Now that the sixth week out of nine for the high school regular season is in the books, a look back and some highlights and notes thus far.
Make sure to check out Sunday's News-Gazette for an updated area top 10 listing in football.
TIME TO REVIEW
Back in the preseason, The News-Gazette asked head coaches in area conferences to predict the final outcomes for their leagues. With the season now at the two-thirds mark, lets see how accurate those views are. In the Little Okaw Valley Conference, Tri-County is alone in first place. The Titans were picked for seventh in the eight-team league. In the Big 12 Conference, Danville is the sole unbeaten team. The Vikings were tabbed for third. In the Vermilion Valley Conference, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac is leading the way. The Comets were rated fourth out of eight teams. In the Sangamon Valley, St. Thomas More is by itself in first place. The Sabers were ranked fourth before any games had been played. In the Corn Belt Conference, there’s a two-way tie between Rochester and Bloomington Central Catholic. They were picked for first and second — in that order — during the August survey. In the Heart of Illinois, Lexington is leading the 13-team pack. The Minutemen were picked for an eighth-place finish. In the Okaw Valley Black Division, Unity and Monticello share the lead. Unity was picked to finish in a tie for first and the Sages were rated third. In the Okaw Valley Blue Division, Central A&M and Maroa-Forsyth are tied for first. M-F was the preseason choice as the top team and A&M was third.
The area’s longest regular-season winning streaks belong to Unity (nine), Danville (seven) and St. Thomas More (six). The longest streaks for consecutive losses are with Blue Ridge (24), Schlarman (10), Sullivan/Okaw Valley (nine) and Urbana (eight).
BOCK BREAKS THROUGH
The direction St. Joseph-Ogden’s football team was heading became clear last summer, at least in the mind of a rival coach. SJ-O coach Dick Duval heard the words following a 7-on-7 camp. “After seeing Jake Bock play, Scott Hamilton (Unity’s coach) told me we wouldn’t be throwing the ball as much as we’d be running it,” Duval said. The Spartans have been known as a ground-oriented offense, but last year — when the five wins were the fewest in 18 seasons — the school had a 1,000-yard passer, but not a 1,000-yard rusher. Bock, now a junior, has taken SJ-O back to what it traditionally has done best: run the ball. The 180-pounder eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season in SJ-O’s sixth game and has now gained 1,058 yards on 146 attempts. Against St. Thomas More on Friday, he had 119 yards on 32 carries.
HIGH PRAISE FOR FALCONS
After Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley scored on seven of seven possessions Friday to win at Deer Creek-Mackinaw 51-38, DC-M coach Job Lindblom told Peoria Journal-Star sportswriter Ben Diggle, “they played perfect.” Michael Romshek and Stephan Birt did the majority of the damage for the Falcons, teaming up to rush for 360 yards on 46 carries and combining to score 50 points, seven TDs and four two-point conversions.
Centennial’s 20-point loss at Bloomington continued a trend. The schools have met 19 times in football and Bloomington has captured 16 wins. ... SJ-O quarterback Blake Hoveln is a sophomore who got a taste of the varsity life as a freshman. He played in varsity games in football, basketball and baseball as a ninth-grader. ... St. Thomas More coach Dan Hennessey expects the two starters who left Friday’s homecoming game early with sprained ankles, Will Rudolphi and Julian Boswell, to be available for next week’s game. ... Arthur-Lovington played in a homecoming game for the fourth consecutive week. The streak started on Sept. 11 with its own homecoming game at Lovington, followed by a Sept. 18 game against Martinsville which marked’s Arthur homecoming. Last week, the team was Cerro Gordo’s homecoming foe and on Friday it was Atwood-Hammond’s homecoming when the Knights played South Piatt. A-L played without rushing leader Justin Schuring (concussion) and lost to South Piatt.
SEAN HEFFERNAN, St. Thomas More. Senior did a little of everything, converting 2 of 2 extra-point kicks, catching a TD pass, punting out of his end zone, booting a kickoff into the end zone and playing 21/2 series as the replacement quarterback.
DEREK SCOTT, Tri-County. Senior hasn’t been held to fewer than 100 yards through six games and has surpassed 200 in two of his last three games, including 216 in Friday’s win vs. Arcola.
JOE PRATT, Salt Fork. Senior threw two TD passes in his first four varsity starts, but has now put together back-to-back three-touchdown games for the state-ranked Storm.
RANDY CRIST, South Piatt. Junior had a hand in all four of the Wildcats’ TDs against Arthur-Lovington, throwing two TD passes, rushing for one and returning a blocked punt for another score. His arm and feet accounted for 245 yards offense. Plus, he intercepted two passes.
BRANNON KWIATKOWSKI, Mahomet-Seymour. Senior had 15 tackles, recovered a fumble and booted 3-of-3 extra point attempts.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
The Vikings, who have not allowed a first-quarter touchdown since the season-opener, displayed their defensive dominance against a previously unbeaten MacArthur team which had scored at least two TDs in each of its first five games until being shut out at Whitesell Field.
The Rockets trailed unbeaten St. Teresa twice, including at halftime, before Dylan Sturgeon’s second-half magic rallied the home team to a deceptive 19-point victory at Hicks Field.