U-high's Joe Johnson (photo courtesy You Name It Sports)
By Greg Halbleib
The two remaining unbeaten Intercity squads put their perfect records on the line in a double dose of featured match-ups on the Week 4 high school football schedule.
The WJBC Friday Night High School Football Extravaganza features Normal West (3-0, 3-0 Big 12) hosting the Danville Vikings (1-2, 1-1 Big 12) with play-by-play on AM 1230, while bonus coverage on FM 93.7 highlights U-High (3-0, 2-0) facing Prairie Central (2-1, 2-0) for the Hawks homecoming.
Normal West has outscored its opponents 136-27 in lopsided wins over Champaign Central, Decatur Eisenhower and Decatur MacArthur. “They’re traditionally one of the best teams in the Big 12, and I don’t see any dropoff,” said West coach Darren Hess about the Vikings. “They have tremendous athletes on the offensive and defensive line and I think it’ll come down to a war in the trenches.” Danville lost its opener 43-42 in the final minute to Bloomington.
A battle between two of the three teams on top of the Corn Belt Conference is the other WJBC feature as the Prairie Central High School homecoming pits the Hawks against the U-High Pioneers on FM 93.7. “They (Prairie Central) are very versatile,” said Pioneers coach Dusty Burk. “They’re going to throw it around a lot, and they do a good job with the run game as well. I think this is the most balanced team we’ve played so far.”
Normal Community (1-2, 1-1 Big 12) looks to rebound from their second straight defeat, a 27-18 non-conference loss on Saturday at Niles Notre Dame. Ironmen running back Jowanis Edwards leads the Intercity with 501 yards rushing, and NCHS coach Wes Temples knows why. “I think the biggest reason is the offensive line,” said Temples, “and they have to get better. We have to get better everywhere, but it starts with those guys from an offensive standpoint.” The Ironmen host Champaign Centennial (1-2, 1-2 Big 12), who are also coming off a second straight loss in a 32-23 defeat at the hands of Danville.
Bloomington (2-1, 2-1 Big 12) suffered the season’s first loss last week, a 30-22 decision to Urbana, after two comeback wins to open the year. The Purple Raiders hit the road for the third time this season as they face Champaign Central (0-3) at Tommy Stewart Field. The Maroons were the victims of the end of a 23-game Decatur Eisenhower losing streak last week. Bloomington coach Rigo Schmelzer says the Maroons present a new challenge. “This team gives us a new defense (4-3) for the kids to work on,” said Schmelzer, “and gives us an opportunity to hopefully lick some wounds from last week.”
In the Heart of Illinois Conference highlight for Week 4, two 3-0 teams hook up in Downs as Tri-Valley hosts Tremont. “They’re solid and they play hard,” said Tri-Valley coach Josh Roop of the Turks. “They’ve got a couple of the better backs we’ll have seen so far, and they’re definitely one of the best, if not the best, defensive teams we’ll see this year.”
The Extravaganza will also feature Olympia at Rantoul and Ridgeview at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Pre-game scene-setters begin at 6:10 with updates every quarter hour on AM 1230 during Danville at Normal West and frequent score updates on FM 93.7 during U-High at Prairie Central. Post-game debriefing sessions continue until 11:00. Scores and updates can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter (WJBCHSFootball).
On the Saturday scene, Central Catholic will visit Eureka for a 4 p.m. kickoff at McKinzie Field at Eureka College. The game can be heard on WJBC.com beginning at 3:45.