By Chris Johnson
Only the first week of the 2019 high school football season has been played, but for Stillman Valley supporters, the opening night knockout of Dixon 37-12 had a big impact on hopes for a great chase for the conference crown.
The Dukes haven’t lost a lot of games over the past few seasons. They haven’t missed the playoffs under the oversight of Head Coach Dave Smith since 2014.
They’ve been conference champion and have only failed to advance to round two of the 4A State Playoffs twice, since recent post-season visits became a regular feature.
Stillman Valley’s story with Head Coach Mike Lalor featured post-seasons visits during 15 of his first 16 seasons. From 1998-2013, they were State Champion five times.
Since the 2014 season, the playoffs have only been captured once. Last season the Cardinals traveled two games deep into the 4A State Tournament and closed the year with a 7-4 mark.
The win over Dixon puts Stillman Valley one full game ahead in the Big Northern, tied with four others conference contenders.
Genoa-Kingston took the statistical edge after pitching a 40-0 shut-out in its opener. Byron scored 50 to start its season and move to the top of the list with Stillman Valley.
Offense was something the Cardinals earned on Friday night. They ground out hundreds of yards between the 20s and punished the Dukes front line defenders. There was no backfield development, at least through the first half of play for Dixon.
Stillman Valley scored 15 points in the opening period and followed it up with 14 additionally in the second. The lead was 29-0 in favor of the hosts at the break.
Things weren’t as fast in the third quarter as Dixon found ways to get its offense charged, occasionally. The visitors scored six in the time allowed to attempt to keep pace with the Cardinals who put up eight.
After three Stillman Valley’s lead had grown to 31 points, 37-6. They would not score again, nor need to.
Dixon tacked on a final tally in the final frame and boarded the bus for the journey home with the 0-1 record. The Dukes statistically find themselves in a hole, needing to climb back out before building any serious conference control consideration as a result of the opening night beating.
Stillman Valley gets ready for Byron this week and knows it will have to stand ground and fight back the Tigers attack. Similar to Dixon, there has been a lot of recent success for the Byron football team, including a one-loss 2018 season.
In week three, Stillman Valley heads back home and will host Rock Falls. The road is re-visited a week later in Oregon.
Kick-off for this Friday night’s meeting with Byron is scheduled for around 7:30 pm. The Tigers are coming off a 50-3 decision over Winnebago.
Winnebago dropped to 0-1 on the season and will have to find a way to get things back online this Friday night in Mendota.
A lot of offense could be scored this Friday night as the Tigers and Cardinals clash. Other numbers support the idea that the match could be a low-scoring defensive gem.
Comparing the numbers from the opening night battles, the Tigers see a slight edge in some ways and still notice a disadvantage in others.
On offense, Byron bested Stillman Valley’s opening total but wavered in the points allowed category. The Tigers scored 14 in the first quarter in their Friday night win and followed it up with 20 points more in the second. They gave up the only three points they would for the night in the second, but closed down the night by a 50-3 margin.

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