The middle point of the football season brings about plenty of excitement just from the intensity of the gridiron competition heating up and the air crisping as the seasons and leaves change in unison.
But the best part about those middle weeks is the Homecoming celebrations. With the way the schedule broke, paired with weather cancellations allowing me to cover three games in Week 5, I’ve been able to cover a Homecoming game each of the past three weeks — Bishop McNamara, Bradley-Bourbonnais and Central.
Now, most coaches probably aren’t the biggest fans of the potential distractions that come with Homecoming. The activities of spirit days and theme days during the week can make practices less than productive. Nights tend to be later, but the mornings are just as early. And as impressive as our area student-athletes often can be at blocking out distractions when in the field of competition, even the most laser-focused kids are going to be thinking about the upcoming weekend when they shouldn’t be.
With that being said, there aren’t many weeks as enjoyable as Homecoming week, and there aren’t many Friday nights (or, in the case of Bishop McNamara this year, Saturday mornings), nor are there many nights when the atmosphere has the extra buzz.
The past three weeks brought me back to my own days. I know it sounds cliche, but I remember coaches and teachers telling me how fast the days will go by and how we always will remember the moments. And as I sat at McNamara a few weeks ago and visited with some old friends that were a year my elder, back in town to celebrate their 10-year reunion that coincided with Homecoming, it made me realize something.
I’m getting old.
Here are the area’s scores for week 7:
Bishop McNamara 44, Aurora Christian 34
Bradley-Bourbonnais 37, Stagg 0
Kankakee 42, Bloom 0
Manteno 14, Peotone 7
Coal City 36, Lisle 7
Wilmington 47, Reed-Custer 0
Herscher 16, Streator 9
Central 29, Paxton-Buckley-Loda 14
Seneca 20, Watseka 0
Dwight 45, Iroquois West 13
Georgetown-Ridge Farm 28, Momence 23
Milford-Cissna Park 40, Pawnee-Lincolnwood 8
City goes 3-for-3
Last week, I wrote about how I had been a bad luck charm for Bishop McNamara and Bradley-Bourbonnais during the past couple weeks. Well, it seems as though the Boilers might be a good luck charm for the three city schools.
As the Boilers won their third game of the season against Stagg on Friday, it marked the third time this season all three schools in the city celebrated a win during the same week, joining weeks 1 and 3.
The win for the Boilers kept them alive in the playoff hunt and brought their record to 3-4. The Irish are now a win away from playoff qualification, and the Kays officially put their spot in the postseason in ink as they improved to 6-1 behind the defense’s third shutout in a row.
Shoutout of the week
This week’s shoutout has to be a pretty obvious one. Manteno came into its rivalry matchup with Peotone last week in dire need of a win to keep playoff hopes alive. With the Panthers’ high-scoring nature and the Blue Devils grind-it-out style, a game that saw three total touchdowns likely would have meant the Blue Devils came out victorious.
But that wasn’t the case, as the Panthers’ defense had by far their best performance of the season in holding Peotone to just one touchdown in their 14-7 win. Entering last Friday, the Panthers had allowed the third-highest points-per-game average (37.8) in the area. I’m not sure what head coach R.J. Haines and defensive coordinator Steve St. Jean gameplanned for the game, but whatever they did, it certainly worked.
So, shoutout to the Panthers’ defense for keeping their playoff hopes alive. Should Manteno sneak in the Class 4A field, not many teams will be happy to see an early-round date with the Panthers.
Somehow, we already are down to just two regular season games remaining. And as it stands, the area could see up to 10 teams in the playoffs, as opposed to eight one season ago.
We still have the same four undefeated teams we had one week ago (Central, Coal City, Milford-Cissna Park, Wilmington), and Kankakee also has clinched a playoff spot. Peotone and Watseka are highly likely to get in. Bishop McNamara, Bradley-Bourbonnais and Manteno also are alive and well.
It’s still plenty early, but with four teams that are undefeated and a couple of others that have enjoyed dominant moments this season, it looks as though the area potentially could see a repeat of last year, when two teams, Bishop McNamara and Milford-Cissna Park, reached the state championship.