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Sports

Forreston, Byron, Rochelle make it into state football playoffs

Three Ogle County high school football teams have qualified for the state playoff series which starts this week.

Forreston (8-1) hosts Catlin Salt Fork (5-4) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.

Salt Fork, with an enrollment of 278, plays in the Vermillion Valley Conference. Three of their four losses were to Eureka 27-10 (Aug. 25); Watseka 28-7 (Sept. 1); and Westville 48-14 (Sept. 8). They also lost to Bismark 35-21 on Sept. 29.

Their wins were: Sept. 15, Hoopeston 46-0; Sept. 23, Georgetown 14-12; Oct. 6 Milford 51-12; Oct. 13 Dwight 42-0; and Oct. 20 Fithian 41-20.

Forreston’s only loss this season was to arch-rival Lena-Winslow on Sept. 1, 28-14. The school’s enrollment is 268.

Their wins were: Aug. 25 Pecatonica, 54-6; Sept. 8. Dakota 40-0; Sept. 15. Eastland-Pearl City 30-18; Sept. 22. Freeport Aquin 50-19; Sept. 29 East Dubuque 40-7; Oct. 6 Galena 48-7; Oct. 13 Savanna West Carroll 44-6; and Oct. 20 Amboy 54-6.

The Cardinals won the 1A title in Champaign last year posting a perfect 14-0 record.

3A

The Big Northern Conference will be presented by Byron, North Boone, and Winnebago. Rockford Christian will compete in the 2A division.

BNC champions Byron (9-0) host Eureka on Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Winnebago (6-3) travels to top-rated Farmington (9-0) on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game. Winnebago’s losses were to Byron 50-6; Genoa-Kingston 42-21; and Rockford Christian 54-0.

4A

Rochelle (6-3) hosts Chicago (Agricultural Science) (6-3) on Friday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m.

Playoffs

Polo was among 17 teams that finished with a 5-4 record and did not earn a playoff berth. The Marcos had 38 playoff points, or wins by their nine opponents, but needed 39 to get into a tiebreaker.

For other area teams, there will be some familiar faces going up against each other in the first round of the IHSA football playoffs.

Dixon faces a matchup with former conference rival Geneseo. Sterling Newman has a third meeting in six years with Aurora Christian.

Newman drew the No. 1 seed in Class 2A, but the reward is a first-round game against No. 16 seed Aurora Christian.

“It’s a very tough first game for being a one seed, but we have to play where they put us,” Newman coach Mike Papoccia said.

The Comets beat the Eagles 44-21 in a first-round game in 2014. Aurora Christian beat Newman 41-7 in a Class 3A semifinal in 2012.

“I’m sure it’s the same type of team,” Papoccia said. “They always have some big, strong linemen, and their quarterback is very talented. They throw the ball a lot. They play tough defense because they’ve played some stiff competition. We’re going to have to be on our best.”

The Dukes will host Geneseo, a conference rival in the NCIC and Northern Illinois Big 12 from 1981 to 2013, for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.

Geneseo enters the playoffs at 5-4, sneaking by a seven-win Morris team, 21-17, at home to assure itself of its 54th consecutive winning season. The Dukes, meanwhile, are coming off a tough 48-47 loss at North Boone, one which dashed hopes of a perfect season.

As conference opponents, the Dukes have only had two wins against the Maple Leafs, coming in 1991 and 2001. 

Sterling (9-0) draws the No. 2 seed in the North in Class 5A and will open the postseason against No. 15 seed St. Viator (5-4).

“I don’t know too much about them,” Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer said. “I know the league they play in and it’s one of the better leagues in Illinois. They’re obviously well-tested.”

St. Viator went 4-3 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference this year. Conference rivals Marist, Nazareth Academy, Niles Notre Dame, Benet Academy and Woodstock Marian all made the playoffs this year.

In other Class 1A action, Fulton (6-3) will be making the trip south to take on Ottawa Marquette. The Crusaders (7-2) were champions of the Northeast Athletic Conference and proved to be a dangerous foe a year ago, when they advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Forreston.

