Believe it or not, the final Friday night of the regular season for high school football is here.
Believe it or not, half of the eight teams that make up the Suburban Lakes League still have a shot at claiming at least a share of the championship.
Eastwood, Elmwood, Lake and Woodmore stand one win shy of celebrating a title. Pulling off that last victory might be harder than it sounds for the four teams locked in a four-way tie for first place with 5-1 SLL records.
Lake (6-3 overall) faces defending champion Eastwood (7-2) in one of two pivotal matchups. Elmwood (6-3) takes on Woodmore (6-3) in tonight's other major clash.
“It's exciting,” Elmwood coach Dean Zeigler said. “It's built up to be an exciting night for the SLL. The two that come out with victories will have a share of the title and the other two will share second place.”
Zeigler's team, led by versatile quarterback Kyle Rhoad, faces a stiff test in Woodmore. The Wildcats are paced by quarterback Mike Kayden and running back Jeremy Harpel.
“They've got to run the football,” Zeigler said of Woodmore. “They'll give us a challenge. How we play defense will be key. They don't do anything fancy, they just grind it out on the ground.
“Woodmore is in the same position as we are. They're playing for the league. They're also in a spot that if they win they'll secure a spot in the playoffs.”
Meanwhile, Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford is preparing the Eagles for the task of trying to shut down Lake halfback Wes Blank.
“It's no secret what [Lake coach] Jim Kubuske is doing: they run at you,” Rutherford said. “If you can't stop the run he's going to keep it going.”
The Eagles were outright champions a year ago with a 7-0 mark.
“It's really nice to still be playing for something,” Zeigler said.
“For us to have an opportunity to win we'll have to play our best game offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Rutherford said.
- DONALD EMMONS