Elliot Cassem

Reed-Custer’s Elliot Cassem carries the ball on a play during last month's game against Wilmington.

(4A-8) Coal City (5-2) at (3A-RV) Reed-Custer (6-1)

Game time: 7 p.m.

Coalers

Players to watch: RB/LB Ashton Harvey, TE/DL Aydan Murphey

Coalers on offense: Harvey's had one of the hottest hands in the area the past month, and if the Coalers are going to produce enough offense to win this one, it will be off a multi-score night from their lead back. The Comets' defense has been slept on a bit as their offense has erupted this season, and a disciplined front will provide a worthy challenge for that Coalers ground game. In addition to being their best shot at finding the endzone, controlling the game on the ground and winning the time of possession battle is vital for the Coaler offense.

Coalers on defense: The faces and names change every year, but what doesn't change in Coal City is the way its defense is feared. Head coach Francis Loughran has a rich defensive background that has been at the forefront of a four-game winning streak. The Comets do have more playmakers than most squads, but the last time the Coalers ran into an offense known for its talent at the skill positions, they showed up by holding Bishop McNamara to just one touchdown.

Comets

Players to watch: RB/LB Jace Christian, WR/DB Dylan Garrelts

Comets on offense: The Comets have scored at least six touchdowns in all six of their wins this season thanks to an offense that's as lethal in the air as it is on the ground. Christian likely will spell Elliot Cassem, the conference's leading running back, in the backfield, but quarterback Jake McPherson can change games with his legs as equally as with his arm. Garrelts snagged a score in the Comets' road game at Wilmington a couple years ago and, along with Cassem, is a three-year starter that provides leadership to a youthful bunch.

Comets on defense: The offense and its 45 points-per-game average gets all the attention, but this is a Reed-Custer unit that has completely transformed itself during the past two seasons and been just as responsible for the team's 6-1 record as the offense. Christian and Cassem are one of the better linebacking combinations around, and they'll rely on a meaty line in front of them to do their jobs to allow them to pursue Harvey wherever he may run.

Pick: The Comets have shown this fall and last spring they can compete with the upper echelon of the Illinois Central Eight. Are they ready to show that they can not only compete with, but also beat, the best of the best? Reed-Custer 21, Coal City 17

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.