Neither Quincy Notre Dame nor Illini West is ranked in its respective poll, and both teams have a loss. It’s also not the first meeting between the teams in more than 25 years.
Nonetheless, it’s QND vs. Illini West. It’s a natural rivalry for those schools in all non-football sports, and with QND now in the West Central Conference, it’s about to become an annual rivalry on the gridiron.
“There’s a certain excitement when you say Illini West/Carthage,” QND coach Bill Connell said.
Plus, it’s the first time these teams have met since 2010, when an estimated crowd of 4,000 to 5,000 watched Illini West beat Quincy Notre Dame 22-20 at Fuzz Berges Field in Carthage, Ill. Some QND players said this week that this game isn’t about revenge. Some QND fans might see things differently.
The Chargers (3-1, 1-1 WCC) will host the Raiders (3-1, 1-0 WCC) at 7 p.m. Friday at Fuzz Berges Field in a game that could have significant WCC title implications.
“For both these programs, Friday night is a huge football game,” Connell said.
Here are three things to watch for Friday:
1. Which team wins the battle of special teams?
Connell stressed this week the battle of special teams could play a big impact in the outcome of this game. That often happens when two evenly matched teams square off, which would appear to be the case in this game.
QND proved its capabilities on returns last week, with Zach Vahle ripping off an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Jordan Chapel scoring on a 50-yard punt return. Chapel is arguably the best punt returner in the area.
Illini West, however, is built around speed, and QND must honor that on returns. The Raiders certainly won’t want to give any open space to junior Jacob Sholl, the reigning third-place finisher in the Class 1A 200-meter dash with a time of 22.41 seconds.
2. How will Illini West handle QND’s passing attack?
The Chargers haven’t had to go against a pass-first team yet, and that’s what they’ll see in QND.
Raiders quarterback Joe McCaughey leads the area with 643 passing yards. He’s completed 37 of 75 passes with nine touchdowns. The Chargers certainly don’t lack for their speed, and they should be able to keep up with QND’s wide receivers. Plus, Illini West showed in 2010 it can stop a pass-oriented offense when it limited then-QND quarterback Kramer Barnes to 8-of-16 passing for 56 yards with an interception. Turning in a similar performance could be key for the Chargers.
3. Will Illini West’s Wing-T offense give QND fits?
The only offense to give QND trouble this year was the spread attack of Helias. The Chargers aren’t the team Helias is, and they won’t spread the field, but their offense presents a strong set of challenges, too.
QND isn’t accustomed to seeing the Wing-T. And although the Raiders have spent the week preparing for it, it’s very different seeing it run by Illini West. No one runs ball fakes or hides the football as well as Illini West does. The same could be said for Illini West’s Carthage predecessor. Connell said this week QND’s best approach would be to just tackle all three running backs and the quarterback. That way, no matter who has the ball, QND would be covered. That plan might be easier said than done, however. Helias ran plenty of speed option out of the spread, and it tore apart QND’s defense. And the Raiders only had to honor two ball carriers then. Now, they’ll have to respect four.
Check back on Topp’s Tips early Saturday morning for answers to these pregame questions based off of Friday’s game and for additional postgame analysis. Also visit www.whig.com/sports for game coverage.
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- Postgame: QND 46, Illini West 14 : Topp's Tips | September 28, 2013