Prairie Ridge tries to finish run toward football playoffs

Prairie Ridge quarterback Brett Covalt carries the ball against Dundee-Crown on Oct. 11 in Crystal Lake. Prairie Ridge won, 42-0, and needs a win Friday at McHenry to be playoff eligible.
Prairie Ridge quarterback Brett Covalt carries the ball against Dundee-Crown on Oct. 11 in Crystal Lake. Prairie Ridge won, 42-0, and needs a win Friday at McHenry to be playoff eligible.

Two weeks ago, Prairie Ridge was 2-4 with a pair of one-loss teams looming on its schedule and a sputtering offense.

But look at the Wolves now.

Ninety-eight points, 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns later, Prairie Ridge is on the playoff threshold. If the Wolves (4-4 overall, 2-3 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division) win at McHenry (2-5, 0-6) in their 7:15 p.m. game Friday at McCracken Field, they will make the postseason.

Prairie Ridge has 39 playoff points (opponents' wins), with a great chance to get five more Friday, which will easily be enough to get it into the IHSA Class 6A playoffs with five wins.

Two other local teams’ playoff hopes are riding on Friday’s outcomes. Huntley (4-4, 2-3) visits Crystal Lake South (3-5, 1-4) in an FVC Valley game, and Richmond-Burton (5-3, 3-2) plays at Harvard (8-0, 5-0) in a Big Northern Conference East Division matchup.

Huntley has 36 points and could get in with a fifth victory. R-B has 32, and its best-case scenario is likely 37 points, so the Rockets may need a sixth win to qualify. The cutoff line for playoff points will not be known until Saturday but has been at least 38 the past four years. In 2011, the cutoff at 40 was the highest ever.

“It’s nice to be able to think about the playoffs and know that you have that opportunity,” Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. “Our players and coaches are excited about having that opportunity to extend the season.”

Quarterback Brett Covalt, who rushed for 258 yards in last week’s 56-27 win against Grayslake North, said the thought of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season was motivation. Especially for a program that won the Class 6A state title in 2011.

“We didn’t want it to end up like last season,” Covalt said. “We were unsure of ourselves. We didn’t know what we could be, but we were definitely capable of being what we are now.”

Prairie Ridge scored only 28 points total in four games previous to Week 7’s date with Dundee-Crown. The Wolves won 42-0 that week, then hit North for eight more touchdowns last week.

“We realized it could be difficult to finish the season the way we wanted to,” center Bennett Tomlin said. “But we increased our focus and we responded in a very positive manner. As a whole, our offense realized we had potential to be a good offense and didn’t want to end the way we started.”

Prairie Ridge could not be more different than how it started.

“It felt great. Just beating two great teams was an accomplishment,” Covalt said. “We felt like we earned it too, the past two weeks we worked our butts off.”

Huntley has missed some chances in close games, but a win Friday could still get the Red Raiders in.

“What we’ve got to do is play a good 48 minutes and we can get into the playoffs,” Raiders coach John Hart said. “I don’t think there’s any break in our kids. I just haven’t seen it. I think our kids will come out and fight even harder because there’s a lot on the line.”

R-B is trying to make the Class 4A playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

“In our games we’ve won and played well, we’ve been efficient and limited our mistakes,” Rockets coach Pat Elder said. “In our losses, we’ve failed to execute in the red zone and had costly penalties. We can only worry about things we can control. There’s a simple solution to if we make it or not and that’s to get a victory.”

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