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Bartlett's Aaron Everson is tackled down by Elgin's Jordan Smith earlier this season. Everson and the Hawks are seeking a third straight trip to the playoffs. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
If one thing is clear as we approach the halfway point of the high school football season, it’s that there aren’t any juggernauts among the Elgin area’s 13 teams.
Every local squad has already endured a defeat by at least 10 points, and every team but Dundee-Crown and Huntley have a blowout loss of 24 points or more on the ledger.
What the early results tell us is that every local team has some flaw that makes it vulnerable against elite competition. Given the tough schedules that await some of the area’s best teams, it isn’t a stretch to say none of the 13 local squads will make it through the regular season with fewer than three losses.
While the prospects of a deep playoff run for a local team don’t look bright at the moment, there is certain to be plenty of intrigue over the next few weeks as we find out which teams have what it takes to earn a spot in the postseason.
That brings us to the subject of which area teams appear to have the most potential, and right near the top of that list is Dundee-Crown.
No, that’s not a typo. The same Chargers that entered the regular season on a 26-game losing streak now deserve to be mentioned among the area’s best.
Dundee-Crown made a major statement by knocking off defending Class 6A state champion Prairie Ridge 35-21 on Friday night in Carpentersville. Granted, injuries left the Wolves with a depleted lineup, but that doesn’t take anything away from a Chargers squad that avenged a 55-0 loss to Prairie Ridge in 2011.
The victory was Dunde-Crown’s first conference win since 2006, ending a 28-game losing streak in league games. It served notice that the Chargers aren’t simply content with being more competitive this season, and that they intend to challenge for the program’s first trip to the playoffs since 1994.
While we can all agree that Dundee-Crown (3-1) is for real, the road ahead won’t be easy in a Fox Valley Conference Valley Division that suddenly looks more balanced than ever from top to bottom. The challenges will be great, but count on second-year Chargers coach Vito Andriola to have his players ready for every test.
Joining Dundee-Crown in the conversation of best teams in the Elgin area are Burlington Central (3-1), Bartlett (3-1), Jacobs (3-1) and Huntley (2-2).
Burlington Central has weathered the storm nicely with three-year varsity quarterback Ryan Ritchie sidelined with an ankle injury. With Ritchie’s return imminent it appears the Rockets have the best chance among local teams to finish the regular season with seven or eight wins, and a Big Northern East title certainly isn’t out of the question.
Bartlett has recovered admirably from a 49-0 loss to Wheaton North in Week 1 thanks to some stellar play from senior running back Aaron Everson, but the Hawks will be hard pressed to win a third straight Upstate Eight Valley title. Upcoming opponents Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley look like the cream of the crop in the league this year, but the Hawks should have enough in the tank to get back to the playoffs for a third straight year.
Huntley and Jacobs are part of the muddled picture in the FVC Valley, and the next few weeks will go a long way toward determining their fates.
The Golden Eagles have struggled on defense lately but boast a high-powered offense capable of hanging with anybody. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders are riding high after beating Prairie Ridge and Crystal Lake South in consecutive weeks, a sign that highly-touted coach John Hart’s arrival earlier this year is having an immediate impact.
After that top tier of local teams there is St. Charles East, South Elgin, Hampshire and Larkin, all currently 2-2. Reaching the playoffs is a definite possibility for those four teams, but they might need to pull off an upset along the way to help their chances, and one slip-up could be a back-breaker.
So while the reality is that local football fans probably don’t need to book any hotel rooms in Champaign for the weekend of the state finals, it is noteworthy that playoff hopes are alive and well for nine of the area’s 13 teams.
Fasten your seat belts for the final five weeks. The drama should be thick, and don’t be surprised if several local squads go down to the wire in their quest to punch a ticket to the postseason.
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