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Sports

Sandwich, Streator each looking for 2nd victory

The 1977 Streator Bulldogs football team  which went 8-1 in the regular season before a 16-15, opening-round playoff loss to Evergreen Park  will be honored between games this Friday night at the SHS Athletic Fields.
The 1977 Streator Bulldogs football team which went 8-1 in the regular season before a 16-15, opening-round playoff loss to Evergreen Park will be honored between games this Friday night at the SHS Athletic Fields.

For both the Streator and Sandwich football teams, last week brought with it not only different outcomes, but also separate frames of mind entering this Friday night when the Indians travel to take on the Bulldogs in a 7 p.m. Interstate Eight Large tilt on homecoming at the Streator High School Athletic Fields.
 
Sandwich captured its initial win of the season and first win over Plano in four seasons with a 27-9 I-8 victory. Indians senior running back Evan Taxis led the way with 247 yards rushing and three touchdown runs, and the Sandwich defense forced four Reapers miscues along the way.
 
Streator entered the second quarter of its contest with AP Class 4A No. 3 Herscher tied at 21-21, but eventually fell 69-28 to the Tigers. Bulldogs sophomore Tray Fisher returned from injury to run for 117 yards on 20 carries against the Tigers.
 
Sandwich will look to carry over the confidence built in a rivalry win, while Streator will need to stay focused around the homecoming festivities and hope get back on the winning track. Last year, the Indians topped the Bulldogs 44-17 on Sandwich's homecoming.
 
"Offensively we were clicking pretty good, especially in the first half, and we played well at times," said Streator head coach Brian Hassett on the game with Herscher. "We were able to get our running game back on track and we blocked well up front. We were also able to get some personnel back from injuries.
 
"On defense it comes down to we just missed too many tackles, we were in the right places, but we just didn't make the stops. Herscher is a very good football team for sure, but we just gave them too many opportunities to put the ball in the end zone."
 
"It was our first win over Plano in a while, and the kids played really well, so it was a good win for us," said Sandwich head coach Chris Van Dyke. "We addressed before Monday's practice that they just can't be happy with a win over our rival, we have to ride the momentum that brought us into this week. All phases of our football team came together against Plano, and we will need another effort like that to beat Streator on Friday night."
 
It is a safe bet that Taxis will get a bulk of the carries for the Indians and will be the focal point of the Streator defense for much of the night, but the Indians showed promise in the passing game as well against Plano, as senior quarterback Joe Wiggins completed 6-of-10 passes for 126 yards, including a 76-yard TD to junior wideout Jimmy Ropp.
 
"(Sandwich's) running game is really good and (Taxis) has been great the past two weeks for them and they have a solid defense," said Hassett. "We will have to finish drives and hopefully create some turnovers, but the biggest thing for us will be making the tackles. They run some power, some jet and some traps, so we are going to have to defend it all. They run similar stuff to Herscher and Peotone, so it is some stuff we have already seen this season."
 
Like Sandwich, Streator will look to establish the ground game to open up things in the air for senior quarterback John Benckendorf. The Bulldogs, along with the speedster Fisher, feature Maurice Cunningham and Dawson McStoots at the running backs spots, each bringing a different style for the Indians to contend with.
 
"Streator has some size up front, and they has some speed as well," said Van Dyke. "That will be a challenge for us this week because while we do have some big guys, we aren't incredible big as a team, so it will be important for us to rally to the ball on defense and hold on until to rest can clean things up. 
 
"A big key for us will be to stay out of own way, which means eliminating mental mistakes and taking care of the football. If we don't turn over the football, usually good things happen for us. On defense, we need to put our offense in a good position. Last week we came up with four turnovers and were able to capitalize on them."
 
Before the varsity game begins, the 1977 Streator football team — which finished the regular season 8-1 and made the IHSA playoffs — will be honored.
Sandwich Indians (1-3, 1-1) at Streator Bulldogs (1-3, 0-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday at SHS Athletic Fields, Streator
Radio: WSPL-AM 1250 and FM 98.5
Last meeting: Sandwich 44, Streator 17 (2016)
Sandwich key players: Sam Brunoehler (WR/DB, 5-10, 170, Sr.), Jacob Newberry (WR/DB, 5-10, 145, Sr.), Jimmy Ropp (WR/LB, 6-2, 180, Jr.), Evan Taxis (WR/DB, 5-11, 175, Sr.), Joe Wiggins (QB/LB, 6-0, 185, Sr.).
Streator key players: John Benckendorf (QB/S, 6-2, 200, Sr.), Maurice Cunningham (RB/DE, 5-11, 195, Sr.), Tray Fisher (RB/DB, 6-0, 200, So.), Coltin Grace (WR/DB, 6-2, 185, Sr.), Dawson McStoots (RB/LB, 5-7, 170, Sr.).
Brian’s key to victory: With both clubs wanting to get their running attacks into full gear early, it may come down to which team blocks better and which can slow down the other to bring up obvious passing situations.
Key number: 7 — The numbers of years since Streator has won a homecoming game. The last homecoming victory for the Bulldogs came in the 2009 season with a 21-0 victory over Woodstock North.

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