By Chris Johnson


The journey to the friendly village of Pecatonica takes the average North Boone fan-faithful east in under an hour. The annual Pecatonica Thanksgiving Turkey Tourney is where the Vikings call home to open the season for 2016.

On Monday, Nov. 21, game play begins in Pecatonica as the holiday event tips-off.

Teams from North Boone and Pecatonica have battled for many years during the tenure of host Athletic Director Kevin Kunkel’s watch. The teams know each other well. Dakota was a player in Pecatonica as was Aquin and Pearl City in previous seasons.

The chance to play in the Turkey Tourney gives the Vikings the opportunity to see someone outside of their own 11-team Big Northern Conference. It also sets the stage for what should be an active regular season.

The Big Northern East is gone. The Big Northern West joined them. The Big Northern was built to replace the two-conference view. That means the Vikings will have to contend with teams from Johnsburg and Byron this year as well as address battle with squads from Richmond-Burton and Winnebago.

All former non-conference foes joined together this year. It will make winning a conference title and earning a post-season top-seed a little more difficult.

The odds of a single team stepping forward and running the Big Northern table exists annually in the Big Northern. It’s the way the game is played. Eyes are always firmly affixed on teams from Johnsburg, Byron, and Winnebago. They will be again this year.

The annual Pecatonica Thanksgiving Turkey Tourney runs its course through Tuesday, Nov. 29. On Monday, Feb. 6 the Big Northern portion of the early season awakens as the Harvard Hornets prepare to play host to the neighborly Vikings.

On Thursday, Feb. 9 road addresses will be held at Byron, and a few days later in Johnsburg.  Tournament game play at Marengo will push North Boone into 2017.

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, the annual Milk Can Game will be played against the Wisconsin-based Clinton Cougars. The Saturday match precedes an important stretch of the 2017 season.

Winnebago visits North Boone on Friday, Jan. 10.

A vicious road trip begins on Saturday, Jan. 18 in Richmond-Burton and ends four games later at Rockford Christian on Saturday, Feb. 4.

The closing schedule is much more favorable for North Boone.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7 Oregon visits. Over the final two weeks of the season, the Vikings will only travel once on Friday, Feb. 10 to face the Rockford Lutheran Crusaders. Games against Stillman Valley and Genoa-Kingston will help close the regular-season portion of the North Boone winter sports schedule.

The state playoffs will begin the following week. Teams will be issued seeds based on how well they perform this season. A poor showing early could hurt the Vikings’ chances to get a higher seed and a possibly less stressful opponent in the opening round at the regional level.

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