By Christopher Johnson


Rivermen fight off top team in 2A Football

This past week was unique for Durand and Pecatonica High School football players. A couple weeks back, they didn’t even know they would have a week five game. Even though Homecoming nearly mandated it.

To accommodate their season schedule, finding an opponent was the preferred path to follow and Athletic Director Kevin Kunkel worked with neighboring Activities Director Pete Robinson to find a suitable fill-in, especially with the annual celebration of remembrance at hand.

Pecatonica-Durand got exactly what it needed and picked up a major bonus in doing so. Not only did they fill their schedule, but they drew in one of the historic great teams in high school football history.

Decatur-St. Theresa has visited the post-season every year since 1991, with just three misses recorded during that stretch. They know how to get to the post-season and what it takes to win when they get there.

The week five loss, which dropped the Rivermen season mark to 4-1 was still a beneficial experience, regardless of the 28-22 decision against the hosts.

The Rivermen picked up a game that gave them a picture of how good central-southern Illinois football is. They got a glance of what it might take to be a potential State Champion too.

Teams like Lena-Winslow, Forreston, Byron and Rockton-Hononegah are well known, generally on a State success recognition level But, a team from western Winnebago County was a draw for the number one team in Class 2A this past Friday.

The Bulldogs decision to accept the Pecatonica-Durand invitation to play on Friday helped fill the void caused when Urbana canceled its 2021 football season.

The Tigers game would have been registered as a forfeit against Urbana, and a win for Pecatonica-Durand had a match not been uncovered for the NUIC-leading Rivermen. They would have moved to 5-0, but gained no true edge for post-season entry.

Instead, they agreed to play Decatur-St. Theresa and lost to the best team in the 2A realm and slipped to 4-1. In doing so they picked up a lot of extra “playoff points” to bolster consideration for placement in week ten.

Now with one more win, a five-victory campaign would probably be enough, with playoff points calculated, to assure Pecatonica-Durand will see post-season play in 2021.

This Friday night the Rivermen get their chance to achieve that total and potentially secure a seat in the second season. They will have to tame the Dakota Indians to do so, but do get the edge of being at home to get it done.

Dakota is on a mission to try to qualify itself. They pushed past Pearl City-Eastland 16-8 in their week five game to keep its hopes of post-season play in play.

With a mark of 2-2 in the NUIC Dakota still could be a “mathematic” consideration in a conference chase, even though a lot of things would have to go right for the sub-.500 season program.

Week seven is the “Big One” to most northern Illinois football followers. Pecatonica-Durand gets to put to use what they learned in their week five, six-point loss to Class 2A top-ranked Decatur-St. Theresa.

Lena-Winslow, which rides the top of the rankings in Class 1A will play host to their co-conference leader. Tickets are expected to be a premium with kick-off scheduled for 7pm on Friday, Oct. 8.

Lady Indians run into Big Northern trouble

Going up against one of the strongest teams in the Big Northern, let alone the State of Illinois, the Winnebago Lady Indians ran into more trouble as this week of volleyball began. They had to deal with 16-2 Freeport Aquin.

Genoa-Kingston toppled Winnebago in two games this past week, but the Lady Indians kept them from just “having things their way.”

Strong defensive efforts helped keep the Lady Indians in the match early against the State-ranked Lady Cogs.

Front court presences piloted some key points as Winnebago pressed on against a strong attack from the visiting Big Northern neighbors.

Game one pushed into the 20’s with Genoa-Kingston holding ground and eventually gaining the game with the 25-19 decision.

It got a lot tougher in the second match of the night. Strong serves, swift passes and well-placed kills helped the 21-0 Lady Cogs to the 25-12 win.

Taking the match two games to none kept the Lady Cogs perfect this season and in first place in the highly-competitive Big Northern Conference.

It also had the effect of knocking Winnebago two games back of the leaders in the loss column and in sixth place, statistically.

Prior to the Thursday home loss to Genoa-Kingston, Winnebago had to figure how to work through another major issue, Byron.

The Lady Tigers were prepared for the conference challenge and they took control in the early minutes and refused to allow the host Lady Indians even a thought of coming back.

