Ottawa Pirates (1-2, 0-1) at Sycamore Spartans (2-1, 1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday in Sycamore
Last matchup: Sycamore 35, Ottawa 0 (2015)
About the Spartans: After a 13-0 loss to DeKalb without Manny Dominguez, the running back and safety returned for the Spartans, as did some offensive punch in a 35-14 win against Kaneland. Dominguez had 116 yards of total offense with a receiving touchdown and rushing touchdown as Sycamore found a rhythm — something coach Joe Ryan said was missing in the first two games of the year. Quarterback Grant McConkey had one of his best games as a passer, going 13 for 14 for 245 yards and two touchdowns — though the one incompletion was an interception.
About the Pirates: Ottawa snapped a 16-game losing streak in Week 1 with a 61-0 victory over Chicago Juarez, but has gone 0-2 and scored just one touchdown since in losses to Woodstock and new conference foe Plano. There are weapons on offense — most notably QB Brett Galletti, RBs Cedric Fairrow, Bryant Schomas and Damonte Coleman, and K Kyle Szewczuk — and the defense has played quite well, allowing just 9.3 points per game, but the Pirates have yet to find a way to put it all together against a quality opponent.
FND pick: Sycamore
— Eddie Carifio & J.T. Pedelty
Kaneland (2-1, 0-1) at Sandwich (2-1, 0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday in Sandwich
Last matchup: n/a
About the Indians: Sandwich had a rude welcome to the new-look Interstate Eight Conference, a 52-7 loss to La Salle-Peru. The Indians managed 174 yards of total offense, with Nic Lidinsky accounting for 99. The Indians need to establish their ball control wing-T offense with Lidinsky, Jackson Murphy and James Coleman to keep Kaneland's offense off the field.
About the Knights: The Knights looked unstoppable in scoring 85 points over their first two games, but a slow start proved costly last week in a 35-14 loss to Sycamore. Kaneland quarterback Joe Smith is in his third season as a varsity starter. Two-way starter Wilson Giffney is a player to watch. Max Gagne is Smith's favorite target.
FND pick: Kaneland.
— Joshua Welge
Streator (1-2, 0-1) at Reed-Custer (1-2, 0-1)
Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m. in Braidwood
Last matchup: Streator 38, Reed-Custer 7 (2015)
About the Comets: The Comets have had trouble gaining momentum this season, but some of that credit needs to go to the opposition. Peotone held Reed-Custer to just 137 yards of offense in Week 3. Dylan Garrelts continues to show promise at quarterback, but it's going to be a gradual process in Illinois Central Eight Conference play.
About the Bulldogs: The Bulldogs did a few things well against Wilmington in Week 3, but in order to be successful improvements have to come on defense as the Wildcats' running game carved them up fairly well. Offensively, Streator is heavily based in throwing the ball, and odds are it will end up in the hands of Trever Murphy, who finished with 155 yards receiving last week.
FND pick: Streator
— Steve Soucie
Seneca Fighting Irish (2-1, 1-0) at P-B-L Panthers (2-1, 1-0)
Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m. in Paxton
Last matchup: Paxton 32, Seneca 16 (2018)
About the Panthers: Paxton is off to a pretty solid start this season with its one loss coming at the hands of the defending Class 2A state champions from GCMS, a game that they led at halftime. Paxton comes into this contest fresh off a rout victory over Iroquois West, and whatever success the Panthers have in this contest will likely come on the ground.
About the Fighting Irish: This is the kind of toss-up game that the Fighting Irish need to emerge from with a win in if they hope to avoid the same fate they had last year when they finished with a 4-5 record and ended the season one win short of the postseason. Considering two state-ranked teams and an undefeated team still lurk later in the schedule, this is a pivotal game.
FND pick: Paxton-Buckley-Loda
— Steve Soucie
GCMS Falcons (3-0, 1-0) at Fieldcrest Knights (3-0, 1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Veterans Park, Minonk
Last matchup: GCMS 48, Fieldcrest 6 (2018)
About the Knights: Ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Class 2A poll, a strong showing in this one against the two-time defending state champions of that class will likely propel Fieldcrest into the conversation as true Class 2A contenders. With a powerful, experienced line and dangerous position players in head coach Derek Schneeman's balanced offensive scheme to go with a defense that has been superb (14 points allowed through three games), the Knights hope they will prove themselves as the real deal this Friday.
About the Falcons: The defending 2A champs have won 31 consecutive games, including three impressive victories already this season over Paxton-Buckley-Loda (32-8), Eureka (35-10) and Heyworth (34-7) — the only losses this season for all of those squads. Much like Fieldcrest, GCMS took to the air a little more than usual, with Cade Elliott attempting eight passes. RB Aidan Laughery is the focal point of the offense, though, coming off a 188-yard rushing performance. Like Fieldcrest, the Falcons boast a dominating defense (25 points allowed through three games).
FND pick: GCMS
— J.T. Pedelty
Marquette Crusaders (3-0, 1-0) at Walther Christian Broncos (1-2, 0-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday in Melrose Park
Last matchup: Marquette 54, Walther Christian 6 (2018)
About the Broncos: Coming off its first win of the season, a 40-14 dealing with of Calvin Christian (Mich.), Walther Christian will have their hands full with the Northeastern Athletic Conference's top team. The Broncos rely on a one-two punch featuring 160-pound passer Kenojo Evans and 249-pound runner Curtis Reeves alternating at the skill position spots, with Reeves — a converted lineman — also spending time up front.
About the Crusaders: The Crusaders are coming off a hard-fought, 41-35 victory over Kirkland Hiawatha, and were rewarded by jumping two spots in the latest Associated Press Class 1A poll, from No. 9 to No. 7. Dual running backs Preston Aukland (341 yards so far this season) and Luke Couch (339 yards rushing through three weeks) spearhead the Marquette wing-T attack.
FND pick: Marquette.
— J.T. Pedelty
FCW Falcons (3-0) at Metro-East Knights (1-2)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday in Edwardsville
Last matchup: n/a
About the Knights: Like FCW, Metro-East is in its first year of 8-man football. The Knights recorded their first 8-man win in Week 2, a 55-0 crushing of Champaign Judah, just the second on-field win for the program since 2015. In that win, MELHS racked up 502 yards from scrimmage (462 rushing), led by three 100-yard rushers — Tyler Williams, Ben Ide and Cameron Gusewelle. In its two losses, Metro-East was outscored 26-8 by Rockford Christian Life and 56-32 by Milford/Cissna Park.
About the Falcons: Still unbeaten in the 8-man game, a nearly three-hour bus drive awaits Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland, fresh off a stress-free, 54-20 win over Illinois School for the Deaf in which the majority of FCW's starters were lifted before halftime. This should be another good test for the Falcons, who were able to showcase their depth — including big-play receiving threat Tyler Harms and versatile J.D. Ruddy and Jesse Simpson — in Week 3 with leading rusher/kick returner/scorer Tavarre Phifer only tallying three carries and one reception.
FND pick: FCW
— J.T. Pedelty