Bishop McNamara football

Bishop McNamara's Mel Hay (43) and AJ Parnell tackle Coal City's Brady Best during last month's game at Bishop McNamara.

(4A-4) St. Francis (5-1) at (2A-RV) Bishop McNamara (3-3)

Game time: 7 p.m.


Players to watch: QB Alessio Milivojevic, C/DT TJ McMillan

Spartans on offense: Fightin' Irish fans remember Tommy Rittenhouse giving them fits for years, but the former Spartans' quarterback is now at Illinois State University. Milinojevic, a sophomore, was handed the keys to the offense this fall and has taken full control of an electric group that has scored at least seven touchdowns in three games this season.

Spartans on defense: St. Francis has become close to a gold standard for Class 4A football during the past handful of years, and while the aforementioned high-octane offense largely helped them garner attention, it's the defense this season that has taken it to the next level. Led by McMillen, who has offers from more than half a dozen Power Five conference schools, the defensive line is big and nasty, and blitzing linebackers often follow behind them, looking to wreak havoc in the backfield.

Fightin' Irish

Players to watch: LB/FB Mel Hay, OL/DL Kaden Mondy

Fightin' Irish on offense: The last time the Irish took the field, they scored 77 points and gave kicker Jackson Mills the chance to set a new school record for extra points in a game. The opportunities won't be as plentiful Friday against a stout Spartans front, but the Irish have an experienced group of offensive linemen that just needs to give running back Tony Phillips a split-second to find a hole and quarterback Brady Bertrand time to find his receivers downfield.

Fightin' Irish on defense: Depth is being tested for the Irish, who will be without linebacker Jaydon Wright, with other players such as Hay, perhaps the heart and soul of the unit, playing through nagging injuries of their own. The secondary will be busy and have to be locked in from the jump, but there's a ton of experience back there, and it's a unit that has shown all season it's capable of playing both the pass and the run.

Pick: It's the final regular season home game for McNamara co-head coach Rich Zinanni, who is hoping to see as many of his former players and co-workers as he can in the stands. The Irish know they need this one for their postseason hopes, but Zinanni also doesn't often let his team lose focus of the moment or the task at hand. Bishop McNamara 28, St. Francis 27

Mason Schweizer is an award-winning reporter who has been with the Daily Journal since 2017 and sports editor since 2019. Save for time at the University of Illinois and Wayne State College, Mason is a lifelong area resident.