Milford: Win and Bearcats might be in playoffs
The Bearcats are in a different position than most 4-3 teams. Coach Nate Albaugh’s squad is confident about a Week 9 win. Milford/CP will pick up a forfeit from Hoopeston Area, which is fielding only a junior varsity team this year. As Albaugh looks at the playoff points (a maximum of 36), he knows what is at stake Friday, when his team faces visiting Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac in a Senior Night showdown. “We’re pretty sure we have to win this week to get in,” Albaugh said. “So that’s the goal. Everyone is healthy, and we’re anxious to play. The kids are practicing hard as well. This week is a must-win for us. We’ve been in playoff mode since last week.” If victorious, that will make 14 straight days without a game more palatable. “Having a week off in Week 9 is another bummer, but at least it gives us a chance to get healthy before the playoffs, if we’re lucky enough to get in,” he said. This week’s game is the only one for the Bearcats during the final three weeks of the regular season. The team is coming off a practice week when it got a forfeit from Schlarman.
Danville: Team controls its playoff destiny
The Vikings (4-3) have put themselves in position where they now control their own postseason destiny. Win twice in the final two weeks and the school will be in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year. Starting with Friday’s regular season home finale against Normal Community (also 4-3), the importance is obvious. “I figure we need to win the last two to have a viable shot at the playoffs,” Danville coach B.J. Luke said. “We are looking forward to the last two weeks versus a couple of teams I thought would be at the top or near the top of the conference. We feel good about our progress and feel that we can be a dangerous team even against these two top teams.” The Vikings’ offense has been quite productive, averaging 432 yards per game during the past four weeks, which helps explain the current three-game winning streak. Players have missed games, but Luke’s philosophy is to move on and not dwell on the absences. “You always have to deal with stuff this time of year; you go to the next man and play football,” he said. Danville plays at Urbana (6-1) in Week 9.
Centennial: Chargers would salvage season with victory against rivals
In many instances, a team with a six-game losing streak playing a team with a seven-game losing streak in Week 8 wouldn’t qualify as a marquee game. However, when the combatants are Central (0-7) playing against Centennial (1-6) with bragging rights for the city of Champaign at stake, Friday’s game becomes one of significance. “It’s something everyone looks forward to,” Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said, “and it’s football weather.” Charger sophomore Jimmy Fitzgerald, a transfer from St. Thomas More, needs 74 passing yards to reach 1,000. Centennial has never had a quarterback eclipse the 1,000-yard mark three years in a row. “He can do it all,” McDonnell said. “Run. Throw. He’s smart, and he works at it. He puts time in with the film.” He has quality receivers in Dustin Walls and Steven Lee. “Even though our record is not so good, we’ve had outstanding performances,” McDonnell said. A defensive mainstay, along with linebacker/punter Fletcher Evans, is nose tackle Terrell Neal-Beard, a sophomore who “now is a force teams have to deal with every game,” McDonnell said. Centennial’s Class of 1987 will have it 25th reunion this weekend.
PBL: Panthers hope returning players will spark late-season rebound
Two weeks ago, the Panthers were 4-1 after a 7-6 homecoming win against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Coach Jeff Graham’s team went on the road and lost consecutive games, but it returns to Paxton for its regular-season home finale against Momence needing to reverse its fortunes. The Panthers will wind up with at least 40 playoff points but need another win to become eligible for the postseason. “These next two weeks are huge for us,” Graham said. “We have two tough ones (Momence, followed by a road trip to unbeaten St. Joseph-Ogden).” PBL is getting closer to having its full roster together. “As far as injuries, this has hurt us here of late,” Graham said, “but we are starting to get healthy again.” Rushing and receiving leader Drew Schrodt was injured in the GCMS game and sat out the last two weeks. He has rejoined the team this week at practice. Strong safety Josh Hopkins has been sidelined, too, and Graham said, “he should be back to 100 percent for this week.” As he replenishes the roster, Graham said, “We hope we can get back the confidence we had in the first five weeks.”
