Richmond-Burton (4-2, 2-2) at Burlington Central (4-2, 4-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Last year: Richmond-Burton 14, Burlington Central 13.
Key players: Richmond-Burton — RB Brad Boelkow, QB Joe Horner. Burlington Central — RB Trevor Davison, DE Charles Sanders.
Outlook: Missing three starters due to suspensions, and with starting running back Jason Berango out due to a knee injury, the Rockets have to circle the wagons against a team they haven’t beaten since 2006. A Central win sets up next week’s homefield showdown for the Big Northern East title with Johnsburg. Central’s defense and running game will have to carry the fight to Richmond-Burton, which hopes to have power runner Boelkow back from a concussion. Quarterback Joe Horner and the passing game have struggled, so Central’s defense can focus on the run. Last year’s one-point loss to R-B kept Central from the postseason.
Ridgewood (3-3, 2-0) at St. Edward (6-0, 2-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Last year: Did not play.
Key players: Ridgewood — LB Seth Krueger, RB Chris Serna. St. Edward — LB Jack Tierney, TE Nick Duffy.
Outlook: It’s a battle for first place in the Metro Suburban East, with the winner a strong favorite to take the title. St. Edward’s defense has to worry about a Ridgewood attack that spreads out teams and runs inside with Serna, who reminds Green Wave coach Mike Rolando of Riverside-Brookfield’s explosive Matt Chapp. Alex Rice is another running threat for Ridgewood, which lost to bigger schools Fenton, Niles West and Glenbard South. St. Edward linebackers Chris Kelly and Jack Tierney will be challenged to control the line against a bigger unit than they’ve been used to facing.
Cary-Grove (6-0, 2-0) at Jacobs (4-2, 1-1), 7:15 p.m. Friday
Last year: Jacobs 36, Cary-Grove 35.
Key players: Cary-Grove — OL Trevor Ruhland, WR Larkin Hanselmann. Jacobs — WR Camden McClain, QB Chris Katrenick.
Outlook: Jacobs could throw the Fox Valley Valley into a dogfight with an upset win, but the Golden Eagles have to do a better job of stopping quarterback Jason Gregoire and Hanselmann than they did last week of trying to shut down Huntley quarterback Anthony Binetti. The challenge for the offense will be getting running back Josh Walker moving against a defensive front led by Ruhland (Notre Dame recruit) and Michael Gomez. The Cary-Grove defense already shut down Huntley’s offense.
Bartlett (3-3, 2-2) at Neuqua Valley (4-2, 4-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last year: Neuqua Valley 34, Bartlett 20.
Key players: Bartlett — CB Cameron Mays, QB Brenner Wallace. Neuqua Valley — RB Dominick Muoghalu, QB Broc Rutter.
Outlook: Neuqua Valley’s offense has triggered a four-game winning streak, averaging over 48 points in those wins. Bartlett’s defense made a stand last week by forcing a school-record seven turnovers to keep playoff hopes from fading, but the offense this week with Wallace at quarterback needs to pick it up against Neuqua’s 3-5 defense to keep pace with the Wildcats’ high-scoring attack. Neuqua Valley’s taller wide receivers (6-3, 6-4) present another formidable assignment.
Glenbard East (3-3, 1-3) at South Elgin (3-3, 2-2), 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Last year: Did not play.
Key players: Glenbard East — RB Mickey Farnham, QB Philip Abruzino. South Elgin — RB Shawn Griffin, WR Andrew Kamienski.
Outlook: Abruzino threw for 295 yards against Bartlett in last week’s loss — East’s second straight overtime loss. The goal of most teams is to attack South Elgin on the ground and that means Farnham and running back Drake Pusateri. The Storm must contend with an East defense that can use plenty of different looks, ranging from 4-4 to a 3-man front, to go with blitzes. South Elgin needs the win badly with games against Bartlett and Waubonsie Valley looming. Winning two would likely get Storm in the playoffs.