Marquette is coached by Tom Jobst, who posted a 50-28 record as Morrison head coach from 1980-87.

“We’re somewhat familiar with their style from when their coach was at Morrison,” Fulton coach Patrick Lower said. “They run the Wing-T, and they play disciplined, assignment football. We’ll need to have a great week of practice, and it is critical we do not make mistakes against a team like theirs.”

The Steamers are the lone Class 1A team from the Three Rivers to qualify for the playoffs, which Lower noted will be an advantage. As long as they stay alive, they’ll face a different opponent each week.

“The last thing you want in the playoffs is to be playing teams that you’ve already played in the regular season,” Lower said. “The fun part is to prepare for teams you don’t know much about, and they don’t know much about you.”

Fulton and Marquette will play at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner will get either Forreston (8-1) or Salt Fork (5-4) in the second round.

Eastland-Pearl City (5-4) needed to beat Polo in Week 9 to become playoff eligible. The Wildcatz’ reward is a first-round date against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (9-0) in the Class 2A playoffs.

“They were a team on our radar, but we thought they would go south, so right now we’re kind of scrambling,” EPC coach Randy Asche said. “Looking at their scores, they didn’t have a game under 40 all year. We watched a little film on them, and they can run it, pass it and play aggressive defense. They look like the real deal.”

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley ran away with the Heart of Illinois (Small) Conference title, and outscored its nine opponents by a whopping 424-46 margin. The Falcons’ closest game was a 45-18 decision against El Paso-Gridley in Week 3. Their defense has four shutouts and has allowed a mere 15 points over the last six games.

GCMS is no stranger to the playoffs, with this being the Falcons’ 17th appearance, including 12th in the last 13 seasons. Their deepest run came in 2009, when they reached the 2A semifinals before losing at Morrison.

Eastland-Pearl City and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley will play at 2 p.m. Saturday.

For West Carroll (6-3), it’s another trip to the playoffs, and another road trip in the first round. The Thunder, who missed the playoffs last season, will travel to Minonk to take on Fieldcrest (7-2), time and date to be determined.

The Knights have gone up against NUIC competition before in the playoffs, most recently in a 46-33 2A semifinal loss to Eastland-Pearl City in 2014. Other than that, Thunder coach Matt Leitzen didn’t know a whole lot else about this year’s version of their opponents.

“They played EPC a couple of years ago during EPC’s title run, so I’ve watched them once, but that was 3 years ago,” Leitzen said. “We don’t know a whole lot about them, but I do know that they were one of the teams that we were projected to play. We’ve done a little work, but not a whole lot yet.”

West Carroll has won only one playoff game, coming in 2007 at Illini West – successors of state power program Carthage. Two years ago, the Thunder were shut out 22-0 against Tri-Valley in Downs.

The Knights are runners-up this year in the Large Division of the Heart of Illinois Conference, behind Tri-Valley.

“I don’t think you ever let the travel bother you if you’re glad you get an opportunity to play in the postseason,” Leitzen said. “It’s a little bit of a haul, but it’s something we’ve been accustomed to when we’ve been in the playoffs.”

Milledgeville (7-2) was hoping for a win over Aquin on Friday, but that didn’t happen in a 38-0 road loss in Freeport. With seven wins, the chances of hosting a first-round playoff game were about 50 percent, but the Missiles drew an No. 8 seed and will play hosts at Floyd Daub Field against Abingdon-Avon, time and date to be determined.

The Tornadoes are also 7-2, and play in the Black Division of the Prairieland Conference. They are coming off of a winless season, and opened this year by winning their first five games. 

Missiles coach Jason Wroble, like most others when hearing about their first-round opponents, didn’t know a whole lot about the Tornadoes right away.

“We’re really excited about that,” Wroble said of hosting a playoff game. “That was one of our goals going into the season, to host a game and advance in the playoffs. We thought going into [Friday] that we had to get a W to get a home game. 

“We got one goal down, and hopefully with a little bit of fortune and a little bit of luck that we can get to goal two and advance.”

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