With its chances of reaching the five-win mark that would have given it a good chance at an at-large bid to this year's playoffs for the second consecutive season gone, Streator and head coach Brian Hassett now shift their focus on closing out the final two weeks of this season on a high note.
In last week's 23-20 loss to undefeated and Interstate Eight Conference Small Division champ Lisle, the Bulldogs played the Lions tough all four quarters, missing a potential game-tying field goal in the final seconds.
"We have really been focusing on what we call CCE — compete, have class and execute — and I feel we did all three last week," said Hassett. "In three of our losses this year we've saw the first two, but last week was for sure all three. We'll need to do all three again this week to come home with a win."
Streator will travel to Wilmington this Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Wildcats are 4-3 on the year and need at least one victory over their last two outings to have a chance to keep a streak of 22 playoff appearances alive. Wilmington began the year at 2-3, including having its 52-game I-8 Small winning streak snapped in Week 3 by Lisle.
"Wilmington has really played well the last two weeks," Hassett said. "This biggest key this week for us is controlling the line of scrimmage, and they have pretty much dominated up front in their last two games looking at the film we have. We are going to try and mix things up on the defensive side, give them different looks and different fronts, hopefully something they haven't seen from us this season."
The Wildcats are led by junior running back/linebacker Connor Dempsey. Dempsey has recorded 852 rushing yards and 11 TDs, caught a team-high 10 passes for 146 yards and three scores, plus made a team-best 70 tackles with a pair of interceptions.
Sophomore back Trey Shaw has also compiled 612 yards on the ground with six trips to the end zone. Overall, the Wildcats have rushed for 1,890 yards, almost half coming in their last two games. Junior QB Keaton Hopwood is 25-of-45 for 234 yards.
"They have a couple of really good running backs, so we really can't key on one guy," said Hassett. "They both have run the ball effectively, and their overall running game has been solid as of late. They're going to run the trap, they are going mix in the counter, and also use play-action — the same stuff they've been running for the last 22 years.
"The bottom line is, we are going to have to make the tackles when we have opportunities."
Streator junior QB Jimmy Tredway, who went 17-of-29 against Lisle and became the first Bulldogs signal-caller to throw for over 200 yards in a game (236) in nearly a decade in place of an injured senior Trevor Sember, will get his second straight varsity start. Streator will need to excel in the running game, which has averaged 145 yards per game this year, but just 111.5 in the last two weeks. The Bulldogs defense has allowed 220 rushing yards per contest, but just 143 in its past two outings.
"Tredway is going to start at quarterback this Friday night as long as he's healthy," Hassett said. "Sember was released to play from the doctor this week and will be the backup QB along with playing some defense and maybe special teams. We have two different packages in this week, but we are going to start with Jimmy and see how he does this week."
Streator Bulldogs (2-5) at Wilmington Wildcats (4-3)
GAME TIME: 7 p.m. Friday at Wilmington Middle School, Wilmington
RADIO: WSPL-AM 1250
LAST MEETING: n/a