday. The Eagles, who will likely compete in Class 1A, already boast 38 playoff points. They host Wheaton Academy (4-3) in Week 9.
St. Edward (3-4, 3-0) can secure a playoff bid on Friday despite entering with a losing record. The Green Wave can clinch the outright Metro Suburban Red title -- and the automatic playoff bid that comes with it -- with a victory over second-place Fenton (4-3, 2-1).
"We have the (MSC) Red in our hands and we don't have to count on anyone else," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "We've been working eight to nine months to win it. We'll probably be outsized and have a smaller and younger roster, but you can't count out a bunch of kids who are trying to make the playoffs for the older guys who have been through so much."
St. Edward last made the playoffs in 2015. The Wave could theoretically win the MSC Red even if they lose Friday. They would have to beat Ridgewood (4-3) in Elgin in Week 9 and root for Chicago Christian (5-2) to knock off Fenton.
St. Edward owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Elmwood Park (6-1, 3-1), thanks to a 25-22 victory on Sept. 14.
Crystal Lake South (4-3) visits Jacobs (3-4) in a Fox Valley Conference game critical to each team's playoff hopes.
Jacobs has made three straight playoff appearances and seven in eight seasons. To extend their streak, the Golden Eagles must defeat the Gators on Senior Night and win next week at Crystal Lake Central (2-5).
Meanwhile, a win makes the Gators playoff eligible for the first time since 2015.
"We're not a young team so we know what we have to do," said CL South coach Rob Fontana, a Jacobs graduate. "We know our schemes and our blocking. We just have to execute."
Dundee-Crown (3-4) suffered a costly 42-41 loss to Crystal Lake Central last week. The Chargers must win their final two FVC games against Hampshire (0-7) and at Huntley (5-2) and hope they have enough playoff points (wins by opponents) to make the field. They enter weekend play with 30.
Larkin is alive mathematically. The Royals must defeat rival Elgin (2-5) this week and find a way to upset Upstate Eight Conference leader Glenbard East (7-0) in the regular-season finale.
Barrett to Wisconsin: St. Charles East offensive lineman Dylan Barrett committed to Wisconsin following a visit to Madison last weekend.
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior took in Wisconsin's 42-24 victory over Nebraska on Saturday and informed the coaching staff on Monday night he intends to sign with the Badgers.
The St. Charles East guard entertained offers from Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, West Virginia and Missouri, among many, but chose Wisconsin because "just everything up there, from every big thing to every little thing," Barrett said. "I sat down with my coaches and my parents and they assured me I was doing the right thing, and I knew deep down it was ... It was awesome up there Saturday on game day, just everything about it."
True story: St. Edward coach Mike Rolando is in record territory.
With a victory over Fenton at Greg True Field on Friday, Rolando will pass Greg True for the most coaching victories in school history.
True coached the Green Wave to a 58-90 record in 21 seasons between 1944-65. He also coached the St. Edward basketball team to a 301-200 record over that span.
Rolando enters Friday's game with a 58-73 mark in 13 seasons. His first two teams finished 0-9 and he lost his first 24 games overall while trying to rebuild a broken program. His first three teams went 1-26 combined.
In 10 seasons since that rocky start, Rolando has guided the Green Wave to a 57-47 record and playoff appearances in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
St. Edward (3-4) can seize its sixth postseason berth under Rolando with a Metro Suburban Red-clinching victory in Elgin on Friday.
"People told me we'd never win here. We'd never get the players," Rolando said this week. "There was a little salt in my game for a few years driven by the doubters.
"It's the same kind of things our players have been hearing this year. That's why making the playoffs has been really driving them."
Fox Valley fervor: Cary-Grove can win the Fox Valley Conference title outright with a victory over District 155 rival Prairie Ridge in Cary on Friday.
Cary-Grove (7-0, 5-0) is tied with Richards for the top rank in Class 6A this week. Two-time defending 6A champion Prairie Ridge (6-1, 4-1) is ranked fourth.
The teams met twice last season with memorable results. The Wolves defeated Cary-Grove 7-6 in the season opener. In a second-round, Class 6A playoff classic, quarterback Samson Evans ran 66 yards with 7.8 seconds left to lift Prairie Ridge to a 17-13 win.
"It's our last conference game of the season and we're trying to finish the conference season undefeated," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "Early in the season you say that's your goal, but a lot has to go right for that to happen. Now we're sitting 7-0 and have a chance to win the conference outright. That's what the kids are looking to do."
Cary-Grove finished third in the FVC last year behind Prairie Ridge and Huntley. The Trojans have not won an FVC title since the league contracted to nine schools and eliminated divisions three years ago. Their last title in the FVC came in 2014, when they won the six-team Valley Division outright and went on to finish second in Class 7A.
DuKane drama: St. Charles North is the only member of the new DuKane Conference seeking to repeat as a conference champion.
The North Stars won the final Upstate Eight Conference River Division title last season before bolting for the new league along with St. Charles East, Geneva and Batavia.
St. Charles North (6-1, 5-0) attempts to clear a looming hurdle in Friday's road test at Batavia (7-0, 5-0). The North Stars defeated the Bulldogs 35-28 last year in St. Charles. It was the only blemish in a 13-1 season for eventual Class 7A champion Batavia.
St. Charles North, ranked No. 10 in Class 7A, has won two straight in a series Batavia still leads 5-4. Can the North Stars make it three in a row against the top-ranked team in 7A?
"I think we have one of those us-against-the-world attitudes," St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said. "They're just a great program from a great community, so you have to feel like the chips are in their favor on their home turf.
"Our kids are focusing on themselves and personal improvement. We need to do our things. If we play solid in all three phases regardless of the team we play, we have a good opportunity to win."
Town Jug time: Larkin (3-4) attempts to keep its playoff hopes alive on Friday, when the Royals face rival Elgin (2-5) for the Town Jug Trophy at Memorial Field.
The Royals won 18-14 last year, thanks to a long Kindrel Morris catch and run for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 left in the game.
They hope for similar big plays this time around from senior receiver Jahari Stubbs (50 rec., 717 yards, 6 TD) and quarterback Jaxon Aubry, who has completed 89 of 170 passing attempts for 1,285 yards. The senior has thrown 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
"In a rivalry game you're looking for guys to step up and make plays," Larkin acting coach Jason Aubry said. "When the ball goes up and it's a 50-50 play, who comes down with it? Our guy or the other guy? The team that steps up and makes plays wins the majority of high school football games."
Elgin (2-5) seeks its third win of the season. The Maroons have not won 3 games in a campaign since 2010-11, when they finished 6-4 and last reached the playoffs.
"It's an exciting time for them to play their buddies, their rivals," Elgin coach Anthony Mason said Tuesday. "They were excited and flying around at practice. This is another opportunity to play the great game of football. I told them at practice how lucky they were to have that."
Larkin leads the all-time series 34-21.