Week 8 Football Previews

Rantoul Eagles (2-5) at No. 2 Unity Rockets (7-0)

Storyline

Eagles

The Illini Prairie Conference is a weird league. You’ve got three teams that are daunting to play against (Unity, Monticello, Bloomington Central Catholic), three teams that are good but hard to figure out (Pontiac, Prairie Central, St. Joseph-Ogden) and then the bottom four of the conference that beat up on each other (Rantoul, Illinois Valley Central, St. Thomas More, Olympia).

The Eagles have gotten ran off the field against Monticello and then Bloomington Central Catholic in the second half, and now they travel to face what is probably the best team in the conference.

Rockets

Maybe it was the emotional toll of a gigantic Week 7 win over Monticello that will probably serve as the de facto Illini Prairie championship game, but Unity took a while to get going against St. Thomas More on Friday.

The Sabers trailed just 14-10 before the Rockets came alive and exploded for 36 unanswered points in a 50-10 home win. It has to give Rantoul a confidence boost that an STM team the  Eagles demolished was going toe-to-toe with the No. 2-ranked team in Class 3A.

Keys to Win

Eagles

Hit on reverses

Rantoul tries about two-three reverse handoffs per game to virtually no success. Except for a touchdown run against Olympia, the runs have mostly ended in either a fumble or loss in yardage. It’s probably going to take hitting on one of those reverses for a big play or touchdown to take down the Rockets.

Rockets

Win up front

Bloomington Central Catholic, which forced four turnovers, was the most physical team in the trenches the Eagles have faced this season, Rantoul head coach Tom Hess said. This Rockets defense, though, will be trying to get Hess to re-evaluate that statement after Week 8.

Players to Watch

Eagles

DeAndre Walker

If Donnell Robertson is back and healthy, it probably lessens Walker’s role on offense, but in Robertson’s stead (out the last two weeks battling illness) Walker has been solid at fullback and linebacker. He’s a physical back just like Robertson and can rack up yardage on up-the-middle runs while serving well as a linebacker.

Rockets

Steven Migut

Migut is a stud and is making a case for Area Player of the Year. Of course, the senior quarterback and Army commit is probably gunning for something bigger: a state championship.

 

Fisher Bunnies (4-3) vs. Tremont Turks (1-6)

Storyline

Bunnies

Taking from the Bill Belichik “football guy” school of thought, the biggest game of the year is always your next game. That is abundantly true in this one, as a loss would put an incredible amount of pressure on Fisher to win in Week 9.

Defeating the one-win Turks gets the Bunnies playoff eligible for the first time since 2013 when they finished 6-4 with a first-round playoff loss under current Rantoul assistant Matt Leng.

Turks

Under first-year coach Zach Zehr, who has a state championship under his belt at Arcola, Tremont was a popular pick to be the Heart of Illinois Conference’s Cinderella team.

That hasn’t panned out, as the Turks have been shut out three times this year and are coming off three straight losses, including a heartbreaking 38-36 loss in Week 5 to Ridgeview/Lexington in 2OT and a 34-12 loss to El Paso-Gridley last week.

Keys to Win

Bunnies

Play to strengths

Against Tri-Valley, the Bunnies did what they should’ve done in letting Kade Thomas throw nearly 20 passes. This week will probably be immensely different with the game plan most likely having Thomas turn and hand off to Jaden Jones-Watkins several times or keeping the ball himself on option plays.

Turks

Keep run game in check

The Turks surged ahead 12-0 in the first half last week after two passing touchdowns by Logan Pflederer, but they allowed EP-G to run all over them. If Tremont can’t make the right decisions on the read-options between Kade Thomas and Jaden Jones-Watkins, it will be a long night.

Players to Watch

Bunnies

Brandon Henson

Henson has been one of Fisher’s top receivers this season, and that was apparent when he hauled in a 41-yard touchdown catch from Thomas that proved a key play in the Bunnies’ upset bid. Henson, who finished with three catches for 72 yards, might not be in for as much work this week in what we’re guessing will be a run-centric game plan.

Turks

Logan Pfelderer

The quarterback tossed a pair of 12-yard scores, but it wasn’t enough for Tremont last week. We’re guessing the Turks will likely try and pass it up on the Fisher secondary.

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZCarp11.

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports

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