Every football season has that week.
The schedule is cruising along and storylines are developed through the first few weeks of the season. You know the stories. Players take big leaps, like Central A&M's lethal quarterback to receiver duo of Connor Heaton and Jacob Paradee last year. Teams establish themselves as threats to win the conference, while we, along with fans, try to project how far a team can make it into the postseason: Hello last season's Argenta-Oreana football team. Teams you thought would be ravaged by graduation and take a step back keep chugging along: See Effingham and Pana last season.
After a couple of games we see the stars continue to put up mammoth numbers. Last season St. Teresa senior Jacardia Wright put the finishing touches on an all-time great career and Maroa-Forsyth's Ian Benner established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the area as just a junior.
It happens every year. We think we have things figured out. As the season rolls along, we can get a clearer look at which games are appointment-viewing, and we try to point casual fans in the direction of the best games. Then that wild week happens, where the schedule is loaded and social media is buzzing in an attempt to find scores and updates from around the coverage area. The high-profile games aren't just happening, they're all happening at once.
Welcome to Week 4 of the 2019 high school football season.
Tuscola travels to St. Teresa. Warrensburg-Latham visits Central A&M. MacArthur goes to Rochester. Maroa-Forsyth hits the road against Williamsville. Carlinville travels to Pana. Mount Zion heads to Mattoon.
Good luck picking one of those games.
We expect Tuscola and St. Teresa to not miss a beat, even with the graduation of Wright for St. Teresa and Brayden VonLanken and Luke Sluder at Tuscola. This game has major conference implications. Warrensbrurg lost key position players, but the Cardinals are no pushover, even against an A&M team that could win the conference and do damage in Class 1A again. MacArthur at Rochester? Two of the best teams in the Central State Eight with college-bound athletes at every turn on the field. You know the Maroa-Williamsville rivalry. It's the same every year, and the Trojans appear to be loaded again. Carlinville went to the semifinals in Class 3A last season and all Pana did was go 9-2 to keep a proud tradition moving in the right direction. Mount Zion may have had the stingiest defense in our entire coverage area and Mattoon, though hit by graduation, was a prolific offense.
Get social media ready.
That doesn't include those teams that could make "the leap." Meridian, after a few lean years, travels to Clinton in a game that could play a factor in a playoff berth. Yes, playoff berth. Eisenhower, with higher numbers and a new coaching staff, hosts Chatham Glenwood.
Aregnta-Oreana is must-watch with a dynamic duo of quarterback Josh Williams and running back Makail Stanley. The Bombers travel to Cerro Gordo that week.
The point is, between great games and electric teams, Week 4 is loaded. As it turns it, we played this same game last season in what was one of the busiest weeks of the regular season. Wright scores seven touchdowns to run through Tuscola, Rochester held off MacArthur, Maroa got revenge in grand fashion on Williamsville, Warrensburg beat A&M and Carlinville handed Pana its only regular season loss.
Every year has one, and sometimes the cards line up just right where teams are riding a strong few years that leads to big games.
Set your calendar for Sept. 20, 2019.