Why a tough weekend for DuPage County football teams could pay off later in the season

  • Neuqua Valley's Mark Gronowski, left, throws during their game Friday in Lincolnshire.

      Neuqua Valley's Mark Gronowski, left, throws during their game Friday in Lincolnshire. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Updated 9/18/2019 9:33 AM

Respect is earned, even in defeat.

DuPage County football programs aren't big on moral victories, but you couldn't help but notice a twinkle from some of our higher-profile teams that fell last weekend.


Eyes on Five looks at a rough weekend that'll pay off down the road.

(Two) point taken:

East St. Louis is widely regarded as the state's top team, yet here was Neuqua Valley standing toe-to-toe with the Flyers as quarterback Mark Gronowski accounted for all seven of his team's touchdowns.

The Wildcats rallied to within 50-48 late in the game after a Gronowski scoring pass to Sean Larkin. Neuqua Valley came up short in its 2-point conversion attempt and East St. Louis held on.

It takes time to digest a game like that, and days later it's still a stunner. Again, Neuqua Valley is way beyond moral victories, but an effort like that only brightens its long-term prospects.

A September win over the Flyers would have been sweet.

If it's a building block toward a win in November, that'd be far sweeter.

Another point:

It's not easy to find a good sign in a tough loss but you saw it in a pair of results last weekend.

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If Montini wants to prove it's a top team in Class 5A -- even while sharing a class with East St. Louis -- the Broncos need games like Friday's against Mt. Carmel. A 27-20 loss no doubt stung, but hanging with the top-ranked team in Class 7A qualifies as a good sign.

Unlike Montini, Wheaton North found little external expectation heading into this season. Not with a pile of outgoing transfers and injuries.

Few expected a 2-0 start against decent nonconference competition, and fewer still expected the Falcons to compete with St. Charles North, a Class 7A finalist last season.

Wheaton North stormed to a 17-7 halftime lead before falling 20-17 to the North Stars.

Talk about a sting. But with the rest of the schedule filled with winnable games, Friday's loss could forge a return to the playoffs.


The DuPage Valley Conference needed somebody, anybody to join its ranks after the departure of four schools to form the DuKane Conference.

Enter DeKalb, which entered the DVC this school year to boost the league to six members. After three weeks of nonconference play, we finally get to see if the Barbs can compete with their new partners.


DeKalb (2-1) opens DVC play at Neuqua Valley. As hinted above, the Wildcats have positioned themselves as the favorite to unseat Naperville Central as the conference champion.

If DeKalb can stay with Neuqua Valley, it'll signal a more competitive DVC field than anticipated.

The biggest question about the Barbs entering the DVC was the fit. Let's be honest ... 40 miles of distance isn't the greatest starting point.

But this weekend we'll learn much more about the marriage between DeKalb and the DVC.

This just in:

The IHSA Board of Directors recently heard an update on submitted bylaw proposals. The deadline for submissions is October 15 for inclusion in this year's legislative process that starts in November.

A year ago at this time the words "district bylaw proposal" just started to create a buzz. A few months later, after a statewide membership vote, districts became a potential reality starting in 2021.

While the IHSA provided no details about this year's proposals, you can guarantee there's a sizable football representation designed to negate districts.

Like we've said here before, though, unless the anti-district factions can gather under one plan it'll be tough to get something through.

Stat time:

Congratulations to Glenbard North football coach Ryan Wilkens on picking up his 100th victory last week.

Wilkens notched it in style, handing St. Charles East its first loss while boosting the Panthers to their first victory. They beat the Saints 21-7 after falling to state-ranked Neuqua Valley and Warren in their first two games.

Twitter: @kevin_schmit

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