Area prep football teams prepare for final playoff push

By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter

The playoff picture in the area is becoming much clearer. Eight area teams have already punched their ticket and are playing for position. Four more teams are on the edge and need wins and help.

In the IHSA, six wins guarantees a playoff spot. Five wins makes you eligible for the playoffs, but does not guarantee a spot. The top 256 teams go into the playoffs and then are broken down into eight classes. Some 5-4 teams will go in, but some are usually left out every year.

Rockford Boylan Catholic Titans will lead the way for the qualifiers. The Titans are 8-0 right now and safely in the playoffs. They currently look to be one of the top seeds, depending on how the final week of the season plays out.

They will face Belvidere, one of the teams that is trying to become eligible for the playoffs. The Bucs are 4-4. A win would make them eligible to be in the playoffs, though not secure a spot.

Belvidere has qualified the last few seasons at 5-4, so odds are they can make it in. But it starts with a win and trying to end Boylan’s conference winning streak.

Elsewhere in the NIC-10, Rockton Hononegah is also safely in the playoffs at six wins. They are playing for position. A win against Freeport and a 7-2 record will likely put the Indians right on the edge of possibly hosting a first-round game.

Machesney Park Harlem and Rockford Guilford are also sitting at 6-2, and they play one another Friday, Oct. 25, in a game that will certainly determine position. The loser will surely be on the road in the first round. The winner will be on that same edge Hononegah is on, but whether their first game is at home or not, it will be an easier road than the loser.

Belvidere North gets the long week waiting to find out. After coming within one stop of beating Boylan and earning a sixth win, the Blue Thunder gets a week off and a fifth win by forfeit from Rockford Jefferson. The last few years, 5-4 in the NIC-10 has been enough to get in, but there are no guarantees for North right now.

In the Big Northern West, they have a trifecta of teams that have qualified already. Winnebago (8-0), Rockford Lutheran (7-1) and Stillman Valley (7-1) have all picked up the necessary wins for the playoffs. All three also sit in prime position to get a home game.

The subplot for them is in the conference race. Winnebago hosts Stillman this Friday, Oct. 25. If the Cardinals can win, there would be a three-way tie for the conference. If Winnebago wins, they wrap up one of the top seeds in 3A or 4A, and Stillman is on the edge of getting to host week one.

Meanwhile, Oregon is sitting at 4-4, with no shot of getting into that conference tie. But if they can knock off last-place Rock Falls, Oregon will get to 5-4. While that is no guarantee to making it, Oregon has one of the highest playoff point totals (opponents wins) in the state, and will be one of the first 5-4 teams safely in the playoffs if they can get there.

North Boone does not sit quite as nice at 4-4 in the Big Northern East. They have a game they can win against Burlington Central that would get them to 5-4. But that has not been enough in past years in that conference. One thing helping the Vikings is their conference did better overall in non-conference matchups, meaning a few more points. But even with a win, it will be a long weekend.

One of the best stories in the area has been the Christian Life Eagles. After losing their first game of the season to Ottawa Marquette, who is one of the top teams in the state, the Eagles have rolled off seven straight wins.

They finish the season with a tough road game against Mooseheart. If they can win that game, they’ll finish in second place in the Northeast Athletic Conference. More importantly, they’ll be one of the top seeds in Class 1A and have a shot to make a good postseason run.

From the Oct. 23-29, 2013, issue

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