The 2017 high school football season is a third of the way through, and the JG-TC area has one undefeated team left in Shelbyville, the states' eighth-ranked team in Class 1A. The Rams have a stiff test Friday in a Central Illinois Conference battle against second-ranked Tuscola at Shelbyville.
Also in the CIC, No.15 Warrensburg-Latham, 2-1, is to play host to Sullivan/Okaw Valley, 0-3. Both teams are 0-1 in the conference.
The Little Okaw Valley Conference division play opens with Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond traveling to Decatur LSA to play 3-0 Decatur LSA/Decatur Christian in a northwest division game.
In the LOVC Southeast Division, two area teams square off as Martinsville is to play host to Cumberland. Tri-County is also to play host to Villa Grove/Heritage in the battle of 1-2 teams.
On Saturday a contest featuring two 2-1 teams is to take place as Arcola travels to Argenta-Oreana in a LOVC NW Division opener.
All games are to start at 7 p.m.
Tuscola 3-0, 1-0 number 2 in Class 1A at Shelbyville (3-0, 1-0) number 8 in Class 1A
Shelbyville enters with the top offense and defense as far as average points of the eight-team conference, scoring 58 points per game and allowing 6.3.
Tuscola has the second-best defense, allowing 9.3 points per game; they are third offensively at 45.7.
"This will be our first game against an opponent with a winning record," said Shelbyville coach Bill Duckett (three opponents are a combined 1-8). "Tuscola is really well coached and have a tradition of winning big games. They do well in all facets of the game, and we will have to be disciplined to continue the success we have had so far."
The Warriors enter on a 23-game regular season winning streak dating back to a 28-21 loss at Decatur St. Teresa on Oct. 10, 2014, under then coach Rick Reinhart.
Shelbyville is led by quarterback Turner Pullen and sophomore Kentrell Beck, who account for 79 percent of the offense. Pullen has completed 68 percent of his passes for 597 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Beck has been on the receving end of 11 passes for 297 yards and six touchdowns.
"Our pass blocking has improved a bunch from last year," said Duckett. "Turner Pullen has a lot of time to throw and hasn't been sacked yet. Also our receivers have done a good job of blocking down field, which allows big plays to happen."
Defensively, the Rams have Clayton Peterson and Joel Bleskey who lead the balanced attack with 14 and 13 tackles on the season.
"We have done a great job of swarming to the ball," said Duckett. "This has allowed us to create more turnovers and not allow any big plays."
Tuscola quarterback Luke Sluder has thrown for 607 yards.
Last year the Warriors topped the Rams, who entered with a 2-1 record, 40-22.
"We got down 28-0 in the first quarter and had to fight back to get back into the game," said Duckett. "They are too good to allow that kind of advantage."
While Duckett does not usually make a big deal it if is a home game or not, this time it is different.
"Tuscola is a placed where we haven't had success in the past," said Duckett. "It is one of the few places where they really have a home field advantage. So I think being at home helps us out."
Robinson (0-3, 0-3) at Casey-Westfield (0-3, 0-3)
Casey hopes to snap an 11-game losing streak against Robinson, who is coming off a 39-7 loss to Marshall.
The Warriors are led in rushing by Trey Clark and average 9.7 points per game, while allowing 41.7.
The Maroons have similar numbers, scoring 11.7 and allowing 41.3.
Both teams have played three opponents that are a combined 7-2.
Cumberland (2-1, 0-0) at Martisnville 0-2, 0-0)
The fourth straight road game has Cumberland averaging a LOVC SE leading 29 points per game, while allowing a division best 9.7.
While the Bluestreaks have struggled, they do average 20 points per game and allow 36.5.
Cumberland is coming off a 44-6 win over Sangamon Valley/Tri-City.
"We played the way we are capable of playing," said Cumberland coach Lucas Watkins. "The first half was a wake-up call for us (leading just 14-6 at the half) and it was nice to see us respond with better effort and energy in the second half."
The Cumberland defense is led by Evan James and Zach Wolke with 10.5 and 10 tackles.
