Bartlett, Larkin need one more win for playoff eligibilty

Here's where things stand with two weeks left in the regular season for the Upstate Eight Conference.

South Elgin is in at 7-0. Bartlett and Larkin each need one more win to become playoff eligible at 5 wins, while Elgin would need to win out to become playoff eligible.

Bartlett update:

One player who qualifies as a special teams stud is Bartlett's Blake McCluskey.

"Blake is our long snapper as well as our PAT-field goal snapper and has done a fantastic job all season and keeps getting better each week," Bartlett coach Milan Vuckovich said. "You can't have a successful kicking game without a consistent snapper. He absolutely deserves this recognition."

Vuckovich added junior quarterback Gio Nguyen's worth goes well beyond his exploits under center.

"The leadership Gio has displayed on top of his understanding of the offense and what the defense is doing has been awesome," Vuckovich said. "He continues to improve with each practice and it shows up in the games. Having him at quarterback is like having a coach on the field. He's able to come back to me and tell me what's going on and what he feels might work. It's been great."

Streamwood update:

Streamwood coach Keith McMaster said defensive back Oscar Villapando has had a great season. "He not only covers the top receivers, but he aids in the run game from the outside," he said.

Sophomores Juan Cortes and Alex Flores have quickly become accustomed to the varsity game speed. "Both play on defense and Juan also runs the ball," McMaster said. "They play with heart and passion, and it's fun to watch them progress."

West Aurora update:

Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer praised the work of long snapper Sean Weigand last week.

"Sean had his first start at long snapper and did a great job," the coach said.

South Elgin update:

Numbers usually tell the story, so let's let the numbers do the talking for South Elgin.

In last week's win against Elgin, the Storm outrushed the Maroons 280-94 on 36 rushes. South Elgin averaged 8.7 yards per play in the game.

Why is South Elgin 7-0? The Storm has committed only 8 turnovers in 7 games, while rushing for 287 yards per game and racking up 427 yards of total offense. South Elgin has 16 passing touchdowns against 4 interceptions. Defensively, South Elgin has limited opposing rushers to 496 yards for the season or 70.9 yards per game. South Elgin is outscoring its opponents by an average of 48-13 per game.

Coach Dragan Teonic said South Elgin athletic director Michael "Hollywood" Jezioro has to be considered an unsung hero for the team "for being incredibly supportive of our program and kids behind the scenes,'" he said. "Mike is one of the best, and certainly one of the best in the area."

Elgin update:

Defensive end Kristian Davis has been a defensive stalwart for the Maroons, who can become playoff eligible by winning their final two games against crosstown foe Larkin and Glenbard South.

"Kristian has been doing a great job of firing off the line and making plays in the backfield," Elgin coach Anthony Mason said.

Mason also likes the way Terrell Arrington has played in a variety of roles this season.

"Terrell has played multiple positions on offense and will need to step up at quarterback moving forward," he said.

Mason also threw a shout out to the Maroons' wide receiver group.

"They will need to have big games moving forward in the blocking game and catching the ball every time," he said.

Larkin update:

The Royals, at 4-3, find themselves one win away from becoming playoff eligible. Larkin closes out the regular season with games against Elgin and West Chicago.

Royals coach Grant Dietz said Kevin Malone has been a force of late for the team. "Kevin has come on as of late with his hard running and nose for the ball," he said. "We are expecting great things from him down the stretch."

Dietz said another key for the team being on a three-game winning streak has been the play in the trenches.

"Our offensive and defensive lines are playing well and I hope it continues," Dietz said.

Batavia update:

Charlie Whelpley is a peg that can fit into many holes as needed at Batavia.

Last year on Batavia's sophomore team, that meant Whelpley was a run-first quarterback with classmate Ryan Boe the varsity starter.

"I was the only one who could throw a ball. I was usually a running back or receiver before that," Whelpley said. "I can pretty much play anything."

That versatility has been quite evident with Whelpley playing a Swiss Army knife like function for this Batavia group. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior is second on the team in rushing behind Ryan Whitwell, leads the team in receptions and has even thrown four passes.

On top of that, he punts.

"He can be a running back, slot receiver, tight end, single receiver in trips. That versatility helps our offense out," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "He can catch, he can run, he can block. A guy like that in our offense is very valuable."

Whelpley is one of the reasons why the Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1) are picking up steam as the season progresses. Batavia has won four straight games and outscored opponents 145-13 during that stretch.

Whelpley has rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and caught 24 passes for 313 yards and two more scores. He's punted to a 31.8 yard average, with five of his 17 punts inside the 20-yard line.

"They have me all over and it's actually really fun. Whatever I can do to help the team," Whelpley said. "I'm pretty much in every single formation, every single play. We're so versatile on offense which is hard for other teams to get a scouting report on."

