Referee Bob Ciulla does the coin toss before the Prairie Ridge Wolves defeated the Cary-Grove Trojans 14-13 in a Class 6A IHSA football quaterfinal playoff game on Saturday, November 16, 2019, in Crystal Lake, Ill.
Referee Bob Ciulla does the coin toss before the Prairie Ridge Wolves defeated the Cary-Grove Trojans 14-13 in a Class 6A IHSA football quaterfinal playoff game on Saturday, November 16, 2019, in Crystal Lake, Ill. — Tony Gadomski - AllSportImaging.com

Scheduling football in the state of Illinois is a lot like assembling a piece of furniture from a kit.

Usually, you can put it together, but sometimes it has a few pieces left over that you aren't sure if or where they fit.

And as the football landscape continues to change in Illinois, that bag of left over pieces continues to add a piece here or there.

You can probably still get it put together, it is just going to require a little more planning.

I've read that in Texas they actually have a sit-down meeting where teams in need of games basically sit down at a table and negotiate games for their upcoming seasons. I find this fascinating and I'd love to see that, I'm not sure it is necessary to go that far.

But there's always a scramble that happens in the days and weeks after the state-wide schedule is released in the summer. A team that has been left with an open date, or had a team they expected to be on their schedule make the switch to 8-man football or drop its program leave a void that wasn't anticipating.

By working ahead, finding pairs for schools that have vacancies on their schedules might lead to better pairings and reduce schools needs for traveling out-of-state opponents to fill empty dates on the schedule. They aren't going away entirely and in some cases it truly can't be helped.

However, the day has arrived for some conferences large and small to form some alliances to benefit one another. One might argue that districts would have done that, and technically you'd be right, but the district plan didn't account for wild imbalances of power in some of the proposed districts.

With more defections to eight-man football, several leagues that had an even number of teams and locked up schedules in weeks where you need to have locked up schedules will no longer have that. An odd number of teams lead to some team out there looking for a fellow open team in Week 7. Filling a Week 7 open date is almost impossible. Collaboration between leagues isn't only a hope, its probably going to be a requirement.

As far as larger schools sharing the same problem, how about some crossovers between two power conferences. You could even weight it to ensure the games would not pit teams that aren't competitive against one another.

It may not require people setting up a college fair-like atmosphere to schedule your slate of games, but then again maybe if everyone got in the same room we could figure out a way to get all eight classes in 1-to-32 seeding, which seems to be something almost no one is against.

– Steve Soucie, The Herald-News

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My main wish for 2020 is for the four schools in my coverage area – Morris, Minooka, Coal City and Seneca – to make the playoffs again. Last year was the first time the 2001 season that all of them had reached the postseason, and it would be great if they had that type of success again in the coming year.

Another wish would be for fans at the games to appreciate the hard work that the coaches, players and officials put into every game. Too often, I hear criticism that borders on verbal abuse - and many times crosses that line - directed at players, coaches and officials. Yes, coaches and officials get paid, but not nearly enough to warrant being berated for every decision or call that they make. And the players are just kids. More often than not, they are kids that the fans know. They are out there because they love the game and they want to represent their school and their community. They should hear encouragement for that, not criticism.

Anyway, here's to another successful season in 2020.

— Rob Oesterle, Morris Herald-News

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• Princeton takes one more step and makes it to the state finals

• Bureau Valley coach Mat Pistole gets his first win and many more.

• St. Bede gets back to the playoffs.

• Hall goes farther in the playoffs.

• Princeton’s Ronde Worrels gets his wish to play Division I.

— Kevin Hieronymus, Bureau County Republican

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One certain way to avoid being disappointed?

Wish for things you already know will come true.

At the top of my high school football wish list for the past six and a half years has been a return of the state's third-oldest rivalry. On Sept. 4, 2020, my wish will be granted when the Ottawa Pirates take the 16-mile trip down Route 23 and resume their 126-year-old rivalry with the Streator Bulldogs at the SHS Athletic Fields.

The Route 23 Rivalry began in the late fall of 1894 with a 14-0 Streator victory and has been contested 94 times (plus one forfeit due to a teachers' strike) since. Ottawa holds a 57-37-2 series edge.

The schools parted conference ways after the 2013-14 school year — Streator leaving the Northern Illinois Big 12 for first the Interstate Eight, then the newly-formed Illinois Central Eight; Ottawa remaining in the NIB 12 until leaving this school year for a new-look the Interstate Eight — and have not played since 2013, a 29-13 Pirates triumph at Ottawa's King Field.

At almost seven years when they finally retake the field eight months from now, this has been the second-longest drought for the state's third-oldest rivalry (1895-1911 was the longest), which was contested every season — and sometimes twice a season — from 1937-2013.

When Ottawa and Streator play again in 2020, it will be a wish come true for both communities ... and for me.

— J.T. Pedelty, The Times

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I have come to appreciate when any school reads a general PSA on fan behavior/interactions prior to games, particularly in football. In many cases, it is something to the effect of: "Let the officials officiate, the players play and the coaches coach."

It sends a message that, frankly, gets lost in the heat of a moment. My wish for the New Year is for all to take that to heart a little more often. I've heard some really unpleasant insults hurled at officials after a missed call. In some cases, it has little to do with the call itself.

I think most are aware of the struggles some schools have to get officials for games. It isn't a glamorous job; one that pays little and their entire body of work can be publicly questioned – fairly or unfairly – in an instant.

While, yes, that comes with the territory, the little things have to add up after awhile. I'd generally ask all to reflect on whether those types of comments are worth it? What benefit is my comment/displeasure adding to the experience?

I'm not suggesting no one can comment or criticize; it's part of being a fan and invested in your children's athletic careers. I am suggesting we can find more constructive ways to be a part of that process, starting with finding a better use of words than commenting on someone's weight, how long their beard is or whether or not they're smart enough about the game.

This can be easily applied to coaches as well.

They invest untold hours with your kids. In a sense, they are "parents away from home". Yes, they care about the product on the field, but many are aware that they shape men/women off of it as well. They care about their grades, college aspirations, the relationships they make with their peers and all of it. Maybe think about that the next time a playcall didn't work out, while you yell from the safety of the stands.

It's so much bigger than who wins a high school football game, no matter the stage.

– Jacob Bartelson, Kane County Chronicle