"I think for the most part our defense has played pretty aggressive," said Watkins. "We still have alignment issues from time to time, but I like the aggressiveness and energy we're playing on defense."
Martinsville is led by running backs Dalton Rollings and Garron Haenig, who average 107 and 79 yards per game, while quarterback Boyce Snearley averages 65.5 yards per contest.
"My biggest concern with Martinsville is attempting to slow down their athletes," said Watkins. "They have multiple players that have been playing at the varsity level for the last couple of years and we need to contain those players."
Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond (2-1, 0-0) at Decatur LSA/Decatur Chirstian (3-0, 0-0)
LSA is coming off a 49-6 win over Tri-County, whose only win was a 34-28 win over A-L-A-H in week one. The Lions are led by quarterback Michael Fiala.
"Their Wing 'T' style offense is a big concern," said Knights coach Dale Schuring. "It tests your eye discipline specifically and your assignment discipline in general. Their packages force you to defend all 11 players and the whole field on every play."
LSA averages 31.7 points per game and a division-leading 6.3 allowed, while A-L-A-H scores 40.3 and allows 30.3 per game.
As for being 2-1 at this point, Schuring said, "The whole team has progressed farther than I anticipated at this point. We are getting contributions out of necessity, from players that were not projected to be ready for varsity football at this point in the season. We are getting really good play from our returners as well."
The Knights are coming off a 48-15 win over Oblong.
"I feel like we controlled the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game," said Schuring. "We improved gain in ball security and eliminating penalties."
The defense is led by sophomore Lucas Otto, who averages a JG-TC-leading 10.2 tackles per game.
"He has a natural ability to get off blocks and a natural instinct to diagnose plays and get to the ball," said Schuring.
As for the key strategies for the game, Schuring said, "We have to control their running game and we can't give up big plays on defense. We must get bodies on their inside linebackers who are all over the field making plays."
Villa Grove/Heritage (1-2, 0-0) at Tri-County (1-2, 0-0)
Tri-County's three opponents are a combined 7-2, while Villa Grove's are 5-4. The Titans are coming off a 49-6 loss to Decatur LSA, while Villa Grove fell to Cerro Gordo/Bement 42-26.
Both teams won their season opener.
The Blue Devils average 18 points per game compared to 13.3 for the Titans. Defensively, Villa Grove allows 37.3 to Tri-County's 39.3.
Sullivan/Okaw Valley (0-3, 0-1) at Warrensburg-Latham (2-1, 0-1) No. 15 in Class 1A
The two teams have one common opponent in South Fork. Warrensburg-Latham won 58-0, while Sullivan lost 42-0.
The Cardinals are coming off a 36-30 loss to Decatur St. Teresa, the number eight team in Class 3A.
Arcola (2-1, 0-0) at Argenta-Oreana (2-1, 0-0)
The game was originally to be on TV, but will not be now, as the company that broadcast the games had to cancel due to lack of sponsorship.
Arcola is coming off a 62-6 win over Palestine-Hutsonville, and Argenta-Oreana downed Martinsville 46-26.
"I though we did a great job defensively," said Arcola coach Nick Lindsey. "Our inside linebackers played really well and took what they learned on the practice field into the game."
As far as playing on a Saturday, Lindsey said, "It gives us one more day to prepare and get ready, which is always great, but on the other hand we lose a day of rest and preparation for the following week."
A-O quarterback Josh Williams has thrown for 450 yards, while Arcola quarterback Conner Strader has thrown for 275.
"Argenta-Oreana is extremely athletic and big on the perimeter," said Lindsey. "They do a very nice job of mixing run and pass and putting stress on the defense."
Last week Arcola had seven different players score a touchdown.
"Game planning for us can be pretty difficult," said Lindsey. "We have a lot of different people who can make plays and we get the ball to them in different situations. I'm happy with how some of our players have stepped up."
The keys to coming away with the win are, "Tackling well in space and controlling the line of scrimmage," said Lindsey, who added, "The best thing about our defense is that they have been able to play fast and physical and know their rules. I think we have done a great job of creating turnovers also."