Phil Pash’s Sports Notes

Rematch on Horizon: Rockford-area prep football fans waited all season for the Boylan-Freeport matchup they figured would decide the NIC-9 Conference championship.

The game—Friday night at rain-soaked Boylan—did not disappoint. Freeport won 13-7 in double overtime to take its third straight NIC-9 title and run its winning streak to a conference-record 24 straight games.

Those same fans might not have to wait as long for Freeport-Boylan II, which could occur in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs if they both win their first-round games this weekend. Freeport has been seeded No. 2 and Boylan No. 3 in Quadrant A, which encompasses 6A teams from across the northern top of the state.

Freeport (9-0) will host North Chicago (6-3) this weekend while Boylan (8-1) has a home game against Bensenville Fenton (6-3). If Freeport and Boylan both win, they will meet in the second round either Nov. 7 or 8 at Freeport, according to the pairings bracket.

In all, 21 Rockford-area teams made the playoffs. This weekend’s game times and days were to be released by the Illinois High School Association after 3 p.m. Monday. The games will be either Friday or Saturday with start times to be determined by the competing schools.

The pairings were announced Saturday night, with 256 teams making the eight-class playoffs, 8A (biggest) through 1A (smallest). Only five teams with 5-4 records did not get in based on playoff points. Lexington, in 1A, was the last 5-4 team to get in with 32 points. Geneva and Winnetka North Shore Country Day missed with 5-4 marks and 31 points.

Points were awarded on strength of opponent’s schedule.

Thirty-two teams will start play with 9-0 records, including Freeport, Poplar Grove North Boone, Rochelle, Burlington Central and Eastland-Pearl City (EPC) Coop in the Rockford area. Any of those that finish 13-0 will be a state champ.

South Beloit was the only Rockford-area team to win a title (1A) last season, but the Sobos did not qualify this year.

• • •

NIU Balloon Deflated: Northern Illinois University head football coach Joe Novak said it about as well as it could have been said:

“We got our butts beat by a good football team. We struggled early, and we got behind. When we get behind, we lose our best weapon (Michael Turner).”

That’s just what happened at Bowling Green, Ohio, Saturday. The Falcons needed just three minutes to grab control, scoring two touchdowns in that span to begin the game.

Bowling Green used a no-huddle offense to cover 81 yards in seven plays on its first drive, with P.J. Pope rushing three yards for a 7-0 lead. NIU’s attempt for a quick answer was thwarted as Janssen Patton intercepted P.J. Fleck’s pass on a reverse-option on the Huskies’ second snap from scrimmage. Josh Harris needed just two plays to take the Falcon offense the rest of the way, hitting James Hawkins from 31 yards out for a 14-0 cushion with 12:59 left in the first quarter.

And that was it. Harris passed for three touchdowns and 23rd-ranked Bowling Green tallied 634 yards of total offense to defeat No. 12 Northern Illinois 34-18 in a battle of Top 25 teams.

BGSU won its fourth consecutive game and took command of the Mid-American Conference West Division race at 4-0 and 7-1 overall. Northern—which entered the contest rated 12th in the Associated Press poll and 14th according to ESPN/USA Today—had its season-opening seven-game winning streak stopped, with the Huskies falling to 3-1 in the league and 7-1 overall.

NIU dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, leaving Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.) and Texas Christian as the last three Division I teams with unblemished records. Saturday’s game marked the first time in 30 years that MAC teams have met while both were ranked in the national polls. Miami (Ohio) was No. 17 in the polls on Nov. 10, 1973, when it defeated 19th-ranked Kent State 20-10.

The Huskies dropped into a tie for 21st with Missouri in the latest AP media poll. They are 22nd in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, falling from 14th. NIU also was ranked 10th in the first BCS standings, and will fall from that lofty perch.

Northern returns to DeKalb Saturday vs. Ball State University. The 1:05 p.m. (CST) contest is scheduled for telecast on Fox Sports Net-Chicago.

Turner raced 68 yards for an apparent touchdown two plays after the 14-0 kickoff, but a holding penalty brought the play back. Turner finished with 87 yards on 18 attempts and that was enough to push the senior tailback over the 1,000-yard mark for the season as he now has 1,016 through eight games.

“They hit two big (plays) early, and we got a touchdown called back. The first part of the game didn’t go the way we wanted,” Novak said. “Michael’s run that was called back was a crucial play. We thought we were back in the game at 14-7, and then I saw the flag fall. But the officials didn’t cost us the game. We missed a lot of tackles.”

• • •

SIU Still Unbeaten: Illinois still has at least one college football team in the unbeaten ranks—the SIU Salukis, who beat Southwest Missouri State 20-6 for an 9-0 record, 4-0 in the Gateway Conference.

Elsewhere, Illinois State (4-5, 1-3 Gateway) hung on for a 35-25 win over Youngstown State; Eastern Illinois (3-5, 2-2 Ohio Valley) beat Tennessee-Martin 29-12; and Northern Iowa beat Western Illinois 38-30, dropping the Leathernecks to 5-3, 2-2 in the Gateway.

In the Rockford area, Rockford College (5-3, 3-1 UMAC South) beat Blackburn 52-13 as the Regents’ Marcus Howard became a 3,000-yard career rusher; Beloit (3-4, 2-4 Midwest) rallied to beat Knox 29-26; and Rock Valley College (3-6, 2-5 N4C) rolled over College of DuPage 47-30.

