Last week was a tough one all the way around for the Streator Bulldogs.
Weather caused the homecoming game against Coal City to be postponed until Saturday morning, and then the state-ranked Coalers rolled to a 49-0 victory over the locals.
This week is a "new week" for the Bulldogs, and while they will travel to take on a tough Peotone Blue Devils team at 7 p.m. Friday, it's another chance to find that winning formula in the Illinois Central Eight Conference matchup.
Peotone, which is among teams receiving votes in this week Associated Press Class 3A poll, comes into the game 4-1 and 2-1 in the league after last week's 34-0 triumph over Herscher. The run-first Blue Devils actually passed for more yards (167) than they ran for (165) in the contest, with quarterback Max Gesswein going 6-for-7 for 130 of those yards and a pair of touchdowns — including Henry Chadraba's 110 yards receiving. Running back Ben Balmer had 90 yards rushing in the win and leads his club with 625 yards on 93 carries and nine TDs this season.
The Blue Devils defense — with key members Logan Heflin (MLB, team-best 38 tackles including eight for loss and four sacks); Sam Biedron (ILB, 35 stops), Jack Lally (D-line), and cornerbacks Andrew Janjanin and Andrea Protti —pitched a shutout, allowing just 56 total yards including 18 yards on 15 Tiger carries.
"Peotone runs a similar offense as Wilmington, but more of a true wing-T, so we have went back over our defensive schemes this week," said Streator head coach Brian Hassett, his team at 2-3 and 1-2. "There were times where we played pretty well against Wilmington defensively, so we want to play like that more this Friday.
"They want to run the ball. We'll have to play a more physical on the defensive line for sure, and our linebackers — unless we are blitzing — will have to cross-read, meaning reading the backside wingback.
"They run a 3-5 or a 3-3 stack defense, and that is a scheme we haven't seen yet this season, so we'll have to make some adjustments on offense. They are an attacking defense with a three-man front, but they will bring others from different sides and angles. Our offensive line will need to play strong, but we think we'll have some different options open to us this week. We'll have to attack them in the open zones or from where they are blitzing from."
The Bulldogs, who will still be without a few key players due to injury, struggled on offense — really for the first time all season — last Saturday against Coal City (minus-7 total yards). The key for a Streator road victory will be moving the ball effectively through the air and slowing down the Blue Devils "simple" misdirection offense.
"Our playbook isn't really deep, but we try to do what we do really well," said Peotone head coach Apostolos Tsiamas. "We try and prep for how we think an opponent is going to attack us. This is the third year of us running the wing-T, and really we have to focus on what we do and make adjustments depending on what the defense is doing.
"They want to throw the ball, get into the hands of their playmakers, and their quarterback looks pretty solid on film. Our offenses are on the opposite ends of the spectrum as far as how we want to move the ball.
"Our kids defend the run pretty well having to go against every day in practice, but this week facing a spread offense that likes to throw the ball all over the place, we are going to have to adjust. We faced Tinley Park (a 48-33 Week 2 shootout win) early this year, and they are very similar to Streator, so we have a little feel for defending that.
"Defense has led the way, and we kind of go as they go. They are the biggest reason why we are 4-1 right now."
Streator Bulldogs (2-3, 1-2) at Peotone Blue Devils (4-1, 2-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday at Blue Devils Stadium, Peotone
Radio: WSPL-AM 1250
Last meeting: Streator 40, Peotone 37, OT (2018)
FND pick: Peotone