Larkin football passed its first must-win test of the season last week, defeating Elgin in the Town Jug game.
The job gets more difficult tonight when the Royals visit Waubonsie Valley. Larkin sits at 4-4 and needs a victory to become playoff eligible.
Even if the Royals can pull off the Upstate Eight Conference upset they might not have enough playoff points to qualify for the postseason. Larkin enters the final week of the regular season seeded 39th in Class 7A with 30 playoff points (number of wins by a team's opponents).
Only 32 teams make the playoff field in the eight Illinois High School Association classes.
"We're ready to go," said Royals senior running back/linebacker Jeff Saurbaugh. "No one really expected us to be 4-4. But we've got a lot of seniors on this team and we know it could be our last game."
Putting itself in position to play a meaningful game in Week 9 is a credit to the Royals players and coaching staff. First-year sideline boss Matt Gehrig took over as the varsity coach just one month before the season began.
"We started off slow, but we've gotten better every week," said Saurbaugh, who began the season at quarterback. "And the defense has really stepped up. That's helped us out a lot."
St. Charles North (5-3) is in a similar situation like Larkin. The North Stars visit Neuqua Valey tonight hoping to obtain that sixth win to clinch a postseason berth.
North is in better shape than Larkin, though. The North Stars enter tonight's action with 37 playoff points and are seeded 21st in Class 7A.
Regardless, coach Mark Gould would like to see some improved play from his squad. North lost to rival St. Charles East 21-0 last week and will try to avenge a 45-0 loss to Neuqua last season in tonight's contest.
"With the playoff points, we're not really worried about the playoff berth," Gould said. "It's the seeding we're concerned about. But I think more than just the playoff berth and the seeding, we'd like to play a good game."
Five other area schools won't have to play the waiting game when playoff pairings are announced Saturday night. Bartlett (8-0), Huntley (8-0), St. Charles East (6-2), Genoa-Kingston (6-2) and Hampshire (5-3) have already secured playoff bids.
Hampshire, which went 5-4 last year and was left out of the playoffs last season, is one of 11 teams not to nab an at-larger berth with five victories.
The Whip-Purs won't have to worry about that this year. Even if they somehow get upset at Marengo tonight, the Whips are in. They have already earned the automatic bid as the Big Northern Conference East Division champion. Hampshire is seeded 25th in Class 4A with 30 playoff points.
Bartlett, ranked fourth in the Class 8A state poll, is in the best position among area qualifiers. The Hawks, who figure to have no problems at East Aurora tonight, are seeded second in 8A with 37 playoff points.
Bartlett is shooting for its first undefeated regular season in school history and has also set a single-season mark for wins.
Huntley is seeded fifth with 22 playoff points in 6A and will represent the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division as its champion. The Red Raiders will make their second appearance in the playoffs in school history. The 2001 team advanced to the state semifinals.
St. Charles East is seeded 13th in 7A with 35 playoff points.
Genoa-Kingston is seeded 12th in 4A with 35 playoff points.
Visit ihsa.org Saturday to view all the playoff information as it is released. The 256 playoff qualifiers are scheduled to be released at 5:45 p.m.
The field and pairings are scheduled to be announced beginning at 8 p.m. on ihsa.org and will be broadcast on WPWR-Channel 50 in the Chicago suburbs.