Piron noted that for a kid his size and frame that carries a lot of mass on the field, the biggest surprise is how good Whelpley's hands are.

"He has fantastic hands," Piron said. "He can use his body to make tough catches. When he's in space he tends to get extra yards because of his size. It helps that he can do all those things that he does and at the same time it makes it tough on opponents because where we put him may mean something and it may mean nothing. We have things off things."

St. Charles North update:

Rob Pomazak has coached some dynamic players in his time at St. Charles North, stars like Tyler Nubin who has gone on to play in the Big Ten. So when he delivers high praise, it's notable.

Pomazak can't say enough good things about Drew Surges.

The two-way standout has done just about everything for the North Stars (6-1, 5-0), who have won six in a row and lead the DuKane Conference. Surges has rushed for a team-high 433 yards and eight TDs, caught 23 passes for 248 yards and two more TDs and has a team-high 70 tackles.

"He's right there at the top of kids I've coached with the positions he plays and what he does on both sides of the ball. He could potentially be the defensive Player of the Year, and the offensive Player of the Year in our conference," Pomazak said. "It's remarkable what he does. He's truly a throwback high school football player."

St. Charles North is lined up for a potential huge Week 9 showdown with Batavia to decide the DuKane title, but Pomazak knows better than to look ahead.

The North Stars this week travel to Carol Stream to play a desperate and dangerous 3-4 Glenbard North team fighting for its playoff lives.

"Glenbard North is an extremely dangerous team, and an extremely talented team," Pomazak said. "They have the highest playoff points in our conference, their strength of schedule is second to none, they've played everybody close with the exception of one game and they're backed into a corner, a perennial powerhouse that needs to win. We talked about a team with a cornered mentality. We have to use this as Week 1 of the playoffs. We're already in playoff mode."

Burlington Central update:

Burlington Central's start to last Friday's game hardly was an ideal scenario. The Rockets dug themselves a 17-0 halftime deficit to Crystal Lake Central, and was without starting quarterback Jackson Alcorn, who was injured late in the Jacobs game the previous week.

"It took some time to settle into a new rhythm, the same thing defensively," Rockets coach Brian Iossi said. "They lined up in an empty five wide instead of what we saw on film. Credit to our coaching staff for making incredible adjustments. My message at halftime was we're not giving up."

The Rockets heeded the message, rallying in the second half for a big 21-17 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Alcorn practiced on Monday, and Iossi is hopeful that he can play this Friday at home against Cary-Grove. But if not Iossi is more than confident with the ball in the hands of junior QB Ryder Bergemann.

"He's just as capable, brings a different style to our offense. We're good either way," Iossi said. "Not many coaches have two kids out there that they feel good about at quarterback. I have three guys who I have no problem running out there, and they're all young, two sophomores and a junior."

Burlington Central, collectively, is quite young, with 18 sophomores and juniors rotating into games. The Rockets have played a ton of close games this season, all but one decided by nine points or fewer, with a big one this Friday.

The Rockets and Cary-Grove, last year's Class 6A state champion, are both 3-4, and both likely need wins to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"It's definitely an interesting set up. Cary is not in this position typically," Iossi said. "We're excited for the opportunity. This is a big game for us as a program. But as much as we want to win this game, it's an opportunity for growth, a playoff atmosphere. That experience is incredibly important for our young guys."

Kaneland update:

Kaneland QB Troy Carlson had quite the sophomore season last fall, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 36 TDs.

That is all well and good, but Knights' coach Pat Ryan said his program's goal is to strike a much greater balance on offense. And Kaneland has found that happy medium this season with a trio of running backs - Chris Ruchaj, Tyler Bradshaw and Josh Mauthe - running behind an offensive line that is coming along.

That balance all came together in last Friday's impressive 44-3 win over Marengo. Ruchaj ran for 151 yards and three TDs, including a 73-yarder, on 11 carries. Carlson was 11-of-13 passing for 146 yards and Aric Johnson led the Knights in receiving with 80 yards on five catches.

"We are running the ball a lot more effectively," Ryan said. There were times last season that we could just not run the ball. We were forced to throw the ball. We are a much more balanced offense We have three good running backs that are sharing the load and an offensive line that is getting better and better."

The Knights (4-3) can become playoff eligible with a win at 1-6 Woodstock North this Friday. A challenging Week 9 game with La Salle-Peru looms, a matchup Ryan is happy the Knights get at their place where they typically seem to fare better.

"For us, we're talking about fundamental football things right now, tackling and pad level and you always need to improve those things," Ryan said. "We just have to keep getting better and we have to get better at some situational awareness things. We have to get better on third and fourth downs, those downs have been critical for us. We have to keep our drives going and get our defense off the field. If we want to make a run we have to get better in all those aspects."

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