STARMONT AT BELLEVUE
Time, place: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Bellevue
Records: Starmont 2-1; Bellevue 3-0
Last year: Starmont won 23-11
Eye-catcher: The Comets have held each opponent this season to fewer than 200 total yards of offense and fewer than 10 first downs. That helps explain their ability to win close games.
Scouting Starmont: A program with a rich football tradition is looking to bounce back after a down year last season. Starmont's young backfield trio of Vinnie Otdoefer, Ethan Moses and Nate Hamlett combine to rush for 157 yards a game, but the Starmont offense has only managed 5.7 points.
Scouting Bellevue: The Comets can inch closer to a playoff spot with a win. Running back Chase Junk has helped sustain drives, keeping opposing offenses off the field, late in Bellevue's three close victories. The senior has rushed for 382 yards on 93 carries.
Last word: "They're physical up front, and they have a pretty good power running game. It's going to be a battle at the line of scrimmage." — Bellevue coach Rick Pogemiller
NORTHEAST AT GUTTENBERG CLAYTON RIDGE
Time, place: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Guttenberg
Records: Northeast 2-1; Clayton Ridge 2-1.
Last year: Northeast won 7-0.
Eye-catcher: Both teams are coming off 50-point wins last week. The Rebels posted a 50-0 triumph over Alburnett, while Clayton Ridge put a 54-0 hurting on Edgewood-Colesburg.
Scouting Northeast: Last week, the Rebels have a pair of 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time this season. Fullback Mitchell Bielenberg dashed for 110 yards, and tailback Tanner Loots scampered for 100. A retooled offensive line has started to meld.
Scouting Clayton Ridge: Senior running back Jordan Davis has rushed for 107 yards a game this season. Keep an eye on Logan Keehner returning kicks and punts. He has averaged 38.8 yards per kick return with two scores and 45.5 yards per punt return with one touchdown.
Last word: "We had some holes to fill for sure, but I think we're starting to come together as a group. We've had some really good practices, and I think we're coming along nicely." — Northeast coach Jeremy Mosier
CLINTON AT BETTENDORF
Time, place: 7 p.m. Friday, TouVelle Stadium, Bettendorf
Records: Clinton 3-0; Bettendorf 3-0
Last year: Bettendorf 35, Clinton 14 (regular season); Bettendorf 28, Clinton 21 (postseason)
Scouting Clinton: The River Kings have been unchallenged so far, so it’s difficult to tell just how good they are. David Johnson is coming off his first 100-yard rushing game of the season and has emerged as a punishing runner. He has scored a league-high 78 points this season.
Scouting Bettendorf: Like any perennial power, the Bulldogs just seem to reload every year. Sure they lost Jared Masterson, the fourth-leading rusher in the MAC last year, but Chris Sanders has stepped right in and rushed for 352 yards in three games.
Last word: “Everything’s a concern. That’s the truth. They can throw it, they can run it, they can stop the run, they have good athletes in their secondary. They’re just solid. We need to control the ball and try to keep their explosive offense off the field and not allow big plays. If we do that, we’ll have a chance, but we’re going to have to play a great game to have a chance.” — Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley
CAMANCHE AT WILTON
Time, place: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Wilton
Records: Camanche 0-3; Wilton 1-2
Last year: Burlington won 7-6.
Eye-catcher: Camanche and Wilton come into this one in similar situations. Neither has a district win. Both teams have scored just nine points this season. And both teams are coming off blowout losses. Wilton lost to Solon 59-0, while Camanche suffered a 48-0 defeat.
Scouting Camanche: An ineffective offense has forced Indians coaches to shift skill players in their starting lineup. Moritz Mueller has moved from running back to quarterback, and Brett Johnson moves from tight end to running back.
Scouting Wilton: Wilton's offense no longer features running back Erik Grunder, who ran for over 2,000 yards last season. His replacements have gained just 109 yards this season (1.7 yards per carry).
Last word: "Offensively we have to look at some things and figure out what the problems are. Our defense has done a pretty good job, but we still need to move the ball." — Camanche coach Steve Dougherty
BENTON COMMUNITY AT MAQUOKETA
Time, place: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Maquoketa
Records: Benton Community 2-1; Maquoketa 3-0
Last year: Maquoketa won 14-7
Scouting Benton Community: “They have a tremendously athletic quarterback in Zach Twedt (311 yards rushing, 17-of-29 for 251 yards passing),” Maquoketa coach Kevin Bowman said. “Traditionally, they will run up to the line and go. At times that can be hard. They will do a Wildcat look, some shotgun and some different formations.”
Scouting Maquoketa: The Cardinals are looking to keep their strong start going. Colin Nickeson (304 yards rushing, 400 passing) and Zach Scheibe (259 yards rushing) have been a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield, and Tyler Rutenbeck (11 catches, 290 yards, 5 touchdowns) is a dangerous receiver.
