Before moving on to the football playoffs, let’s take a moment to clear out the regular-season closet.
During the regular season it’s so easy. A head coach, if he’s not scouting himself, sends out his lower-level staff to scout next week’s opponent. Or maybe a future opponent.
But what about this week? Will coaches try to scout potential first-round playoff opponents Friday and Saturday?
It depends on the situation. It’s a definite guessing game, but often the guess is more educated.
If Glenbard West and Neuqua Valley enter the playoffs 9-0 with a win this weekend, the list of possible first-round opponents is short. Theoretically Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet and Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus could send scouts to see a small handful of potential 5-4 teams.
For others, though, the array of possible opponents is too wide to decipher.
Willowbrook sits at 6-2 with a guaranteed playoff spot, but that’s the only thing certain right now. Depending on the outcome of the Warriors’ game against Hinsdale South, there’d be a big difference between 6-3 and 7-2.
At 6-3 the Warriors might face an 8-1 team on the road. At 7-2 they might play another 7-2 team at home or on the road. Geography might help narrow the list of possibilities, but geography also could muddy the waters.
For coach Nick Hildreth it’s too much to think about heading into a big game.
“Right now we’re just focusing all our attention on Hinsdale South,” Hildreth said.
Like the rest of us, in other words, he’ll just wait and see what happens when the pairings are announced Saturday night (Comcast SportsNet, 8 p.m.).
For years DuPage County has been a hotbed for producing high-caliber offensive and defensive linemen. While that trend isn’t ending, it may be shifting the next year or two.
Glenbard North junior Justin Jackson already boasts scholarship offers from Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Boston College. While most people know Jackson as a running back — he’s rushed for 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns in eight games — colleges may want Jackson as a defensive back.
Either way, Jackson — like Montini graduate Jordan Westerkamp, now a freshman receiver at Nebraska — will be a rare non-lineman representing DuPage County as one of the state’s top recruits from the Class of 2014.
Joining Jackson on that list will be Wheaton North junior quarterback Clayton Thorson, who is sharing time behind center with Johnny Peltz when he isn’t playing receiver. Thorson is steadily increasing an offer list that features Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State and Northern Illinois.
Another stellar non-lineman looms in the Class of 2015. Benet sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi, all 6-foot-6 of him, already is being looked at by Notre Dame after Beneventi camped in South Bend last off-season.
So while the big-time linemen aren’t disappearing from the radar in DuPage County, it’s good to see some skill positions represented on top recruiting lists.
Bye bye Belskis:
It’s hard to imagine, but for each of the last 40 years John Belskis somehow has been involved in football.
While Belskis already is planning on season No. 41, it won’t be with Downers Grove South. After coaching the Mustangs’ season finale against Addison Trail on Friday, Belskis is retiring at the end of the school year.
“The coaching staff jokes about checking things off as the last time I’ll do something, but it hasn’t hit me yet,” Belskis said. “There’s no finality feeling yet.”
A graduate of York High School and Valparaiso University, where he’s a member of the athletic Hall of Fame, Belskis had a tryout with the Chicago Bears before finding a spot in the American Football Association as a defensive back on the Chicago Fire.
Belskis began his coaching career shortly after his playing days ended, and he’s been at Downers South for the last 33 years. In 24 years as the varsity head coach Belskis has a career record of 200-62, including a victory in the 2001 Class 8A championship game.
On the heels of win No. 200 last week against Hinsdale South, Belskis will try to end his illustrious career with the Mustangs on a high note against Addison Trail.
“I’m sure at some point it’ll sink in,” Belskis said. “But for now it’s just business as usual.”
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