Scouting Week 9 Fox Valley football games
Naperville Central (6-2) at Cary-Grove (8-0)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m. at Al Bohrer Field
Last week: Naperville Central 35, Waubonsie Valley 14; Cary-Grove 21, Prairie Ridge 14
Outlook: Conference champions meet in a playoff tuneup. Cary-Grove, the top-ranked team in Class 6A, last week completed an undefeated Fox Valley Conference run with a come-from-behind win against Prairie Ridge. Two-time outright DuPage Valley Conference champion Naperville Central clinched the league title with last week's 21-point win against Waubonsie Valley (5-3). The Redhawks enter ranked No. 7 in Class 8A.
Naperville Central senior running back Danny Hughes has rushed for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns on 134 carries. Hughes returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown last week against Waubonsie Valley. Senior quarterback Payton Thorne, a future Western Michigan teammate of Cary-Grove lineman Addison West, riddled Waubonsie for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns on 17-of-24 passing. A 62-percent passer (137 of 221), Thorne has thrown for 2,164 yards and 24 touchdowns and has been intercepted eight times. Sophomore Sam Jackson last week made 3 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Tasked with limiting that prolific passing game is Cary-Grove's secondary of seniors Michael Boyd and Danny Daigle and juniors Luke Eleftheriou and Dymitri Kanellakis. "We're getting a lot more pressure on quarterbacks this year and our secondary covers really well, but we're going to be challenged big time," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. Naperville Central infrequently faces under-center, triple-option offenses and the Trojans have a good one. The attack is led by athletic quarterback Ben McDonald. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior is a dual threat. He has rushed for team highs of 843 yards and 14 touchdowns on 122 carries (6.9 avg). McDonald has completed 63 of 82 passes (76.8 percent) for 1,031 yards and 15 touchdowns and has thrown 2 interceptions. Running back Danny Daigle has 369 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in 40 attempts (9.2 avg) and 31 catches for 450 yards and 6 touchdowns.
South Elgin (6-2, 6-2) at West Aurora (7-1, 7-1)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m. at Ken Zimmerman Field
Last year: South Elgin 40, West Aurora 14
Last week: Bartlett 30, South Elgin 25; West Aurora 51, East Aurora 0
Outlook: Playoff participants jockey for a higher seed in this Upstate Eight Conference finale between the last two champions of the league's Valley Division. West Aurora can gain a UEC title share if the Blackhawks win and league leader Glenbard East (8-0) stumbles at Larkin (4-4). A South Elgin victory would likely create a three-way tie for second place in the UEC between the Storm, West Aurora and Bartlett. Five turnovers plagued South Elgin in last week's loss. The Storm passed for 255 yards but were limited to 69 rushing yards. Senior quarterback Azxavier Salinas completed 12 of 17 attempts for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was the team's leading rusher with 26 yards, but 2 of his 12 carries ended in fumbles. The Storm roster got deeper Saturday when senior quarterback Jakob Johnson returned to action after missing two games. The team planned to rest him for another week until he got more practice reps, but he was pressed into duty when Salinas left the game briefly due to injury. Both quarterbacks have sure-handed receivers to target in senior Patrick Noworol and junior Shiking Marshall. Last week, each two-way player caught a touchdown pass and made an interception. They were bright spots but "we've got a long way to go," first-year South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic said after Saturday's loss. "We've got a young group of kids that's going to have to regroup and get it going. It's Year One. We'll get there. I don't know that people predicted us to be at this point anyway. We've got a long way to go. We've got to keep grinding and get better." West Aurora junior quarterback William Tammaru has completed 47 of 85 attempts for 1,070 yards and 9 touchdowns and has thrown 7 interceptions. The Blackhawks do most of their damage via the running game, averaging 301 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. Leading the charge are seniors Hezekiah Salter (55 carries, 789 yards, 11 touchdowns) and JaQuan Buchanan (55-543-9) and junior Trevo Tittle (45-300-6). Senior outside linebacker Jerritt Gutierrez leads the defense with 47 tackles, 36 solo.
