A look at Week 7 games for Prairie Central and Dwight

Prairie Central is on the cusp of making the playoffs for the second straight year. The Hawks need one more win to clinch a spot in the postseason.
    Dwight needs three wins to guarantee a playoff bid, but the Trojans only need two to get into position for a 10th week of football.
    Wins this week for each will be huge.
Prairie Central (5-1) vs. Olympia (1-5)
    The Hawks’ schedule is one that follows Pontiac. The Indians play a team, and then PC gets that team the following week. PTHS manhandled Olympia last week to secure a sixth win and a spot in the playoffs.
    Prairie Central is now looking for that sixth win and the Spartans are the opponent in this Illini Prairie Conference contest.
    Olympia had trouble last week with Matthew Cooksey sitting out the first half. Pontiac rolled up 35 points in the first half and cruised. Cooksey, the top player for Olympia, should be ready to go four quarters this week. He is not the only weapon, but the offense will need him to produce.
    “(They run a) split back veer, which is another ‘old school’-type of offense. Defensive assignments need to be followed,” PC head coach Kirk Brandenburg said. “Team ‘D’ is needed for the last three games.”
    Olympia had trouble holding onto the ball last week, and it hasn’t put up points against the strong teams of the conference.
    The defense has given up a lot. The Spartans’ one win was a 22-15 victory over Central Catholic. A BCC fumble near the Oly goal line late was a game-saver.
    “No turnovers (and) recognize what we line up against” will be keys, Brandenburg said of the offense.
    The Hawks have been in high-gear all season. Big plays and sustained drives have been factors in racking up 238 points, the second-highest total in the conference.
    Wyatt Steidinger is the big scorer with 16 touchdowns and a two-point conversion for 100 points. He has rushed for 557 yards and caught eight passes for 237 yards.
    Matt Kerns has rushed for 798 yards and 8 TDs. Quarterback Collier Palmore adds 440 yards rushing and is 9 of 17 passing for 258 yards and a touchdown.
    Line play is the big key for the Hawks and it has been solid, even in a 36-30 loss to Pontiac.
    As for where the Hawks at this point of the season, Brandenburg feels good about the progress that has been made. Still, there is room for improvement.
    “(We’re) still looking for improvement on defense,” Brandenburg said. “If and when we turn the corner on defensive attitude and effort it will show in the box score. Hopefully the switch turns on.”
Dwight (3-3, 2-2) vs. Iroquois West (0-6, 0-3)
    Things were not looking all that good for Dwight after the Trojans fell to Clifton three weeks ago to fall to 1-3 on the season. But a big win over Watseka and key road victory at Momence has DTHS sitting at 3-3 and entertaining hopes of a possible postseason appearance.
    It will take some work.
    “I told the kids that each week we need to progressively get better in all areas of the game and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing,” DTHS head coach Luke Standiford said. “We are playing much better and doing the little things right that we focus on each week during practice.”
    Dwight has two games lined up that should produce wins and give it five heading into Week 9. Still, the Trojans need to play well.
    “At this point in the season, our schemes will remain the same. We just need to be perfect with our technique and do the little things right like block, tackle and take care of the football,” Standiford said.
    The Raiders of Iroquois West have not won a game this season and have put up just 48 points. The Trojans haven’t been lighting up the scoreboard, but some of that has to do with an offense that’s focused on ball control and being patient.
    A challenge this week will be the look the Raiders give on defense.
    “All year we have been playing against against teams that run an even front,” Standiford said. “Iroquois West will run an odd front, which is something we haven’t seen yet this year.
    “However, we have an offense that gives our offensive line ‘rules’ and as long as they follow them, we will have success running the football.”
    Logan Graham and Carson Crouch are the primary ballcarriers. Graham is coming off 203-yard effort last week at Momence. Crouch added 50 on 10 carries.
    Dwight has been solid on offense despite two regular linemen being sidelined.
    “The guys who have filled those positions have done a fantastic job,” Standiford said.
    Iroquois West has allowed 224 points while Dwight has allowed 128, with 46 coming against Clifton.
    Dwight’s defense will have to read keys because of the shiftiness of the Raiders. It shouldn’t be a big issue.
    “They do a lot of misdirection with their backfield, just like we do,” Standiford said. “Their running backs run the football very hard and are good at getting yards after contact. We will need to read our keys on defense and do a better job wrapping up and tackling.”
    A win for the Trojans puts them at 4-3 with 2-4 Hoopeston up next. Supposing a win this week and next, that gives DTHS a 5-3 mark heading into the Week 9 game with Paxton-Buckley-Loda. A win in that game means six wins and an automatic berth. A loss would leave the Trojans at 5-4 and hoping they have enough points to get in.
    But it starts the approach will be a week-to-week matter. DTHS cannot afford any slip ups over the next two weeks.