POWER RANKINGS: Setting the stage

Dwight quarterback Carson Crouch scrambles for a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter of Friday's 45-14 loss to Watseka. Crouch ran for two touchdowns in the loss.

Wet and disastrous weather prolonged a little more than half of Friday’s slate into the weekend, but everyone eventually got their games in — games that finished with a mixed bag of area results.

Central faced its first halftime deficit of the season before Jay Lemenager’s two second-half rushing touchdowns kept them undefeated. Wilmington played almost a quarter at Lisle, waited until Sunday night to finish and left with a 27-6 victory.

We also saw some not-so-happy results. Bishop McNamara lost its second heartbreaker in a row, this time on a touchdown as time expired to fall 46-43 to St. Francis. Bradley-Bourbonnais had an upset of Bolingbrook on its mind with just a 7-3 halftime deficit before the Raiders kicked it up a notch and outscored the Boilers 28-0 in the second half.

We still have five undefeated teams, and two more are 4-1. Four of those undefeated teams will battle one of the others this month (Watseka at Central on Friday; Wilmington at Coal City in three weeks), which means there should be plenty of area excitement down the stretch.

For now, let’s see where the area teams stack up with a month to play.

1. Coal City (5-0)

The Coalers have been shown little resistance in the first three games of their Illinois Central Eight slate. In last weekend’s 49-0 win at Streator, they built up a 42-0 lead in the first half for the second time in the conference season. The defense is the best in the area, and the running game might be as well. Expect both of those to continue rolling during the last month.

2. Wilmington (5-0)

The ‘Cats will enter their home matchup with Herscher on Friday as the top-ranked team in this week’s IHSA Class 3A AP poll and for good reason. Trey Shaw looked to be back at full health, as he picked up 178 yards and a pair of scores on the ground in last weekend’s 27-6 win at Lisle. Pair that with Jake Rodawold, the area’s leading touchdown machine, and the Wildcats are the most fearsome squad in their class.

3. Central (5-0)

The Comets got their first real test when they went to Seneca on Saturday but still were able to leave with a two-score victory. They figure to once again see a significant test, perhaps their biggest of the regular season, when they host the area’s leading defense in points allowed, Watseka. The Comets’ high-octane offense will really make a statement if they can become the first team to solve the Warriors’ defensive prowess.

4. Kankakee (4-1)

The Kays had the week off after Rich South forfeited last week’s contest. On one hand, Tyjuane Stewart and his offensive teammates could have piled up some gaudy stats against the winless Stars, but the week off also allowed them to get healthy at the season’s midway point. One of the brightest surprises in the Chicago area this season, the Kays finally hopped into the Class 5A polls this week, where they sit 10th.

5. Bishop McNamara (2-3)

The Irish didn’t think they could feel any more unlucky than they did after their 31-27 loss to Immaculate Conception, but then they had their Homecoming ruined on a buzzer-beating touchdown against St. Francis. The Irish are a complete mash unit at the moment, but luckily, the second half of their schedule looks to be as manageable as the first half’s was difficult.

6. Bradley-Bourbonnais (2-3)

If the Boilers could bottle up the first-half defensive effort they showed against Bolingbrook and apply that level of play to both sides of the ball in every game, they would enter November as one of the scariest threats in the state. But they’ve hit valleys as often as they’ve hit peaks and will look to get back on track against conference foes Andrew at their Homecoming game Friday.

7. Watseka (5-0)

The Warriors have sniffed success on occasion during the past couple decades but nothing like they’ve enjoyed during the Aaron Hilgendorf era. Behind Drew Wittenborn’s six touchdowns, the Warriors almost scored as many points against Dwight last week (45) as the defense has allowed all year (49). The schedule picks up quite a bit the next three weeks, particularly this week at Central, but if the Warriors continue to pile up these performances, they’ll climb past their current ninth-place ranking in the Class 1A poll.

8. Peotone (4-1)

The Blue Devils have rolled through their first five games, save for the speed bump Coal City provided in Week 4. Their play this season, as it always is under coach Apostolos Tsiamis, has been similar to that of ICE foes Coal City and Wilmington — pound the rock with ease and play stellar defense. The Blue Devils already have battled the Coalers but still await the Wildcats.

9. Milford-Cissna Park (5-0)

How many teams can say they only needed a half of football to drop a 50-spot on the team they played in the state title last year? One, and that one is the Bearcats. Coach Clint Schwartz won’t let his team look too far behind or ahead, but both of those looks seem to be the same — dominance.

10. Manteno (2-3)

The Panthers rode Davey Wurster to a blowout win against Reed-Custer last weekend and hope that spark can ignite into a five-win season and subsequent playoff berth. Matchups with Coal City and Peotone still await, and the Panthers will need an upset in one of those two games to reach that mark.

11. Herscher (1-4)

The Tigers showed promise after a 43-0 Week 1 win against Momence, but injuries, paired with a lack of experience and depth, have done them no favors. With the playoffs all but out of the question, the last month of the season likely will be focused on long-term improvement for promising underclassmen.

12. Reed-Custer (1-4)

The Comets knew it would be tough to stop Manteno’s potent offense last weekend, but they also expected to find the endzone more than once in their 41-6 loss. Similar to the Tigers, the Comets are all but out of the playoff picture, but that won’t stop them from attempting to play spoiler to some of their ICE opponents.

13. Dwight (0-5)

The Trojans were the first area team to see their playoff dreams dashed, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. This team plays hard from whistle-to-whistle, and Carson Crouch might be the area’s best kept secret after he piled up 249 yards and a pair of impressive touchdowns against Watseka last week.

14. Momence (1-4)

The final results might not show it, but Momence has showed continual growth, especially on the offensive end. Grant Laney found the endzone and neared 70 yards on the ground last week behind an ever-improving offensive line as the lone bright spot in last week’s loss to Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

15. Iroquois West (1-4)

The Raiders took a step backward with last week’s running clock loss to Oakwood and their schedule only will get tougher, with Watseka and Central looming during the final month, but Cam Stone and his young team knew this year was going to be about the long term before it started. Expect some progress to come during the final four games.

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