Glenbard East (8-0, 8-0) at Larkin (4-4, 4-4)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Field
Last week: Glenbard East 38, Glenbard South 7; Larkin 52, Elgin 14
Outlook: Larkin plays a meaningful, Week 9 football game for only the third time since 2006, when the program last made the playoffs. The cutoff for 5-4 teams to make the 256-team field is expected to be 37 or 38. The Royals enter the Upstate Eight Conference finale with 36, so playoff points won't be a problem. The problem is the opponent. Glenbard East, ranked No. 9 in Class 7A, is a veteran team with 10 seniors playing their third varsity season, all determined to close out an undefeated run through the UEC. For perspective, Larkin's four losses came against West Aurora, Glenbard South, South Elgin and Bartlett by a combined score of 172-53. Glenbard East defeated the same four teams 128-42. But hope lives with the season on the line, particularly for a Larkin squad that exploded for 35 fourth-quarter points in last week's win against rival Elgin. "Coach (Jason) Aubry has something for Glenbard East and I'm sure we'll do good," Larkin running back Angel Garcia said after the Elgin game. The Larkin defense must limit big plays between quarterback Bret Bushka and receiver Jeremy Johnson, both seniors. Bushka has completed 104 of 158 attempts for 1,591 yards and 17 touchdowns and thrown only 3 interceptions. The quarterback has rushed for 356 yards and 12 scores. Johnson has 35 receptions for 595 yards and 11 touchdowns. This is the first meeting between these teams since Glenbard East joined the UEC in 2014-15.
Dundee-Crown (4-4, 3-4) at Huntley (5-3, 5-2)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Last year: Huntley 56, Dundee-Crown 12
Last week: Dundee-Crown 21, Hampshire 13; Naperville North 22, Huntley 20
Outlook: The playoffs begin now for these Fox Valley Conference teams. Huntley enters with 32 playoff points. The cut for 5-4 teams to qualify is projected to be 37 or 38 points. Thus, the Red Raiders need a sixth win to guarantee themselves a postseason berth for a fifth straight year. Dundee-Crown owns 34 playoff points and could finish with as many as 39. Therefore, a fifth victory would likely vault the Chargers into the 256-team playoff field for the first time since 2013, also the last year D-C finished with a winning record. Each team has playmakers. Each also has a tendency to hurt its own cause. "We do shoot ourselves in the foot in critical situations," Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak. "We have to stop putting ourselves in third-and-long and eliminate the penalties and the fundamental breakdowns we have on defense. Clean that up and we're a really good ball team like we were at the beginning of the year. We just need to polish things up." D-C coach Mike Steinhaus complimented Huntley's defensive linemen and wide receiver Michael Boland (51 rec., 884 yards, 8 TD), but, like his counterpart, said half the struggle is overcoming self-inflicted mistakes. "In the end it's about what Dundee-Crown does," Steinhaus said. "We'll be worried about what Huntley does and game plan for that, but as we've showed the past few weeks it's not what the other team does, per se, but what we do to ourselves. We can't have those missed assignments and mistakes. We have a good group of seniors that knows what they're doing and we think we have a great game plan. We'll trust our playmakers with the ball and, defensively, try to limit their playmakers."
Lake Park (2-6, 1-5) at St. Charles East (4-4, 4-4, 2-4)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m. at Norris Stadium
Last meeting (2011): Lake Park 43, St. Charles East 27
Last week: Geneva 27, Lake Park 23; Wheaton North 25, St. Charles East 13
Outlook: St. Charles East makes the playoffs with a victory. The Saints enter Week 9 with 36 playoff points and are guaranteed 3 more. Reunited in the DuKane Conference with Lake Park, this is the first meeting between the Saints and Lancers since the 2011-12 season, when they were members of the Upstate Eight Conference. St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said he warned his team not to overlook Lake Park. The Lancers have dropped decisions to Wheaton North and Geneva that were not decided until the final play. The Saints have spent two weeks stressing ball control. Two weeks ago in a 21-0 loss to Batavia, they turned the ball over inside the 10-yard line three times. In last week's loss to Wheaton North they put the ball on the carpet nine times and lost 7 fumbles. "We moved the ball all over the field. We didn't punt at all," Farquhar said. "We just haven't converted in the red zone. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot." Quarterback BJ Crossen (6-0, 170) has accounted for 46 percent of the Saints' 2,693 total yards. The junior triple-option quarterback has carried 93 times for 487 yards and 7 touchdowns and thrown for 753 yards and 7 touchdowns (4 interceptions) on 30-of-57 passing (52.6 percent). Crossen's top receiver is Daniel Goetsch, a 6-4 senior with 17 catches for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior linebacker Robert Carne leads the St. Charles East defense with 93 tackles. Senior cornerback Jake Molina boasts a team-best 3 interceptions. Lake Park senior running back David Hardwick (6-0, 210) leads the Lancers with 142 carries for 558 yards and 6 touchdowns. Junior Jordan Colon (5-6, 162) has 398 rushing yards and 2 touchdown in 60 attempts.
Batavia (8-0, 6-0) at Wheaton North (4-4, 3-3)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m.
