Week 8 prep football storylines: Villa Grove/Heritage, Central have playoffs in their sights

Week 8 prep football storylines: Villa Grove/Heritage, Central have playoffs in their sights

1 If Villa Grove/Heritage wins its final two games, first-year coach Heath Wilson isn't worried about missing the playoffs.

Playing a strong schedule — all four of VG/H's losses going into Friday's 7 p.m. homecoming game against Tri-County (4-3) are against teams with a combined 21-7 record — should give the Blue Devils (3-4) enough playoff points if they're able to finish 5-4.

"It's definitely stressful week in and week out," Wilson said, "but playing a tough schedule is beneficial."

So is receiving production from a cast of characters. Senior quarterback Evan Wilson (781 passing yards, nine touchdowns), junior running back Kehm Shirley (455 rushing yards), sophomore running back Robbie Wicklander (348 rushing yards) and senior wide receiver Austin Grimm (242 receiving yards) are go-to options, while sophomore Blake Smith has four interceptions.

"We're balanced," said Heath Wilson, citing senior Zach Champagne rushing for 75 yards and two touchdowns in last Friday's 24-14 road win against Oblong/Palestine/Hutsonville. "It just depends on what we can attack against each team, but we've got a lot of guys stepping up."

For the Blue Devils, Wilson is their fourth coach in the last five seasons. Each of the previous three in Chad Musselman, Stan Wienke and Joe Stokowski led VG/H to the playoffs at least once, with Musselman doing so a program-record seven times in eight seasons before he stepped aside after the 2014 season.

Wilson wants to keep the tradition going, but knows the Blue Devils will have to beat Tri-County this Friday and win at Cerro Gordo/Bement (4-3) on Oct. 19.

"It took a little bit of time early on to adjust to us, but they've settled in and gotten to know our coaching staff," Heath Wilson said. "Our kids know we have to win out or we'll be sitting at home Week 10."

2 Salt Fork owns four Vermilion Valley Conference titles.

The Storm (6-1, 3-0 VVC) can clinch a share of a fifth league championship with a win during Friday night's 7 p.m. showdown against Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin (6-1, 3-1) in Catlin.

"It's a big deal to the kids and the community," Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner said. "We haven't been in this position for a number of years."

Salt Fork last won a VVC title in 2011, with BHRA taking the next four and Westville winning the last two.

Slowing down BHRA's potent run game, led by junior Caleb Lahey (area-best 1,104 yards) is vital for the Storm. Junior linebacker Payton Taylor (area-best 103 tackles) sparks a Salt Fork defense that has yielded 13.1 points per game.

"Bismarck churns out really good offensive lines and they have a great one in Lahey," Plotner said. "This is a huge opportunity for us. We've got to come out and play at a high level."

3 While Champaign Central (5-2) could secure a playoff berth with a Big 12 win on Friday night at Normal West (6-1), only one Champaign County high school has clinched a playoff spot: Fisher.

"I'm just so proud of the kids," Fisher coach Jake Palmer said. "They've worked so hard to get to this point."

The Bunnies (6-1) will try to improve their chances of hosting a first-round playoff game for the first time since 2008 when they welcome in Heart of Illinois Conference Small opponent Ridgeview/Lexington (3-4) on Friday.

Junior Will Delaney (585 passing yards, six touchdowns), junior Tyler Wilson (1,019 rushing yards, 14 TDs), senior Tyler Martin (321 receiving yards, three TDs) and senior Hunter Foster (60 tackles) are among the key cogs the Bunnies rely heavily upon.

"Our kids now understand what the taste of success is," Palmer said, "but we want to take that even further and not be satisfied with a first-round playoff exit."