We finally got to see what our 15 area teams spent their offseasons working on. For most teams, the first football Friday of the year brought positive results, as 10 teams scored season-opening victories.
But it only gets harder from here. Some teams won the battle in Week 1 but will lose the season-long war, and others will rebound from Week-1 losses and find themselves a playoff spot.
The area’s two biggest all-local, nonconfrence matchups will take place Friday, including a battle between our Top-2 teams. Let’s take a look at those squads, as well as our other 13 schools, in this week’s power rankings:
1. Bishop McNamara, Coal City (tie)
I said last week these two would duke it out for the early season top spot when they faced off in Coal City, and that matchup comes Friday. Both teams piled up the points in their Week-1 victories, but neither should expect to eclipse 40 points going against each other’s ferocious defenses.
The Irish won comfortably against Bloom, and it took the Coalers four quarters to secure a win against Morris. It’s insane how similar these two teams are on both sides of the ball in terms of talent, versatility and scheme. Iron sharpens iron, and these two squads are going to come into Friday’s matchup in Coal City razor sharp after a week of preparation against their own opposing units.
The Boilers earned the most impressive victory last week when they traveled to Rock Island and left with a thrilling win. Things look to be much easier with a home matchup against an O’Fallon squad that, on paper, doesn’t look as though it can keep up with the Boilers. A 2-0 nonconference mark would do wonders for the Boilers’ playoff hopes.
The Comets showed they can score in a variety of ways last week, and they’ll need that creativity against a well-coached Herscher club in their home opener Friday. Their offense has garnered them statewide attention in Class 2A, but it will be their defense that determines what kind of noise they can make as the season progresses.
It was business as usual for the ‘Cats as they methodically broke down Evergreen Park last week. What once looked like a potentially difficult nonconference schedule now looks like a potential pair of shutouts, as Wilmington will welcome an Oak Lawn team that struggled last week.
The Kays have plenty to be proud of after doubling Thornton last weekend. Derek Hart’s new offense looks as though it fits the Kays’ roster perfectly. Any coach will tell you their team is at its best when the scheme fits the talent. Their toughest task looms Friday against Crete-Monee, but the Kays look as though they’ll be much more competitive against the Warriors than they have been lately.
Cody Lunsford appeared on the varsity football scene in a major way against Momence, as did a handful of young defenders. Blake Holm was poised in the pocket and has chemistry with his skill players. The Tigers thought they might take a step back after all the talent they lost to graduation, but early indications are they’ll remain steady and solid.
The Blue Devils did what they always do under coach Apostolos Tsiamis last week — run the ball with authority and make the opposing offense operate under nightmare scenarios. Peotone dropped a heartbreaker to Tinley Park last season, but don’t expect that in 2019.
9. Milford-Cissna Park
My former colleague, Brock Netter, emphasized plenty last season the Bearcats’ offense was explosive, no matter if it was at the 8-man or 11-man level. After a 64-point eruption last week, it looks as though the high-octane offense the Bearcats employed last year will continue to bear fruit.
The Warriors played their tails off to leave Oakwood with a seven-point win, and Drew Wittenborn was the primary reason for that. The junior has a solid rapport with his offense, and, as long as he flings the rock like he did last week, the Warriors could continue to climb the ranks.
R.J. Haines has quite a mighty offense and the talent to match, but the Panthers are a work in progress defensively. A strong showing against a Morris team that put up 33 on Coal City last week could push the Panthers up the board rapidly.
The Trojans have a stellar offensive line that will give Carson Crouch holes to run through in the ground game, but the passing attack has to be able to find a rhythm. Coach Luke Standiford would like the defense to tighten up after giving up 40 points to Ottawa Marquette, but the Trojans likely won’t face as many rushing attacks as talented and balanced as the Crusaders.
The Comets knew they would have their work cut out for them against Fieldcrest, but now they can hit the reset button with a matchup against Dwight. The Comets trotted out a ton of sophomores last week who will continue to grow as the season goes on, as will coach Gavin Johnston.
Momence likes its ground game an offensive line, but it wasn’t able to employ the passing game after falling behind to Herscher. The defense was caught napping and called offsides on three big third-down plays last week, something that can’t continue to happen if the team wants to start filling up the win column.
15. Iroquois West
Coach Cam Stone preached patience all offseason with the area’s youngest team. After a 68-point loss last week, the fresh-faced Raiders can’t let their mentality get worn down as they become accustomed to varsity football on the fly. A win against Hoopeston this week would be a huge confidence boost.