The area's two marquee matchups tonight in the West Central Conference feature four teams with vastly divergent approaches to their current situations. One will pit a great defense against a talented runner and the other features two teams relying on the passing game.|
In Edgington, the Rockridge Rockets (5-1, 4-1 WCC) hope to set up a potential winner-take-all matchup next Friday at first-place Macomb (6-0) with a win against Monmouth-Roseville (4-2). The Mon-Rose Titans are looking to become playoff eligible with a fifth win, but that will not be an easy task. After tonight, the Titans still face formidable matchups with St. Joseph-Ogden (6-0) and Carthage Illini West (5-1) in the next two weeks.
Defense has been a big part of Rockridge's success, ranking among the best in the area, let alone the WCC. The 80 points the Rockets have allowed in six games is tops among the nine West Central members. However, Coach Jason Kirby's defense will get tested by Mon-Rose's red-hot junior running back Martel Hunter, who is coming off consecutive 200-plus yard games.
Meanwhile, Sherrard's Clifford King Field will be the site for an equally interesting matchup of a different stripe, as the Tigers (3-3, 2-3 WCC) welcome traditional rival Orion (2-4, 2-3) in a game featuring two of the better passing attacks around the area.
For the Chargers, the mission is simple: the playoffs begin now -- one loss and Orion misses the postseason for just the second time in the last 10 years. Sherrard, which has missed the playoffs the last two years with consecutive 4-5 finishes, also feels a win is a must with Illini West and a much-improved Pittsfield-Griggsville-Perry club (2-4, 1-4) still on the schedule.
Erie-Prophetstown knocking on playoff door: Having only made the playoffs once in their decade-long co-op partnership, the Erie-Prophetstown Panthers (4-2) have a shot to open the door to their first postseason appearance since 2002 if they can earn a win on the road tonight at Kewanee (1-5).
However, tonight's matchup at the KHS Stadium won't be an easy task for the Panthers, who are in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Rivers Conference with Bureau Valley and Peru St. Bede. The Boilermakers have played many of their opponents tough, and with home games against state-ranked Sterling Newman and St. Bede up next, E-P would definitely help its playoff cause with a win.
Speaking of BV and St. Bede, both teams try and keep pace tonight. At Manlius, the BV Storm host a 2-4 Fulton team desperately needing to win to stay in the playoff picture. St. Bede's Bruins trek to Amboy to meet the undefeated Clippers, who share the Big Rivers lead with a Newman squad that hosts winless Spring Valley Hall in a Saturday noontime special.
Meanwhile, defending Class 2A state champion Morrison (3-3) looks to snap a two-game losing skid on its home turf of Bud Cole Field as the Mustangs welcome a game, but undermanned, Riverdale team that is seeking its first win. However, redemption may be a powerful weapon in the Rams' arsenal, as they lost to the same team at the same field in last year's 2A playoff opening round.
Titans, Golden Eagles look to remain perfect: Set to meet in two weeks at Aledo, Lincoln Trail Conference co-leaders Annawan-Wethersfield and Mercer County (both 6-0) look to keep their perfect records intact tonight. The A-W Titans travel to Varna to face an improved River Valley club (2-4); the Mercer County Golden Eagles host winless Sciota West Prairie at George Pratt Memorial Field.
Next week, A-W and Mercer County swap opponents, but the odds of both being 8-0 going into Week 9's showdown remain high. Both teams got standout performances from their running backs in key wins last week; the Titans' Micam Smith had 286 total yards and the game-winning touchdown in a 33-30 win over United; the Eagles' Zach Nelson rushed for 224 yards and two scores in a 34-20 win at Stark County.
United and Stark County (both 4-2) try to bounce back this week. The Rebels travel to Cambridge to face Ridgewood (1-5); the Red Storm return home to meet a 2-4 Princeville club fighting for its playoff life. Also looking to stay in the postseason picture is Mid-County (2-4), which heads to Biggsville to meet like-minded West Central (3-3).
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