Last word: “I feel there are only three more matchups when undefeated teams could be going to play each other, and one of them is this Friday. We preach to the kids to play one play at a time, one day at a time, one game at a time.” — Bowman
CENTRAL DeWITT AT MOUNT VERNON
Time, place: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Mount Vernon
Records: Central DeWitt 2-1; Mount Vernon 0-3
Last year: Central DeWitt won 34-7
Scouting Central DeWitt: The Sabers fell behind big early against Marion, and one thing their Wing-T offense isn’t designed to do is make up a lot of points quickly. They also must limit turnovers after fumbling the ball away three times and throwing two interceptions last Friday.
Scouting Mount Vernon: The days of the option and power football at Mount Vernon are gone. The Mustangs now use a spread offense. “They create problems for us in the one area where we need to improve: our defensive backfield,” Sabers coach Kurt Kreiter said. “They throw more than the traditional Mount Vernon team, and that’s an area where we struggle.”
Last word: “We need to get more basic. I think that loss (last Friday to Marion) ended a 17-game regular-season winning streak. When things are going well, you kind of put it on autopilot and think you’re doing everything right. But I think we’re trying to do too much.” — Kreiter
RIVERDALE AT MORRISON
Time, place: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Bud Cole Field, Morrison
Records: Riverdale 2-1; Fulton 3-0
Last year: Morrison won 19-12
Eye-catcher: A win for Morrison tonight, and likely win next week over River Valley next week, sets up the Mustangs for a battle of unbeatens against Amboy in two weeks. In addition to leading the Mustangs with an 11-tackles-per-game average, Patrick Wagenecht also has three sacks thus far in 2009.
Scouting Riverdale: A power running game, anchored by backs David Lauer and Tyler Smeltzly, will carry the Rams.
Scouting Morrison: Fullback Josh Vos proved he was the man last week, with 261 rushing yards and five touchdowns against Ottawa Marquette, but Kyle Janssen is proving to be a capable No. 2, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.
FULTON AT RIVER VALLEY
Time, place: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Midland
Records: River Valley 0-3; Fulton 1-2
Last year: Fulton won 44-23
Eye-catcher: Fulton will have opportunities to score in this game. River Valley has allowed an average of slightly more than 55 points per game in the first three.
Scouting Fulton: Gang-tackling has been a Steamer watchword on defense. Brandon Schneider is the Herald's top tackler, with 59 stops in just three games, with two other Fulton defenders — Zach Ryder and Evan Regenwether — averaging nearly 16 per game.
Scouting River Valley: Offense rules. Last week against Erie/Prophetstown, the Falcons set a school record for points in a game, rolling up nearly 600 yards of total offense.
Last word: "I think one thing that's kind of reassuring is that we're kind of mirror images of each other. This is a team that is going to try to finesse us, and we're more a finesse team than a smash-mouth team. Hopefully, we can defend them better than what most teams can. It's a long trip to get in that bus and there are a lot of things and a lot of time to think about. It's a place we don't get to very often, so it's definitely a challenge for us to be mentally prepared and ready to go in that game." — Fulton coach Patrick Lower.
WEST CARROLL AT EASTLAND/PEARL CITY
Time, place: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Lanark
Records: West Carroll 2-1; EPC 3-0
Last year: EPC won 35-0.
Eye-catcher: EPC is somewhat similar to the Thunder, in that it uses a spread offense. Wildcats senior receiver Tony Dunlap is considered the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference's best.
Scouting West Carroll: With fullback David Walter held more in check last week by Warren/River Ridge, quarterback Ethan Baisden established himself as a solid counterpoint running threat.
Scouting EPC: In addition to the spread option that is a staple of EPC play, the Wildcats have added a power-I formation as well.
Last word: "Eastland's interesting. They did a spread formation like they did before, but they threw in a power-I last year and we could cover the pass but not the power. We're not playing at the end of the season like usual when we have them. Eastland borders our school district and the kids know each other really, really well. There's been a few text messages come over and a lot of bragging (on the Internet) going on, but our kids aren't responding to that. They're focused on football, and I'm excited about that." — West Carroll coach Dave Baisden
AMBOY/LaMOILLE AT ERIE/PROPHETSTOWN
Time, place: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Erie
Records: Amboy 3-0; Erie/Prophetstown 2-1
Last year: Amboy won 41-0.
Eye-cathcher: Both teams are presently on the ins when it comes to playoff points. The Clippers are ranked fourth in Illinois Class 2A, while Erie/Prophetstown is 26th in 3A.
Scouting Amboy: Clippers running back Cody Richardson is going to be a handful for the Panthers. He is the Big Rivers Conference's returning leading rusher from last year.
Scouting Erie/Prophetstown: Observers will be looking to see if E/P is a contender or pretender. Though the Panthers face long odds, how well they respond to giving up 48 points against River Valley last week could be key.
STARMONT AT BELLEVUE