ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Two NIC-10 football teams made it through the first five weeks of the season undefeated. After Friday night only one undefeated team will remain. 5-0 Belvidere North and 5-0 Hononegah will be meeting in Rockton in our “Overtime” “Game of the Week.”
Hononegah being 5-0 isn’t a big surprise. The Indians were preseason NIC-10 favorites in the eyes of many people. Belvidere North on the other hand was more of a mystery. The Blue Thunder were only 1-3 in the short spring season. That season started off with a lopsided 61-0 loss to Hononegah.
“They exposed us in a lot of parts of our game last year,” said Belvidere North head coach Jeff Beck. “It was the first game of the year, and because their offense was very complex, we were misaligned a lot.”
(Mason Weckler, Belvidere North quarterback) “I feel like last year it was like it was weird because of the COVID season,” said Belvidere North quarterback Mason Weckler, “But then since we’ve gotten in this year we’re like, alright we’ve found our step and now we just keep on keep rolling.”
This season North’s defense has been one of the best in the NIC-10. The Blue Thunder have allowed only 50 points through five games. That’s the second fewest in the conference.
“They’ve got some athletes there, and they fly 11 guys to the ball, and that’s very similar to what we do,” said Hononegah head coach Brian Zimmerman.
“They’re just aggressive and quick,” said Hononegah center Jacob Klink. “They come off the ball fast, and then they’ve got the Winter brothers at linebacker, a huge effect for those guys.”
“We try to take everything as seriously as we can in practice because we know it’ll translate right into the game,” said Belvidere North linebacker Aaron Winters. “We also study a lot of film with coach.”
On offense the Blue Thunder like to move the chains with their ground game. Quarterback Mason Weckler spearheads that, and sophomore backs Nico Bertolino and Joseph Brown have been extremely productive. They’re part of a strong sophomore class that’s contributing.
“That group of kids is a really good group,” said Beck. “We hated to kind of break that group up, but we knew that those kids would help us win varsity football games.”
Zimerman says Belvidere North’s defense is unique to the NIC-10. “I would call them a flex-bone, you know, triple-option type team. It’s tough because you don’t see a team like that week-in and week-out.”
The Blue Thunder’s biggest win so far came in week two when they won at Boylan 20-6. Hononegah is coming off a nail-bitter 16-14 win at Boylan last week. The Indians allowed only 77 yards of total offense to the Titans, and they made big plays on special teams when they had to. Hononegah’s versatility on offense is also a concern for North.
“They’re definitely so far the most complex offense we will see,” said Beck. “They do a lot of different things motion, changing personnel around, lining people up in different positions trying to take advantage of a numbers game.”
“We’re not going to underestimate them,” said Hononegah defensive tackle Aiden Peters. “We’ve got to just play our game. Another game for us. We’ve got to worry about ourselves.”
Another big key in this game will be the kickers. Belvidere North has Aiden Montes and Hononegah has Bryce Goodwine, perhaps the two best kickers in the NIC-10.
NOTE: Catch highlights of the game Friday night at 11 p.m. live on “Overtime” on Fox 39.