Where did the season go? Can you believe we've already reached Week 9 of the prep football season? With one game left, 12 of the 16 teams in The Beacon-News coverage area still have something to play for.
I haven't seen a year quite like this one since I've been working at this newspaper. We've got all kinds of big games on the slate Friday night and Saturday afternoon this week. Some teams are vying for undefeated seasons. Others are looking to secure a home playoff game. Still others are trying to clinch a postseason bid. Here's a look at how things stand as we enter the dramatic final week:
Batavia (8-0) -- Coming into the season, the Upstate Eight Conference coaches told us the Bulldogs were the team to beat in the River Division. We raised some eyebrows at that, thinking Geneva was the favorite. The coaches were right. Batavia hammered Marmion Academy the first week of the season and hasn't stopped rolling from there. The Bulldogs might get the top seed in a loaded Class 6A field if they can beat Streamwood Friday.
Mooseheart (8-0) -- The winner of Saturday's game in Winnetka between the Red Ramblers and fellow unbeaten North Shore Country Day will win the Northeastern Athletic Conference and quite possible secure the top overall seed in Class 1A. No wonder Mooseheart coach Gary Urwiler dubbed it the 'little Super Bowl."
Kaneland (8-0) -- Another clash of unbeatens takes place in Morris Friday night when the Knights and Redskins play to decide the Northern Illinois Big 12 East championship. Kaneland needs this one to get the best seed possible in a Class 5A field that features a finally healthy Montini team (6-2), as well as undefeated Marian Central. The Knights want to avoid those teams for as long as they can.
Aurora Christian (7-1) -- All year long, the Beacon staff has felt like the Eagles are the team with the best chance of making a deep postseason run. Their only loss came to Montini, which plays two classes above them. ACHS needs a win over Aurora Central Friday to make sure it gets a first-round home game in the 3A playoffs.
Waubonsie Valley (7-1) -- Win or lose Friday against South Elgin, it's looking like the Warriors will get a home game in the Class 8A playoffs. Depending on how the bracket breaks, Waubonsie is another team that could make a lengthy postseason run. The key is avoiding Maine South for a long as possible.
Oswego (6-2) -- It wasn't looking good for the Panthers early this season. They blew a 41-18 lead on opening night against Marian Central. Then, they got smoked by Waubonsie Valley in Week 2. Well, as it turns out, those two losses don't look so bad now. Marian and Waubonsie are a combined 15-1. No shame in losing to them. Oswego has rattled off six straight wins since and will host Minooka Friday night. The winner will be the outright champion of the Southwest Prairie Conference.
Sandwich (6-2) -- No one thought the Indians could duplicate the success they enjoyed last year when they went 11-2 and made the Class 4A quarterfinals. And they haven't duplicated that success. They've still had a nice year, though, and could get a first-round home game in 4A if they can steal a win at Wilmington on Friday. Revenge should be a motivation, as Wilmington denied the Indians an undefeated regular season a year ago.
Plano (6-2) -- This will be one of the stories to watch when the pairings come out Saturday night. Right now, the Reapers are one of the smallest schools in the 4A draw. Might they drop into 3A? If so, a deep postseason run isn't out of the question. A first-round home game is a possibility since the Reapers are heavy favorites in their Friday game against Westmont.
Geneva (6-2) -- I could be wrong, but I get the feeling the Vikings peaked too soon. They had an awesome win over probably DVC champion Wheaton North in Week 2, but if the two teams were to play again, I think Wheaton North wins. Geneva had a couple key players suspended last week, but a 36-21 loss to a .500 South Elgin team wasn't a good sign. The run defense has been suspect all year. The Vikings need to beat Larkin soundly this week to regain some mojo and secure a first-round home game.
Marmion (5-3) -- The Cadets don't have six wins, so technically they have not clinched a playoff berth. And, they are heavy underdogs this week against undefeated Marian Central. Not to worry, though. These guys are in because they played a loaded schedule and have 45 playoff points to show for their effort. Even with a loss this week, they'll be one of the first 5-4 teams in the field. Because of their stingy defense, Marmion could put a scare in some 9-0 team in the 6A playoffs.
Facing a must-win
Aurora Central (4-4) -- Man, I didn't think these guys would be sitting in this position right now, needing to go on the road and beat mighty Aurora Christian to become playoff-eligible. However, the Chargers did this to themselves with a silly loss to a bad Walther Lutheran team in Week 7. An 18-15 loss to Guerin in Week 6 looks awful, too, because ACC dug itself an 18-0 hole in the first half of that game. I've got a feeling the Chargers are going to be looking back with regret after Friday night. They should be playoff-bound, but need a big upset now to avoid being on the outside looking in.
Yorkville (4-4) -- The Foxes won their first four games of the season, but have found the sledding tough against the meat of their schedule. The Northern Illinois Big 12 East is no picnic. Kaneland, Morris and Rochelle are all quality clubs, and Yorkville fumbled away a chance at playoff-eligibility last week against DeKalb. Now, they need an upset of Sycamore Friday to have a chance.
Don't dream it's over
West Aurora (3-5) -- What a disappointment for the Blackhawks. They'll likely beat worthless Glenbard East Friday night and finish 4-5 -- just like last year. This is a program that is running in place right now. They just can't get that one upset win they need to be playoff-eligible. After a 2-0 start against UEC also-rans East Aurora and St. Charles East, the Blackhawks dropped five straight against DVC foes before taking out their frustrations in a 41-0 win over West Chicago last week. It's too little, too late now.
Metea Valley (3-5) -- The Mustangs started 3-0, then QB Jarrett House went down with a knee injury at South Elgin in Week 4. Metea then went through a period of four games where they scored a grand total of six points. That injury was a season-killer.
Oswego East (2-6) -- Remember when the Wolves were 2-1 and took a 21-7 lead on Oswego in Week 4? Well, they blew it and it was all downhill from there. They blew a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter at Plainfield Central in Week 5 also. Those were two devastating losses, and it doesn't seem like Oswego East ever recovered. This team should not be losing to teams like Romeoville, but confidence is a fragile thing when you've never made the playoffs before in school history.
East Aurora (0-8) -- The Tomcats have scored only four touchdowns all season. They've been outscored 411-25 in their eight losses. That means the average score of an East High football game is 51-3. Ugh. I've always said it takes courage to go out for football at East. Basically, you're signing up to get your tail kicked for nine straight weeks. I respect the effort these kids are putting forth, but let's be honest, some weeks it's hard to watch.