DeKALB – A week after a three-touchdown loss to the No. 10 team in Class 8A, the DeKalb football team will find itself on the road against the No. 11 team in Class 8A.
The Barbs (2-1) play their first game as members of the DuPage Valley Conference, facing a Neuqua Valley team also coming off its first loss of the season, 50-48 to state power East St. Louis.
"I think we're know up to a big challenge taking on a school of Neuqua Valley's caliber," DeKalb coach Keith Snyder said. "But that's kind of where we're at. These teams we play, we have to be ready for it here on out the rest of the season."
The Barbs lost last week at home to Edwardsville, 44-21. Tigers running back, who as a junior has an offer from Illinois under his belt, ran for 176 yards and three scores in the win.
Now DeKalb faces the Wildcats (2-1) and their two NCAA Division I recruits on offense – Sean Larkin and Mark Gronowski. Larkin, a receiver, has committed to SIU, while quarterback Gronowski has drawn looks from schools like South Dakota State.
"It's going to be another heck of a challenge like last week," Snyder said. "Instead of seeing a Division I running back, we're going to see a Division I receiver and a Division I quarterback. It's two real big challenges. And their quarterback is equally adept with his legs and arms. They have a sound run game with that passing game. Then you can't overlook the running back. He did a great job against Glenbard North to salt that game away, killing clock and pounding away in the second half."
Gronowski has thrown for 334 yards and six touchdowns, completing 64.7% of his passes. Larkin has 142 yards on 15 catches and four touchdowns.
Snyder said on offense, the Barbs need to protect quarterback Trenton Kyler – the Wildcats have four sacks this year, two by Jeremiah Robert. Jack Bleskis has been a force at linebacker, with 28 tackles and eight for a loss.
"Their inside linebackers get aggressive," Snyder said. "Then they get physical with their outside linebackers rerouting, jamming and re-positioning slot players. To utilize our players we have to get into space. We have to get our athletes out there and see what we can do."
Kyler has completed 55.8% of his passes for 481 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Toriano Tate has been his top target with four catches for 66 yards. Tate tweeted something after last week's game alluding to an injury, but Snyder said he would not comment on any player's injury status.
Snyder said there were lessons to be learned from the Edwardsville loss as the team goes forward in the DVC with an enrollment more than half the size of Neuqua Valley and not with 750 of any other school in the conference.
"We have to learn that this is what it looks like at the 7A, 8A level, playing playoff teams," Snyder said. "You have to raise your game both on how we practice and how we coach. Maybe things we thought we knew, the kids learned they didn't. As a coach I saw that Edwardsville did things and I had to tweak our defense to be better against sound teams that want to do stuff that like."