St. Charles North controls its own destiny.
And for a North Stars program that missed the previous two postseasons, it arguably doesn’t need that reminder with perhaps the most stout test of the season on the line this coming Friday.
Batavia (6-2, 5-1), the DuKane Conference champions in 2018, 2019 and 2021, stands in its way.
St. Charles North, riding a seven-game win streak entering Friday, has zero conference losses on the season. A win secures the title outright.
“We’ve had no problem finding motivation all season long on our ‘Revenge Tour’ in the DuKane,” North Stars sophomore quarterback Ethan Plumb said.
The North Stars and Batavia are no strangers to photo finishes at the finish line. In 2018, the season they eventually placed second in the Class 7A state finals, the Bulldogs outlasted the North Stars in the final seconds 27-24.
The following season, then-Batavia running back Art Taylor’s third touchdown capped off a fourth quarter comeback with 62 seconds left for a stunning 27-26 final.
In 2021, Batavia prevailed in a wild 36-29 double overtime victory on Jacob Hohmann’s 2-yard touchdown to win it.
“And we all remember the [double overtime] loss to Batavia which ended our season last year,” Plumb said. “The key to victory for us will be staying in the moment and taking care of unfinished business.”
St. Charles North’s offense features a lethal rushing attack headlined by Drew Surges and his 433 total rushing yards and 5.8 yards per carry. The receiving corps is a balanced mix of five receivers with at least 100 yards receiving on the season.
Linebackers Aidan Zocher and Surges lead in tackles and headline a resurgent unit that has yet to surrender more than 21 points all season.
Establishing Surges early and often figures to be a key component to success.
“I think that offensively it will be important to establish our physicality,” Plumb said. “It’s important that we bring the fight to them and let them know early that they are in for a battle.
Batavia, meanwhile, will be ready for whatever comes their way.
“We’re just laser-focused [this] week of practice,” junior linebacker Ben Fiegel said. “A laser-focus on Friday; waking up in the morning [knowing] we have one thing on our mind: Beating St. Charles North.”
The Bulldogs are on a five-game winning streak of their own.
“Our locker room, we’re focused but we’re also clicking,” Fiegel said. “We’re getting to a point in the season where everything just feels right and we’re moving nicely.”
The Bulldogs surrender 86 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.
“[Surges] is all over the ball on both sides of the field,” Fiegel said. “We don’t want to play a defense that isn’t ours. We’re going to play our defense and we should be fine. I feel like some teams get caught up doing too much for a guy, but if we just play our game, we’ll be fine.”
Frieders, Geneva looking for sixth win to clinch second consecutive postseason berth.
Geneva (5-3, 3-3) still needs one more win to finish the job.
Last week’s 20-13 loss to Wheaton North stung a bit, but senior kicker JT Frieders and the Vikings have another opportunity against Lake Park to close the regular season.
“I certainly had the feeling of frustration on Friday because I left my heart on the field,” said Frieders, who had two made field goals in the loss. “That feeling of frustration was gone today when watching film. As a team, we are moving forward with a positive feeling about this week.”
Perhaps some of those tough moments can prove to be useful in hindsight in a likely playoff run.
“I have learned our team can be competitive against anyone we face. As long as we stay focused and work together we remain a threat,” Frieders said.
Friders has been a steady consistency for the Vikings this season, going 27 for 28 on extra points and 3 for 5 on field goals.
“I want to start by saying my success is based around my team’s support. Main contributors to that would be my long snapper Mason Luker and holder Charlie Morrison,” Frieders said. “I remain focused by isolating myself on the sidelines, so when the moment arises, I am ready to perform.”
“When running out on the field, I repeat to myself ‘I am going to make this’,” Frieders continued. “Blocking out the noise around me keeps me calm and ready to help my team in big moments.”
Playoff Picture in the Kane County Chronicle coverage area
St. Charles North, St. Francis (8-0) and Batavia have secured postseason berths regardless of Friday’s outcomes.
Geneva and Kaneland both sit at five wins and are playoff-eligible. A win against Lake Park and La Salle-Peru, respectively, and they’re in.
Burlington Central (4-4) needs a win against McHenry (3-5) to likely clinch a postseason berth. The Rockets haven’t reached the playoffs since 2015.