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WEEK 1

Tuscola at Arcola

7 p.m., Aug. 27

➜ Colin’s comment: Cola Wars is back. After a one-season hiatus. These two teams typically put on a show regardless of how their teams look, and their previous meeting at Byron Bradford Field — on Sept. 6, 2019 — resulted in a 45-42 barnburner that visiting Tuscola won. Nick Lindsey‘s Purple Riders return a bulk of their roster from a 4-1 spring campaign, and Andy Romine‘s Warriors retain several key athletes from a 4-2 spring run.

WEEK 2

St. Joseph-Ogden at Unity

7 p.m., Sept. 3

➜ Colin’s comment: The season’s second game at Hicks Field sees Illini Prairie Conference rivals clash under the lights in Tolono. Scott Hamilton‘s Rockets have won each of the last two games in this series and are coming off a 5-0 spring slate. Shawn Skinner‘s Spartans are seeking their first above-.500 season in his sixth year, and they return the majority of their roster from earlier this year. This one will have a playoff feel despite its early date.

WEEK 3

Dwight at Westville

1 p.m., Sept. 11

➜ Colin’s comment: This one might be a bit off the radar for some local readers, but hear me out. Guy Goodlove‘s Tigers will be contesting their first home game since Oct. 26, 2019, when they knocked off rival Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Westville played all five of its spring 2021 games on the road while its field experienced renovations and starts this season with two more road games. Tigers fans will flock to this opening kickoff.

WEEK 4LeRoy at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley

7 p.m., Sept. 17

➜ Colin’s comment: It’s not the biggest local Heart of Illinois Conference rivalry — that goes to GCMS and Fisher, which meet in Week 2 — but this matchup should be a dandy, as well. BJ Zeleznik‘s Panthers rolled to a 3-1 spring record, while Mike Allen‘s Falcons finished 2-2. Two more exciting factors: Illinois target Aidan Laughery will be on the field for GCMS, and both these teams now are in the HOIC Small division after GCMS’s move from the Large.

WEEK 5Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin at Oakwood

1 p.m., Sept. 25

➜ Colin’s comment: More Saturday afternoon Vermilion Valley Conference Football Alliance action — remember, that’s a new partnership between the VVC and Sangamon Valley Conference. This is old-school VVC, though, and should be critical to the league standings. Mark Dodd‘s Blue Devils were among the area’s best last spring in going 5-1, and Al Craig‘s Comets handled themselves well by finishing 4-2 during their most recent season.

WEEK 6Mahomet-Seymour at Quincy Notre Dame

7:30 p.m., Oct. 1

➜ Colin’s comment: This isn’t a nonconference game you see every year, but we all should be glad it’s on the docket this fall. Two programs with a ton of tradition, and a win here would look great on the postseason resume. Jon Adkins’ Bulldogs will make the lengthy trip west after going 3-3 in a grueling spring schedule, and former Illini Jack Cornell‘s Raiders more than held their own in the Big 12 during a temporary alignment in the spring.

WEEK 7Monticello at Paxton-Buckley-Loda

7 p.m., Oct. 8

➜ Colin’s comment: PBL’s move to the Illini Prairie Conference happened just as the COVID-19 pandemic first engulfed the United States, so it’s OK if you don’t remember it. But the Panthers are full members of the league starting this school year. And this game with the Sages is an intriguing one. Cully Welter‘s Monticello crew boasted the area’s only 6-0 record in the spring, and Josh Pritchard‘s PBL program rallied from COVID issues to finish 3-1.

WEEK 8

Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond

at Argenta-Oreana, 7 p.m., Oct. 15

➜ Colin’s comment: If you should know one thing about this Lincoln Prairie Conference game, it’s Kaden Feagin. The ALAH junior and Illinois target likely will play a big role in its outcome. He is a legitimate Division I athlete and should have fun running the ball on A-O’s turf field. Ryan Jefferson‘s Knights finished 4-2 during the spring and are among the LPC’s best teams, while the Bombers are operating under first-year coach Conner Haltom.

WEEK 9

Centennial vs. Champaign Central

7 p.m., Oct. 22

➜ Colin’s comment: Quite a few juicy area rivalry games close out the regular season — Unity at Monticello and Oakwood at Salt Fork also among them — but this one takes the cake. Tommy Stewart Field is sure to be jumping, not even considering potential playoff implications. Kyle Jackson’s Chargers are ready to take the next step after a 3-1 spring, and Tim Turner’s Maroons are trying to bounce back from an 0-6 output.

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports 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).

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