Rockford College clinched second in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference South Division with the victory and earned the right to play in the conference’s third-place game Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

UMAC Dome Day pits the top five teams in the North Division against the top five teams in the South. The first of the five games starts at 8 a.m. with the last one for the championship at 8 p.m.

This will be the fourth annual Dome Day, and Rockford’s second appearance. Last season, Rockford beat Macalester 25-24, and Northwestern of Minnesota beat Maranatha Baptist 9-7 for the title.

According to the UMAC Web site, Rockford plays at 5 p.m. vs. No. 2 seed from the North, either Northwestern, Martin Luther or UM-Morris.

Fullback Brandon Wilkes ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns as Rock Valley rolled up 391 yards of total offense. RVC led 40-30 when DuPage reached the four-yard line with just under three minutes left in the game. On a fourth-and-goal, safety Sam Gorham stripped the ball from DuPage quarterback Kevin Bartosik, then batted the fumble to Golden Eagles teammate Michael Phyfiher who returned it 88 yard for the game-clinching touchdown.

RVC finishes its season Saturday at 1 p.m. with a home game against Grand Rapids Community College.

Beloit plays its final home game of the season Saturday at 1 p.m., entertaining Ripon College.

• • •

Illinois on Bottom: In the Big Ten, Illinois continued to go the wrong way, losing to Minnesota 36-10. The Illini are all alone at the bottom of the pile with a 0-5 conference record, 1-8 overall mark and a seven-game losing streak—and before the game, they learned QB Jon Beutjer is lost for the rest of the season with a herniated disk that likely will need surgery.

Northwestern stunned Wisconsin 16-7 to pull even at 2-2 and 4-4. The Badgers fell to 3-2 and 6-3.

Illinois plays at Iowa (6-2, 2-2), where sophomore Sean Considine of Byron is a top defensive back after walking on to earn a roster spot.

• • •

Bowden Moves Up: Florida State’s Bobby Bowden became the winningest coach in major college football history with his 339th victory as the sixth-ranked Seminoles captured at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 48-24 victory over Wake Forest.

The 74-year-old Bowden, 339-97-4 in 38 seasons as a head coach, surpassed Joe Paterno, whose Penn State tea

m lost 26-14 at Iowa. Eddie Robinson has the all-time college record with 408 wins. Bowden picked up 31 wins at Samford (Ala.) College, another 42 at West Virginia and is 266-65-4 since coming to Florida State in 1976.

Robinson’s all-time collegiate win record could be tied. St. John’s of Minnesota coach John Gagliardi got his 407th career win as the Johnnies beat Concordia 24-12.

• • •

Bears Win Again: How about those Bears? They got their second win of the season by beating the Detroit Lions 24-16 at Soldier Field. Of course, beating the Lions isn’t really anything to crow about.

It was the 20th straight road loss for the Lions, who haven’t won outside of Michigan since Dec. 17, 2000. Now 1-6, they have lost 14 of their last 15 overall.

But when you’re the Bears, any win is welcome. They now are 2-5, and got some good games out of rookies—Charles Tillman set up one score with an interception, Justin Gage had a TD catch and an assist in another score, and Brock Forsey ran for a touchdown.

It won’t get any easier for the Bears this week. They entertain the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Soldier Field with kickoff at noon. Former Rockford Guilford and Nebraska star Carlos Polk (No. 52) plays for San Diego.

The 3-4 Packers had the bye week and return to action Sunday night at Minnesota. Playing in the Metrodome always is tough for the Pack, and the Vikings could be especially testy since they suffered their first loss of the season 29-17 to the Giants last Sunday.

Illinois prep football playoff pairings

First Round

(Either Friday or Saturday)


Alden-Hebron (5-4) at Stockton (8-1)

Galena (6-3) at Freeport Aquin (6-3)

Pecatonica (5-4) at AFC Coop (7-2)

Rockford Christian (5-4) at Aurora Christian (7-2)


Forreston (8-1) at Gilman Coop (8-1)

El Paso (6-3) at Poplar Grove North Boone (9-0)

Dakota (6-3) at Sterling Newman (8-1)


Elgin St. Edward (5-4) at EPC Coop (9-0)

Amboy-Lamoille Coop (6-3) at Manlius (8-1)

Lena-Winslow (5-4) at Orion (9-0)

Fulton (6-3) at Stillman Valley (8-1)


Lombard Montini (5-4) at Burlington Central (9-0)

Johnsburg (7-2) at Byron (7-2)

Richmond-Burton (6-3) at Addison Driscoll (9-0)

Winnebago (7-2) at Woodstock Marian (8-1)


Maple Park Kaneland (5-4) at Rochelle (9-0)

LaSalle-Peru (7-2) at Sterling (7-2)

Riverside-Brookfield (7-2) at Geneseo (8-1)

Streator (6-3) at Morris (7-2)


North Chicago (6-3) at Freeport (9-0)

Bensenville Fenton (6-3) at Rockford Boylan (8-1)


Woodstock (7-2) at Machesney Park Harlem (7-2)

Belvidere (5-4) at McHenry (8-1)


No area teams

Note: Game times and days were to be announced by the IHSA after 3 p.m. Monday.

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