The high school football postseason kicks off next week and as the final week of the regular season kicks off tonight, there are some key matchups for area schools fighting for playoff eligibility and clinching a postseason birth.
Five wins make a team eligible for postseason play but do not guarantee a spot in the postseason. At six wins, teams clinch that postseason spot.
Tonight in the Central Illinois Conference, five-win Central A&M will host five-win Shelbyville, with the winner locking in that postseason spot, the other hoping its playoff points are enough to get in.
In Decatur, St. Teresa will host Warrensburg-Latham. The Bulldogs are the top team in 2A hosting a 5-3 Cardinals team hoping to pull an upset of epic proportions to lock itself into the postseason. The Cardinals may very well join either Central A&M or Shelbyville hopings its playoff points are enough to play again next week.
The Tuscola Warriors are hoping to put the Meridian Hawks further on the bubble. Tuscola cannot make the postseason, they had an interruption to its season due to COVID in September, and will not reach the five-win threshold to qualify for the postseason. At 3-3, the Warriors can make Saturday's selection process more uncomfortable but the resurgent Hawks are looking to lock their place in the postseason with a win in Tuscola.
Clinton, well out of postseason contention, will host Iroquois West in a replacement game for Sullivan, who canceled its season shortly after the 2021 campaign kicked off in August.
The Illini Prairie Conference has a trio of teams locked into the postseason with six wins. Tolono Unity, Monticello, and Prairie Central.
Tonight, the Sages and Rockets battle for the conference title. Bloomington Central Catholic, sitting at 4-4 on the season, will host Prairie Central with a chance to qualify for the postseason. The Saints have been marred by injuries in the last half of its season, losing four of its last five games, can redeem recent disappointments with a win tonight.
Tonight in Paxton, St. Joseph-Ogden has been resurgent since they dropped the first three of its season. The Spartans have won five straight, and are eligible for the postseason, as are the Panthers. The winner clinches its postseason birth, the other should have enough points to get in, but will wait Saturday for the official announcement.
The 4-4 Lincoln Railsplitters will have a chance to qualify for the postseason for the first time in roughly 35 years Friday when they host Troy-Triad. Triad is 6-2. Not only will the Railsplitters have its work cut out for them Friday, but if they pull out the upset, they will hope playoff points are enough as their week 1 over Clinton will reduce its points as the Maroons had its season impacted by COVID for two weeks.
Effingham, at 4-4 overall, will host 4-4 Highland with both teams looking to qualify for the postseason.
The Heart of Illinois leaves little drama for this final week of the regular season. Tri-Valley, El Paso-Gridley, Dee-Mack, and Tremont are all locked in the large division of the conference. Only 4-4 Ridgeview, who is at LeRoy Friday, needs a win to qualify for the postseason.
In the Central State Eight, Rochester (7-1), Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (7-1), and Chatham-Glenwood (6-2) are locked into the postseason. Springfield High at 5-4, will take on Springfield Southeast Friday. The Senators are qualified for the postseason but will look to add to the CS8 teams to make the postseason with a win.
Additionally, Jacksonville will host Decatur MacArthur Friday night. Both teams are 4-4. The winner qualifies for the postseason.
The Big Twelve has four teams qualified for the postseason. Tonight's rivalry game between Normal Community (8-0, 7-0) and Normal West (6-2, 6-1) will determine the conference champion. Both teams are locked into the postseason, as are Peoria Notre Dame (6-3) and Peoria High (7-2). Peoria dropped Peoria Notre Dame 40-35 Thursday night.
At 4-4, Champaign Centennial is at cross-town rival Champaign Central with a chance to qualify for the postseason. Champaign Central is 2-6.
Bloomington High, at 4-4, will have its work cut out for themselves to qualify for the postseason. The Purple Raiders are at fourth-ranked Mahomet-Seymour.
In the Mid-Illini Conference, Washington can clinch the conference title with a win tonight over East Peoria. Morton and Pekin have clinched postseason births with six wins.
Dunlap and Metamora each are at five wins entering week 9. Dunlap hosts 6-2 Morton while Metamora is at Canton.
Williamsville can wrap up the Sangamo Conference championship this Friday with a win over 4-4 Pittsfield. Athens and Maroa-Forsyth are in. The Trojans host 4-4 Riverton Friday night.
Week 9 matchups this week:
Decatur LSA at Milford (Sat.)
Blue Ridge at Peoria Heights
Flanagan-Cornell-Cornell-Woodland at Champaign St. Thomas More (Sat.)
Peoria Richwoods at Peoria Manual
Urbana at Danville
Central State Eight
Decatur MacArthur at Jacksonville
Rochester at Normal U-High
Springfield Lanphier at Decatur Eisenhower
Heart of Illinois
El Paso-Gridley at Tri-Valley
Eureka at Dee-Mack
Fieldcerst at Tremont
Heyworth at G.C.M.S.
LeRoy vs. Ridgeview
Illinois Valley Central at Rantoul
Olympia at Pontiac
Oakland Tri-County (3-5)at Cerro Gordo-Bement (3-5)
Toledo-Cumberland (7-1) at Sangamon Valley (1-7)
Villa Grove (5-3) at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond (4-4)
Morton at Dunlap
Pekin at Limestone
Washington at East Peoria
Non-Conference matchups tonight
Breese Mater Dei at Mt. Zion
Fisher at Ottawa Marquette (Sat.)