Five things we learned from Week 8 of the local high school football season:
1. Richmond-Burton is back: The Rockets started 1-2 with a 24-20 loss in Week 3 to Genoa-Kingston, but they rolled past North Boone, 35-14, Friday for their fifth consecutive victory and put themselves in position to win a share of the Big Northern Conference East Division championship. R-B won the BNC East in the three previous seasons.
The beauty of some teams’ football seasons is watching how they grow and adapt and learn how to play together. R-B, which had to replace most of its graduated starters from last year’s Class 4A state runner-up team, had a lot of adjusting to do.
Midway through the season, the Rockets were getting better and finding the proper positions for everyone. Now, having beaten BNC East frontrunners Burlington Central and North Boone, they look like a team that can stick around for a while in the playoffs.
“We were really inexperienced coming into the season,” R-B coach Pat Elder said. “Our kids have improved a lot, they’re really resilient. We’ve played our best two games in the last two weeks.”
Elder was worried Friday when he heard Harvard had defeated Genoa-Kingston soundly, 36-7, to reach 4-4. That gives the Hornets more to play for this week, trying to get to five wins and qualify for the playoffs.
“[Harvard coach Tim] Haak will have them ready,” Elder said.
2. Some sting left: Harvard’s playoffs basically started in October. The Hornets were 2-4 after their first six games, meaning another loss would kill any playoff hopes, yet they are still alive.
Friday’s 36-7 victory over G-K was Harvard’s best performance of the season. Sophomore running back Christian Kramer rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns as the Hornets broke the game open in the second half.
That win will add to Friday’s game at Richmond-Burton, always a heated rivalry game to begin with.
3. Good news for Cary-Grove: In the latest playoff outlook on the IHSA website, Cary-Grove is projected as the top-ranked team in Class 6A. The Trojans have been ranked all year by The Associated Press as a Class 7A team, but those are based on projections before the season.
C-G’s enrollment is 1,822 and the current projection is for Class 6A to reach up to 1,875. Things can change on the final week regarding the final 256 teams (32 in each of the eight classes). The general feeling is that Class 7A is a little deeper with tough teams than in Class 6A, but no road to Champaign is going to be easy.
4. Great decision by C-G: Traditionally, C-G has tried to avoid using players on both offense and defense, figuring its talent pool was deep enough that a two-platoon system would keep fresher bodies and play to the Trojans’ advantage.
This season, coach Brad Seaburg has made an exception with fullback-linebacker Kyle Norberg and wide receiver-safety Zach Marszal. It has paid off nicely with Marszal as a big-play receiver and Norberg as a back who gets the tough yards in the middle, but also has the speed to score from anywhere on the field.
In Friday’s 46-13 victory over Dundee-Crown, Norberg ran for an area-best 336 yards, his third 200--plus-yard game this season.
5. PR still fighting: Prairie Ridge, last year’s Class 6A state champion, has struggled this season with injuries and losing so many key players to graduation. But the Wolves found some joy last week with a 41-7 victory over McHenry.
That win stopped a five-game losing streak for the Wolves and also ended McHenry’s playoff hopes. The defense held McHenry to 211 total yards and quarterback Sean Folliard, recruited to play defense by Northern Illinois University, again helped spark the offense.
Prairie Ridge finishes at C-G Friday and would love nothing more than to ruin the Trojans’ perfect season, just as C-G did to the Wolves last year.