Arcola: Surging Purple Riders look to finish regular season strong
The Purple Riders started off by putting their backs squarely against the wall, dropping their first two games and going until Week 3 before scoring a touchdown. Arcola has won four of its last five games and has registered 109 points during the last two games. “Our kids have fought back to put themselves in a position of controlling their own destiny for conference and playoffs,” coach Gerald Temples said. “We approach each week with the idea of getting better as a team regardless of who we play. The next two weeks are no different. We must continue to work on details offensively, defensively and special teams.” The 4-3 Purple Riders play their regular-season home finale Friday against 5-2 Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond. On the horizon in Week 9 is unbeaten Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement. A season-ending sweep by the Purple Riders would mean no worse than a tie for first place in the Little Okaw Valley. Brook Van Gundy and Zach Moutria are the team’s top tacklers, each averaging at least 10 stops per game.
Prairie Central: Hawks bring three-game winning streak to Rantoul
The Hawks (5-2) will take a three-game winning streak into back-to-back road games to close the regular season. Prairie Central plays Rantoul (1-6) and Chillicothe IVC (2-5) the next two weeks. Ian Briscoe, the area receiving leader after four games, is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus and coach Brian Hassett said he “may be back for a playoff run, but it is up in the air right now. We will have to see in a couple of weeks.” He was hurt in the 34-30 loss to Normal U-High. Senior QB Addison Bounds continues to lead the area in passing yardage (1,431, to go with 16 touchdown passes) and has other capable receivers in Kyle Moody, Viktor Hernandez, Colton Steidinger and Matt Hartke, most of whom have at least 15 receptions. “It looks pretty good for us to have six or seven wins,” Hassett said. “Our goal the next couple of weeks is to stay healthy.” One more win is needed to assure the Hawks of a playoff game for the eighth time in 11 years. In six of those previous years under Hassett, the school won at least a first-round postseason game.
Tri-County: Clapp confident despite tough closing stretch
The Titans are 3-4 but exist as a bubble team with potential. If the program can win out, it will have a minimum of 42 playoff points (total wins by its nine opponents), which should be enough to secure a playoff berth for the fourth year in a row. “It’s nice to know that if we can pull off two wins we would be in,” coach Adam Clapp said, “but we know that we have a tough two-game stretch to end the season.” First up is Villa Grove, a 6-1 team that Clapp said “very easily could be 7-0 going into this week.” The final-week opponent, Hutsonville Palestine, is 2-5, but six of its games have been settled by no more than one touchdown, and the Pioneers are 2-4 in those contests. Luke Clapp returned to the Tri-County lineup as a full-time player two weeks ago, but Drake Kirchner was sidelined for the season with a broken ankle in Week 4. In a preseason poll of LOVC coaches, Luke Clapp was regarded as one of the league’s top returning players. Luke Clapp, a senior, was the incumbent quarterback, but Kirchner, a sophomore, took over at the position when Clapp was sidelined by injury.
Bismarck-Henning: Dodd’s squad will try to cap undefeated season
Coach Mark Dodd’s Blue Devils are one win from the fourth undefeated regular season in school history and the first conference title since the Vermilion Valley Conference was formed in 2004. State-ranked Bismarck-Henning (sixth, Class 2A) concludes its regular season Friday at home against Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman. The team will gain a forfeit in Week 9 from Schlarman. Through seven games, B-H has been dominant, outscoring opponents 240-15 and outgaining them 2,656-531. The current senior class is the first in school history to advance to the playoffs four straight years. Kevin Allen, Luke Horton and Morgan Supergan have been a part of 27 wins (in 39 games) thus far. Seniors Cole Acton, Caleb Bergman, Ty Hufford and Austin Reinken have been involved with 21 wins (in 28 games) to date as has junior Dustyn Ingram. All-time VVC standings: Salt Fork 52-6, Westville 48-11, Bismarck-Henning 33-25, Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman 29-29, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac 29-29, Milford/Cissna Park 17-30, Hoopeston Area 10-44 and Schlarman 7-51.