Quick hit: Batavia, the top-ranked team in Class 7A, looks to finish off the outright DuKane Conference title and complete its first 9-0 regular season since 2012. The Falcons have 39 playoff points and can earn a postseason bid with a victory. These teams met last season in a Class 7A second-round playoff game in Batavia. The Bulldogs won 20-17.
Wheaton Warrenville South (7-1, 5-1) at St. Charles North (6-2, 5-1)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m.
Quick hit: The winner of this contest between second-place DuKane Conference teams can tie Batavia for the title if the Bulldogs are upset by Wheaton North. The North Stars finished each of the past two seasons with an 8-1 regular-season record. St. Charles North is ranked 10th in Class 7A.
Rochelle (4-4) at Kaneland (6-2)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: Kaneland completes the regular season with a Northern Illinois Big 12 crossover against the second-place team from the West Division. The Knights enter Week 9 ranked 10th in Class 5A. The Hubs have plenty of playoff points (40) and everything to play for; If they win, they're in the playoffs. The result is crucial to Kaneland's playoff seed. The Knights straddle the cutoff line between Classes 6A and 5A.
Bartlett (6-2, 6-2) at Streamwood (1-7, 1-7)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m.
Quick hit: With the school's first playoff berth since 2015 sewn up, Bartlett returns to Millennium Field, its home field for the last 20 seasons. The Hawks seek their seventh victory and an improved playoff seed. Bartlett last won 7 games in 2012.
Elgin (2-6, 2-6) at East Aurora (1-7, 1-7)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m.
Quick hit: Elgin has a chance to win 3 games in a season for the first time since 2010, when coach Dave Bierman's Maroons went 6-4 and made the school's last playoff appearance. A win would maintain the program's forward momentum; Elgin won 3 games the last three seasons combined.
Jacobs (3-5, 3-4) at Crystal Lake Central (2-6, 2-5)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: Few teams suffered as many devastating injuries to key players as Jacobs, which misses the playoffs for only the second time in nine seasons since coach Bill Mitz and staff arrived in Algonquin. There was good news this week for one such injured player. Offensive lineman Joacheim "Joey" Price, lost to a knee injury in a Week 2 loss at Huntley, committed to play at Western Michigan.
Prairie Ridge (6-2, 5-2) at Crystal Lake South (5-3, 5-2)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: CL South is playoff bound for the first time since 2015, thanks to last week's 28-7 victory at Jacobs. Prairie Ridge lost games to Huntley and Cary-Grove by a touchdown. The Wolves are ranked sixth in Class 6A.
McHenry (1-7, 1-6) at Hampshire (0-8, 0-7)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: Hampshire played its most competitive game of the season last week in a 21-13 loss to Dundee-Crown. The Whip-Purs drew within a point of the lead in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Jake See and stayed alive until a sack in D-C territory ended their final possession.
Wheaton Academy (5-3, 2-3) at Aurora Christian (5-3, 2-3)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: Aurora Christian can seal its second straight playoff appearance with a Metro Suburban Conference crossover victory. The Eagles are in the playoffs win or lose. They have 42 playoff points entering weekend play with the cut for 5-4 teams projected to be 37 or 38.
St. Francis (6-2, 3-2) at Aurora Central Catholic (2-6, 1-4)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: The Chargers aim for a Metro Suburban Blue home win in the season finale. The Spartans won last year's nonconference matchup 34-32. St. Francis is playoff bound for the first time since 2014.
Ridgewood (4-4, 2-2) at St. Edward (4-4, 4-0)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: St. Edward sewed up a playoff berth last week with a 37-21 victory over Fenton that clinched the Metro Suburban Conference Red Division title. The Green Wave can win the title outright with a victory over the Rebels, who must win to qualify for playoff consideration. Ridgewood (35 playoff points) would likely make the playoff field with a victory.
Burlington Central (2-6) at Westmont (5-3)Game time: today at 7 p.m.
Quick hit: Burlington Central's strength of schedule was brutal in retrospect. The Rockets' opponents own a combined 44-28 record. Westmont, an independent without conference affiliation, has 18 playoff points heading into the regular-season finale. The Sentinels must win to guarantee themselves an at-large berth. They are guaranteed a winning record for the first time since 2006, when they last reached the postseason.
St. Joseph (1-7) at Marmion (2-6)Game time: today at 7:30 p.m.
Quick hit: The Cadets aim to complete the season on a positive note by ending a 6-game slide. St. Joseph's only victory came on Sept. 28 against Chicago DePaul (34-12). Marmion defeated DePaul 27-0 in the season opener.