Listen to this article

Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin at Unity, Nov. 30

➜ Both teams are returning some key players, and this nonconference game at the Rocket Center offers a good chance for Gary Tidwell‘s Blue Devils and Matt Reed‘s Rockets to see where they’re at in the early going.

LeRoy at Ridgeview, Dec. 3

➜ A Mustangs boys’ basketball game without Rodney Kellar? This will be the first in Colfax without him as the head coach since 1986. Good to have it come against a Heart of Illinois Conference rival.

St. Teresa at St. Thomas More, Dec. 3

➜ Not a conference matchup, but a game between two schools with plenty of intriguing athletic history. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the first home game for new Sabers coach Brandon Martin.

Centennial at Urbana, Dec. 7

➜ Chargers-Tigers tends to have even more heat behind it (at least recently) than Centennial-Champaign Central. Don’t expect that to change in this early Friday night meeting between Tim Lavin‘s bunch and Verdell Jones‘ squad.

Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond at Tuscola, Dec. 7

➜ Both of these teams are bringing back ample varsity experience. The main story will be Loyola men’s basketball signee Jalen Quinn on the Warriors’ side. But the Knights have a Division I football prospect in Kaden Feagin.

Danville at Champaign Central, Dec. 10

➜ Durrell Robinson‘s Vikings and LeConte Nix‘s Maroons are dealing with the graduations of numerous important players. This also is an early opportunity for first-year head coach Nix, now running his alma mater’s team, to gain a signature victory.

Clinton at Argenta-Oreana, Dec. 16

➜ Neither squad experienced a ton of success during the shortened 2021 spring season, but this is a game between Bombers coach Clay Haurberg‘s former team and his current one, which always adds intrigue.

Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond at Monticello, Dec. 17

➜ A chance to see the aforementioned Feagin butting heads with Sages big man Joey Sprinkle in the paint? Sounds like fun. As with ALAH-Tuscola, this is a game featuring sufficient returning talent from the previous season.

Mahomet-Seymour at Normal U-High, Dec. 18

➜ Ryan Bosch‘s Bulldogs are an athletically talented bunch, as evidenced by what some of his players achieved on the football field this fall. This is a great test for the program leading into the daunting State Farm Holiday Classic.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley at Fisher, Jan. 4

➜ These schools never disappoint in their athletic rivalry events. Ryan Tompkins is a veteran of such matchups on the Falcons’ side, while Doug Ingold gets his first taste of it as the Bunnies’ coach.

Paxton-Buckley-Loda at Rantoul, Jan. 7

➜ When these rivals would meet in the recent past, it didn’t have conference standings considerations attached. That changes now with Adam Schonauer‘s Panthers in the Illini Prairie Conference alongside Ryan Parker‘s Eagles.

Salt Fork at Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Jan. 7

➜ How will Andrew Johnson‘s Storm team slow down Buffaloes senior sharpshooter Cale Steinbaugh? How will Rob Lorenzen‘s G-RF group contain Salt Fork junior and state-champion discus thrower Garrett Taylor down low?

Westville at La Salette, Jan. 7

➜ A healthy Bryce Burnett could be poised for a breakout campaign with the Tigers under first-year coach Zack Patterson. Thus, John Spezia‘s Lions crew offers a unique test with talent from beyond the state’s borders.

Milford at Oakwood, Jan. 11

➜ This Vermilion Valley Conference game might go under the radar, but Dave Caldwell‘s Bearcats could be a team to fear in the league this season, while Jeff Mandrell‘s Comets are trying to defend their VVC title.

Tuscola at Unity, Jan. 11

➜ Another good chance to see what Quinn can do against non-Central Illinois Conference foe. Justin Bozarth‘s team will need to focus on slowing Rockets football standouts like Blake Kimball and Austin Langendorf.

Judah Christian at Arthur Christian, Jan. 18

➜ A premier East Central Illinois Conference duel between Bill Ipsen‘s Tribe and Greg Mast‘s Conquering Riders. Even more meaningful this time around since Arthur Christian didn’t play last school year.

La Salette at Danville, Jan. 25

➜ This will be the Lions’ first season as a full IHSA member, meaning they’re working toward a postseason seed. Picking up a win against the Vikings would be impactful.

Monticello at Prairie Central, Jan. 25

➜ Kevin Roy‘s Sages could be a dangerous out in any Illini Prairie game, while Darin Bazzell‘s Hawks graduated a ton of regular starters but still retain numerous younger athletic talents who could thrive in varsity play.

Iroquois West at Salt Fork, Jan. 28

➜ Remember the Feagin-Sprinkle head-to-head alluded to in the ALAH-Monticello game? For this matchup, it’s potential D-I football player Cannon Leonard representing the Raiders against Storm big man Taylor.

Heritage at Villa Grove, Feb. 1

➜ Will this be an awkward meeting, the first since the dissolution of a multi-year cooperative between the schools? Will there be extra tension? Heritage isn’t playing on the girls’ side, so it should be interesting to find out.

Champaign Central at Centennial, Feb. 8

➜ Neither Maroons-Chargers game this season is occurring on a Friday night, which is an odd scheduling quirk. So let’s turn to this Big 12 Conference game late in the season, as it could set the tone for a pair of playoff runs.

Georgetown-Ridge Farm at Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Feb. 8

➜ Even if there aren’t major Vermilion Valley implications on the line (though there could be), these two teams had all sorts of underclass talent on their most recent rosters. So this game should be a good one.

Urbana at Mahomet-Seymour, Feb. 8

➜ Hard to find frequent nonconference action this time of the season, especially of the local-on-local variety. The Tigers are looking to bounce back from a rough spring, and the Bulldogs are looking to build upon past successes.

St. Joseph-Ogden at Unity, Feb. 11

➜ It’s hard to say exactly what the premier Illini Prairie rivalry is these days. But this meeting should be sufficiently gritty and hard-nosed, with the Rockets wanting to stop Division I recruit Ty Pence and the rest of Kiel Duval‘s Spartans.

Arcola at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, Feb. 15

➜ This is a potentially really nice Lincoln Prairie Conference showcase at the tail end of the regular season — maybe with some league title implications. Greg Gisinger‘s Purple Riders graduated a fair bit of talent but also return enough to give Brad McGill‘s Knights a fight.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Trending Videos