The 25-8 win gave Byron the 1-0 edge heading into game two of the conference clash and this time things were a little less free-flowing.

Winnebago again showed it could stand its ground and protect. When windows opened, front court slammers often found placement points, keeping the match much closer.

Through the final minutes of game two, Byron put together a plan of attack that managed to secure enough insurance for the conference lock down.

Byron won 25-18 and kept its Big Northern mark in range of the leaders, at 2-1, in fourth and tied with Rockford Lutheran a game back of Genoa-Kingston, Rock Falls and Stillman Valley.

Freeport Aquin, stood waiting on Tuesday, Sept. 28, to start the final week of pre-October matches for Winnebago.

The Lady Indians carried a record of 7-10 on the season and 1-2 in Big Northern play into the cross-conference get together with the Lady Bulldogs on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, details on the meeting with the third place team in the neighboring NUIC are unavailable at this time.

Beginning Thursday, Sept. 30, Winnebago finds itself in a schedule that leans toward spending quite a bit of time in conference position-influencing matches, with other chasers for the crown.

A lot of time will be spent at home as well, beginning with the Big Northern battle with North Boone on Thursday. Chances to gain games in the standings do exist over the next couple weeks.

North Boone is win-less this season and carried its 0-12 mark into its own week of scheduled games.

Rockford Christian, which sits one game ahead of North Boone, in ninth place, plays host to open the final month of the regular season for Winnebago on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Winnebago looks to capture .500 season

The statistics didn’t line up exceptionally well for the Winnebago Indians as they entered their week five match with Dixon. The Dukes had already proven themselves to be one of the most dangerous teams in the Big Northern.

This past Friday night the hosts supported that early claim as they rolled over the upset-minded and road-tested Winnebago Indians 53-26 to move to 4-1 on the season and stay one back in the conference chase.

Each team had a lot riding on the Friday night outcome with only one team pushing forward to stay within striking distance of the undefeated Byron Tigers.

Winnebago had hoped to push beyond the .500 mark and begin its pursuit of post-season positioning. Getting above .500 is the first step to take

That step was delayed as the Indians slipped to 2-3 on the season and fell three games behind the State-ranked Byron Tigers in the Big Northern.

Dixon averaged over 40 points a game coming into the mid-season get together and that was supported by one of the stingiest defense in the 2A and 3A realm.

Giving up nine points a night with the team playing through the Big Northern Conference is a statistical masterpiece, to many numbers-crunchers.

The Dukes had speed, patience and an overpowering line. They pushed Winnebago back on its heels and then rolled over them for six-point strikes.

Regular scoring was something the Indians had to fight against all evening in the week five match-up Dixon was too strong and kept the visiting Indians well out reach of a challenge for the win.

Moving on into the Big Northern, a lot of very good situations are setting up for the one game under Indians. Statistically, few teams in the State of Illinois have played a tougher opening schedule.

They dealt with Genoa-Kingston, Byron and now Dixon, three teams with a combined season mark of 13-2 as week five ceased.

The second half, the post-season positioning period, features games against three teams under .500 for Winnebago and one very strong 3A post-season appointee-to-be.

Week six is at Rockford Christian. The Royal Lions were beaten down by Stillman Valley 51-16 in week five. They are 0-5 this year and have given up over 50 points a night, defensively.

A win in the books is expected and a shift up to the break even point once again for the Indians is deemed proper to follow.

A potential home game in the first round of the State Tournament could be on the line in week seven as 4-1 Stillman Valley travels north to Winnebago.

The final home game of the season will be against another desperate Big Northern combatant. A team that may need the win as much as Winnebago will.

North Boone visits with its own hope of a post-season in place, based on how well it performs in western Winnebago County on Friday, Oct. 15.

The regular season closes at Rockford Lutheran for the Indians. By then they will have a picture of how imperative it will be to knock off the somewhat-undermanned Crusaders contingent.

A win over Rockford Lutheran to close down the regular fall season with no worse than a 3-1 mark could almost guarantee Winnebago will get a shot to travel “somewhere” to help close down the final Friday of October’s matches.

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