U-High running back Bryan Sengsay hopes to help carry the Pioneers to their first undisputed Corn Belt Conference football title since 1989 with a win Friday night at Mahomet. (You Name It Sports/Katie Thoennes)
By Bryan Bloodworth
It's been 22 years since U-High football team has won the outright Corn Belt Conference title.
The Pioneers had an opportunity to earn that distinction a year ago, but suffered a loss to Mahomet-Seymour and had to settle for a share of the championship with the Bulldogs and Central Catholic.
This year's undefeated and No. 5 state-ranked (Class 5A) Pioneers get a chance to redeem themselves in the feature game of the WJBC Friday Night High School Football Extravaganza, connected by Frontier Communications. Kickoff is 7 p.m. in Mahomet.
The Extravaganza will be on WJBC 1230 AM and here on WJBC.com. The St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals in game 5 of the National League Division Series will be on WJBC 93.7 FM at 6:40 p.m.
"We haven't forgotten about that (last year's loss)," said U-High coach Dusty Burk. "That gives us a lot of motivation. It would be very nice (to win). One of our goals was to win the conference and win it outright."
The Pioneers enter their final conference game with a 7-0 overall record and a 6-0 mark in the Corn Belt. Mahomet-Seymour is 5-2 overall and 4-2 in the league.
Central Catholic, winner of four straight after starting the season with three losses, looks to continue its winning ways and improve its playoff hopes in a Homecoming game against Olympia at Bill Hundman Memorial Field.
The Saints (4-3, 4-2 in the Corn Belt) need to win their remaining two games to assure themselves of a playoff berth. Olympia (1-6, 1-5) enters the league game fresh off its first victory of the season last week against Eureka.
"We want to finish 6-3 and assure ourselves a spot in the playoffs," said Central coach Bobby Moews. "There are no guarantees at 5-4. A lot of 5-4 teams didn't make the playoffs last year."
Bloomington, which has won two straight and clinched its 26th straight playoff spot, strives to keep its grip on the a share of the Big 12 Conference lead when it meets Decatur Eisenhower at Fred Carlton Field.
The Purple Raiders (5-2 overall) are 5-1 in the Big 12 and tied with Urbana for the lead. Decatur Eisenhower, coached by former Normal Community High School graduate Mike Goodwin, is 1-6 overall and in the conference.
"One of the primary goals of any team is to come out on top of the conference," said BHS coach Rigo Schmelzer. "We need to take care of business against an improving Eisenhower team with only one win, but who has still played some of the heavyweights in the conference pretty evenly."
Normal Community travels to Danville for a Big 12 Conference encounter of two teams still shooting for playoff berths. Both teams have 4-3 overall records and 3-3 league marks.
In a non-conference game, Normal West treks to Mishawaka, Ind.) to battle Marian Catholic (5-3). The Wildcats (5-2) are looking to halt a two-game losing streak filled with turnovers.
"We've had 13 turnovers in our last three games," said West coach Darren Hess. "We're going to change up a few things and try and control the clock and the pace of the game a little better."
The Extravaganza also will feature two crucial Heart of Illinois games as undefeated and No. 4 state-ranked (Class 2A) Tri-Valley travels to Colfax to meet Ridgeview. Tri-Valley is 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the conference, while Ridgeview (6-1, 5-1 in HOI action) suffered its first loss last week.
Meanwhile, indefeated and No. 5 state-ranked (Class 1A) LeRoy plays host to Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland. The Panthers are 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the conference, while Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland is 6-1 overall and in the league.
Should Tri-Valley and LeRoy win, it would set up a Heart of Illinois Conference championship game between the two teams next week at Downs.
The Extravaganza, with Eric Stock as host, begins at 6:10 p.m. with kickoffs starting at 7 p.m. Updates are provided every quarter hour and postgame until 11 p.m.
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org