Football: Prep playoff pairings will be set Saturday

Tough Task: Rockford Boylan faces a daunting task on the final weekend of the Illinois high school regular football season. The 4-4 Titans must win at Freeport Friday night, Oct. 22, to have any hope of getting into the playoffs.

Even if they win, they could be a “bubble team” at 5-4. Freeport is 8-0, has an unprecedented fourth straight NIC-9 title in hand and will be trying to add to a 31-game conference winning streak.

All that is bad enough for the Titans, but the Pretzels also are likely to be a little testy. They didn’t look good in their last outing, a 14-13 heart-stopper over Elgin Larkin Oct. 15 in a non-conference road game. So they likely will have more to prove in their regular-season finale, at home, going for 9-0.

The clock ran out on a Larkin last-second 27-yard field goal attempt to keep Freeport’s perfect season intact. Larkin moved from the 24 to the 16, but then ran the ball up the middle with 21 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Before the Royals could get set, the clock expired.

While Freeport was lucky in Elgin, Belvidere beat Rockford Guilford 30-19 in Belvidere to give the Pretzels the outright crown. Guilford, now with two conference losses, was the only team with a chance of tying Freeport for the title, and that wasn’t much of a chance.

Still, the 6-2 Vikings also are going to the playoffs. And Machesney Park Harlem, Rockton Hononegah and Belvidere could be going. They all are 5-3. A win puts them at 6-3 and in for certain. A loss means 5-4 and the “bubble” or maybe category.

Regular-season finales Oct. 22 have Belvidere vs. Rockford Jefferson (1-6, 2-6) at Rockford Auburn, Boylan at Freeport, Rockford East (2-5, 2-5) at Harlem, Auburn (0-7, 0-8) at Hononegah and Guilford home to Aurora Waubonsie Valley.

In the other games Oct. 15, Boylan beat Jefferson 42-8, Harlem ran over Auburn 56-0 and Hononegah downed East 21-0.

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Playoff Saturday: The 256 qualifiers and the Illinois high school football playoff pairings will be determined Saturday night, Oct. 23, starting at about 5:45 p.m. No broadcast TV channel in the Rockford area carries the pairings show, but it is supposed to be available on Insight 57 in Rockford and numerous other cable systems around the state.

Three FM radio stations in Freeport (92.1, 93.7 and 102.1) also will carry the pairings show. No Rockford station has indicated it will carry it. The best one will be by Don Werntz and his crew on WEKZ-93.7-FM, which is head-and-shoulders above any area radio station for prep football coverage.

The boys’ football playoffs are the only IHSA tournament for which teams qualify on the basis of their regular-season records. There are 549 schools playing 11-man varsity football. However, six Chicago Public League conferences comprising 36 teams do not participate in the playoffs, leaving a total of 513 eligible schools.

Of these, 256 (slightly less than half) will be selected for the playoffs. The steps used to determine what teams receive a playoff berth and how the playoff teams are paired can be found at

In the following list, 8-0, 7-1, 6-2 definitely are going to playoffs while 5-3 and below could be on the “bubble.” Remember, conference champions get automatic bids.

8-0—Freeport, Rochelle, Johnsburg, Manlius Bureau Valley, Poplar Grove North Boone.

7-1—Geneseo Darnall, Eastland-Pearl City, Sterling Newman, Stockton, Stillman Valley, Spring Valley Hall.

6-2—Burlington Central, Rockford Guilford, Mendota, Sterling, Byron, Forreston, Dakota, Durand, Amboy-LaMoille, Harvard, Hampshire, Woodstock Marian, Freeport Aquin, Peru St. Bede.

5-3—Lena-Winslow, LaSalle-Peru, Marengo, Ashton-Franklin Center, Belvidere, Rockton Hononegah, Machesney Park Harlem, Maple Park Kaneland, Morrison, Alden-Hebron.

4-4—Warren-River Ridge, Streator, Rockford Christian, Rockford Boylan, Galena, Woodstock.

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Regents Win Big: The Rockford College football team set school records for total offense and single-game rushing yards in a 77-12 victory over Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, N.D., Oct. 16.

Rockford (5-2) amassed 647 yards total offense—including 547 rushing—vs. the 0-7 Lions. In the past three seasons, the Regents have outscored TBC by 247-12. Included in that total was last year’s NCAA III record 105-0 drubbing. The 77 points put up by RC this year is second only to that 2003 total for points scored in a game by a Rockford team.

Sophomore tailback Joseph Mariani (Palatine) rambled for 276 yards on just 14 carries, an average of 19.7 yards per attempt. Mariani scored three TDs on runs of 1, 68 and 72 yards. The latter was the second-longest run from scrimmage in RC football history, and his rushing total for the day is the third-best ever by an RC player.

While nine different backs carried the ball for RC, junior quarterback Travis Stocker (Forreston) set a game record by throwing for four TDs (the previous record of three had been accomplished four times previously, three of those by Stocker). On the day, Stocker was eight-of-14 for 100 yards.

Rockford plays at Blackburn College in Carlinville Oct. 23 and then will participate in UMAC Dome Day Oct. 29 in Minneapolis. The Regents close out their season Nov. 6 at home to Thomas More College.

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Harper Dumps RVC: Tyrone Simmons rushed for 103 yards, and his 53-yard TD run in the fourth quarter broke open the game as Harper College (6-2, 5-1) defeated Rock Valley College (2-5, 1-5) 32-9 in Rockford Oct. 16. It was RVC’s final home game of the season.

RVC travels to Glen Ellyn Oct. 23 for a matchup against winless College of DuPage. Kickoff is 1 p.m. The Golden Eagles close out the season Oct. 30 at Grand Rapids, Mich.

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Wolfe Leads NIU: Garrett Wolfe’s 226 yards and four TDs on 37 carries helped Northern Illinois to a 42-10 Mid-American Conference victory over Central Michigan Oct. 16 in the Huskies’ 98th homecoming game in DeKalb.

NIU improved to 5-2 overall and 5-0 in the MAC while Central Michigan fell to 2-4 and 1-2. The Huskies now face two straight road games—Oct. 23 at Western Michigan and Oct. 30 at Ball State. Their next home game will be on Tuesday night, Nov. 9, vs. Toledo on ESPN2.

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