Jake Polowy could take all the credit, but he won't.
Why is he such a ball magnet?
"Me and [Yorkville assistant] coach [Tom] Regnier joke about it, he always says he puts me in the right place," said Polowy, a Foxes' senior linebacker. "I have to give it to him. He tells me where to go, I go there and the ball ends up in my hands."
Polowy's playmaking is indeed uncanny.
A master of the pick-six – he has returned five interceptions for touchdowns in his varsity career – he took his nose for the ball to special teams in last Friday's 30-7 win over Oswego East.
Polowy blocked a punt and recovered a second blocked punt, the Foxes blocking three total to remain unbeaten at 6-0.
"That's not an easy thing to ask a kid to do, jumping in front of a kid kicking the ball at them," Yorkville coach Dan McGuire said. "It speaks to his tenacity that he's willing to lay himself out. There are some kids who are not willing to do that. He's willing to do whatever it takes to win."
It has Yorkville, to the surprise of some but not the Foxes, one of three unbeatens left in the Southwest Prairie West. They play the other two, Minooka and Oswego, the next two weeks.
"We had a feeling we'd be in this spot," Polowy said. "We knew we were good, even though others doubted us. We believed."
Polowy, in his third varsity season, returned one interception for a touchdown as a sophomore, then three last year. He's got one this year for a Foxes' defense that's allowed just 45 points.
Polowy said that Yorkville does pick drills in practice. The defense will line up in formation, drop back into coverage and the coach will throw it. The guy who gets the interception will get the lead block in front and try to take it to the house.
"It's uncanny how he does it," McGuire said. "What that shows is he's breaking on the ball on some of those intermediate balls, undercutting those routes that are difficult. They're not just lazily-thrown balls. He's jumping in front of the receivers and making plays.
"You can tell he's watched a lot of football, and our coaching staff gives him an idea of what routes they want to run. The biggest reason he's been successful is he's football smart. He's very good good at anticipating."
Route 34 rivalry time
It's been tough sledding lately for Sandwich (2-4, 0-4) and Plano (2-4, 1-3), losers of a combined seven straight games.
But both still have plenty to play for Friday.
The 110th edition of the "War on 34" is this Friday in Plano. The series, which Sandwich currently leads 54-51-4, dates all the way back to 1897.
"The kids tend to get extra excited for this one," Sandwich coach Kris Cassie said. "It's the War on 34, it's one of those games that's fun to coach in, fun to play in, both communities get excited for it. You take the records and throw them out the window."
Plano has won five of the last six meetings, Sandwich winning in 2017.
"All the kids that grew up together, they played each other since they were in youth tackle football, for these seniors it's the last time they'll get to play Plano. They are coming in with the mentality of give it our best and see what happens."
What can Brown do for you
Evan Brown is a a guy who always seems around the ball for Oswego's defense, and the junior linebacker explained why.
"I think one of my strengths is my patience," Brown said. "At the [weak-side linebacker] position it's a lot of reading and almost slow playing back side, waiting for it to come to you," Brown said. "My other linebackers do a good job of forcing everything back to me. They're probably the reason I get most of the tackles."
He's certainly been a busy man.
Brown had 12 tackles, one for a loss, in last Friday's 40-21 win over West Aurora. On the season he has 52 total tackles and 21 solos, easily tops on Oswego.
Brown started the season at weak-side, moved to strong-side in Week 4 against Plainfield East when Jacob Garlick was hurt, and has since moved back to weak side.
"Actually as a freshman I started off at strong-wide, but my sophomore coach thought as a varsity player I'd be better at weak side," Brown said. "I went into sophomore year expecting to play strong side and he switched me early on."
The Panthers are 6-0 going into their crosstown matchup with Oswego East, but hardly sound satisfied.
"I think the whole team knows we haven't reached our full potential," Brown said.
Plano coach salutes classy Kaneland
When Plano coach Rick Ponx walked toward the team huddle in the south end zone following a 49-0 loss to Kaneland on Friday night, it seemed he might be lost. After all, his Reapers were gathered on the north end of the field.
But Ponx was right where he meant to be. He wanted to address the Kaneland players, but not because he thought they had run up the score on his over-matched team or because the Knights had displayed poor sportsmanship. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“I’ve been coaching for 30 years and I’ve seen a lot of these games get out of control,” Ponx said. “These are kids now — these are somebody’s kids — and (Kaneland) didn’t rub their noses in it. They didn’t try to embarrass them. They just went out and played good hard football.”
Ponx spoke to the Knights for only a couple minutes, but the memory will probably last a lot longer than that for the players and coach Patrick Ryan.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had that happen,” Ryan said of Ponx asking to address his team. “He came over and complimented our boys on their classy play and our program. That means a lot to me as a football coach. I guess we’re doing something right. Win, lose or draw, if somebody from another school comes over and compliments our boys on how classy they are, I can go home a happy man.”
The Knights had their opportunities to pile on even more points, but they took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half. Ryan removed most of his starters after the game reached running clock and no longer called for any passing plays. He also opted to punt on 4th-and-short. When it was Plano’s turn to punt, the Knights didn’t try for a block and also didn’t even put a return man down field.
It was only a couple plays here and there but those decisions kept a blowout from becoming a brawl, which can happen when a losing team feels the other team is just piling it on to embarrass them.
“He said we’re a very classy team,” said Kaneland quarterback Joe Smith, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for two others. “We want our brand of football to be classy and we really appreciate him for saying that.”
Paul LaTour contributed to this story