Every football season has its variables.
Which new coach will get his system installed quickest? Which backups from the year before are ready for bigger roles?
Injuries are part of the equation as well; all teams deal with them.
But when the aches and pains are suffered by Player of the Year candidates, the storylines of the season can change in a big way.
Heading into this year, the three leading Player of the Year candidates in the Chicago area — if not the state — figured to be reigning Sun-Times Player of the Year Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic, a running back committed to USC; Illinois-bound quarterback Aaron Bailey of defending Class 8A champ Bolingbrook; and Northwestern quarterback recruit Matt Alviti, hoping to lead Maine South back to the 8A final for the second time in three years.
After six weeks, the only one of the three who hasn’t been hurt is Alviti, whose Hawks have been No. 1 all season.
Isaac suffered a shoulder injury in a Week 1 loss to Providence and is still working his way back to full strength. But Isaac at less than full production is better than almost everyone else firing on all cylinders.
Last Saturday at Hanson Stadium, Isaac ran 23 times for 287 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-13 win over St. Patrick.
Isaac told the Herald-News’ Dick Goss he felt like he was “90 to 95 percent during the game,” though Hilltoppers coach Dan Sharp had a different take: “I’d say he was 60 to 70 percent at best. When he’s at 100 percent, watch out.”
Similar advice is in order regarding Bailey, who hurt his right knee just two plays into Friday’s game against Lincoln-Way East on Friday. He soon was on crutches and the Raiders lost 42-19 to the Griffins and quarterback Tommy Fuessel, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for another.
“I’m a little sore, but I don’t think it’s too bad,” Bailey told the Herald-News’ Goss on Friday.
With the playoffs looming, Bailey’s return to good health can’t come soon enough for the Raiders.
Game of the week
What looked like coming in to be the title game of the Catholic League Blue didn’t disappoint. Then-No. 4 Mount Carmel hosted then-No. 6 Loyola at Gately Stadium on Friday night in a game that featured five lead changes in the fourth quarter and overtime alone.
Loyola’s Robert Reedy kicked a 37-yard field goal as time ran out in regulation to send the game into overtime tied at 24. Mount Carmel had the ball first in OT and went ahead 27-24 on Ivan Strmic’s 22-yard field goal. On second down, Loyola won it on Peter Pujals’ eight-yard touchdown pass to Luke Ford.
By the numbers
2 – Night games played last week by District 205 teams. It was the first night game in Thornwood history and the first game under the lights at home for Thornton since 1979.
6 – Points allowed this season by Harper, which is 5-0.
411 – Yards gained on the ground, a school record, by Glenbrook North’s Grant Rushing in a 56-17 win over Niles North.
Week 7 lookahead
The games of the week each match a pair of ranked, unbeaten teams. A crowd of more than 10,000 is expected Friday night at North Central College in Naperville, where No. 10 Neuqua Valley and No. 14 Waubonsie Valley meet in a game that likely will determine the Upstate Eight Valley champ. In Woodstock, No. 24 Marian Central will look for its third regular-season win in four years over No. 9 Montini – which has knocked the Hurricanes out of the IHSA playoffs each of the past three years en route to winning state titles.