The high school football playoffs don’t officially begin until Nov. 1.
Lincoln-Way Central’s playoffs, however, began in Week 7.
The Knights were 2-4 at the time. One more loss and their goal of qualifying for the postseason would be over.
“We’ve been in playoff mode the past three weeks,” Central coach Hud Venerable said. “So far, the kids have responded.”
The Knights have won their last two games — 29-21 over Thornton and 42-0 over Thornwood. Central (4-4) needs to win its final regular-season game Friday to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs.
Up next is Lincoln-Way West (7-1), which leads the SouthWest Suburban Red with a 6-0 mark.
“They’re a real solid team,” Venerable said of the Warriors. “They don’t give up a lot of points. You’ve got to really pick your spots and keep their offense off the field.”
It was after a Week 4 loss to Andrew when Central made two significant changes that reversed its fortunes: Venerable began calling plays on offense, and after a merry-go-round at quarterback, junior Connor Campbell was named starter. The Knights are 3-1 since.
Brother Rice falls short
It’s been a tough season for Brother Rice (3-5), which saw its state playoff hopes end with Friday’s 38-35 loss to St. Rita.
“We played hard, but we didn’t get it done,” Rice coach Brian Badke said. “Too many turnovers.”
The loss of senior Chris Rozell to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 was a huge blow. Rozell’s blazing speed, experience and skill were irreplaceable.
“Chris being out hurt us big time,” Badke said.
Better days are on the horizon for Rice, however. The sophomore team is 8-0, even with Andrew Dyke, Manny Bravo and twin brothers Bryan and Jordan Boyd playing on varsity. The freshman squad is competing for the Catholic League Blue title.
Additionally, quarterback Alex Alarcon, running back Marcus Jones and offensive linemen Dan Berry, Patrick Hosty, Jake Johnson and Anthony Kudra figure to return next season.
“It’s exciting,” Badke said. “The kids are buying in. Hopefully, guys learn from this experience and use it as motivation next year.”
Player of the Week
Julian Crum, of St. Rita, is the SouthtownStar Football Player of the Week.
Crum, a senior receiver, caught four passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, had a 12-yard rushing TD and blocked the potential game-tying field-goal attempt in the final seconds of a 38-35 win over Brother Rice.