Rochester running back Jacob DuRocher fights through the tackle of St. Rita defensive back Kyle James during their Class 5A state football championship victory last season in Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University.
Rochester running back Jacob DuRocher fights through the tackle of St. Rita defensive back Kyle James during their Class 5A state football championship victory last season in Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University. — Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com

The nonconference schedule hasn’t ended for all schools just yet in Week 3, but others waste no time getting into the serious entanglements that their leagues provide. This mixed bag provides plenty of games to keep an eye on, starting with one of the most intriguing out-of-state contests in years for one of the best programs Illinois has produced.

East St. Louis (14-0) at St. John’s Bosco, Calif. (13-1); Friday, September 11, 7:30 p.m.: The Flyers have simply never backed away from a potential challenge and if this doesn’t prove that to you, nothing likely will. St. John’s Bosco finished last year as the nation’s top-ranked team in multiple national polls. They beat power programs from six different states before sauntering into a loaded slate of California teams, losing once to another absolutely elite program, Mater Dei. They’d avenge that loss in the state semifinals before beating yet another titan in De La Salle in the California state final. East St. Louis is loaded with incredible talent as well. The fireworks in this one might be difficult to put on a measurable scale. 

Rochester (13-1) at Sacred Heart-Griffin (8-4); Friday, September 11, 7 p.m.: Rochester got the better of the Sacred Heart twice last season, the first time the two schools had met twice in the same season. The power has shifted recently in the “Leonard Bowl,” the matchup between father Ken (Sacred Heart-Griffin) and son Derek (Rochester), toward Rochester in recent seasons. But the rivalry remains extremely fierce even if it appears that the Rockets currently have the upperhand.

Loyola (8-4) at St. Rita (10-4); Friday, September 11, 7:30 p.m.: The gauntlet that remains in the upper divisions of the CCL/ESCC is something that every team in the league has to deal with. The competition the league provides certainly is great preparation for the postseason if you can manage to maneuver your way through that slate with four losses or less to get into the playoffs. St. Rita was a low seed last year and advanced all the way to the 5A state title, while Loyola routinely finds its way deep in the postseason regardless of the fact that it may have been pinned with a couple of regular season setbacks.

Neuqua Valley (9-2) at Waubonsie Valley (4-5); Friday, September 11, 7 p.m.: The DuPage Valley has emerged as a league that has a number of entrants that tend to punish one another during the regular season. Waubonsie Valley was a casualty of that last season as a difficult conference slate coupled with a daunting nonconference schedule led the Warriors to a fifth loss and no playoff berth. Neuqua Valley put itself in great position by winning all of its DuPage Valley games and proved its mettle by pushing powerful East St. Louis to the brink before falling.

Byron (12-2) at Stillman Valley (9-2); Friday, September 11, 7 p.m.: Byron was an absolute wrecking ball last season in the Big Northern Conference, demolishing most of the opponents put in its path. Except for one: Stillman Valley. Stillman collected an 18-16 victory over Byron in Week 2, denying the Tigers a clean sweep in the regular season. Byron would regroup after the loss, reaching the Class 3A State Championship where they lost to Williamsville in the game’s waning moments. Odds are this contest will be something to behold.

Other games of note: Maine South at Barrington; Friday, September 11, 7:30 p.m.; Brother Rice at Providence; Friday, September 11, 7:30 p.m.; Mount Carmel at Montini; Friday, September 11, 7:30 p.m.