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Sports Column | Braden Fogal: Football games to watch in Week 4

Braden Fogal

Braden Fogal

Three weeks have come and gone for prep football teams this fall and it’s been fun.

Much different than last spring when Week 3 marked the halfway point of a COVID-riddened season — thank goodness that’s over.

I’m looking ahead to Week 4, and this Friday and Saturday offer multiple games that require turning on your Twitter notifications. Yours truly will be traveling to Nashville where the 2-1 Hornets will face off against the 2-1 Anna-Jonesboro Wildcats in a SIRR-Mississippi Conference matchup for the first time this season.

Stay tuned for my full game preview running in the Friday edition, but I’m excited to finally enter a matchup where I’ve seen both team’s produce on the field in 2021. After watching Nashville defeat Johnston City in Week 1, and Murphysboro defeat Anna-Jonesboro in Week 2, I think the Hornets’ speed and ground game will be enough to defeat the Wildcats.

I’ve made regrettable predictions before, but I think this will be a productive week for Nashville’s top playmakers that include senior wide receiver Isaac Turner and senior running back Connor Gladson. With Kolten Gajewski’s ability to distribute the ball to his playmakers, this matchup against Anna-Jonesboro reminds me of a Murphysboro offense that racked up 292 rushing yards against the Wildcats in Week 2 — and the Hornets excel at moving the chains under head coach Stephen Kozuszek.

There’s a chance that Anna-Jonesboro’s offensive playbook built around the triple-option attack can control the clock to keep Nashville’s offense sidelined. Brett Detering’s team dominated West Frankfort in Week 1, 41-7, and later bounced back with a close Week 3 victory over Massac County, 28-27, to get back into the win column.

On the Ohio side of the River-to-River, you can circle Benton at Herrin on your Friday calendars. The 3-0 Rangers look to remain undefeated against a winless Tigers team sitting at 0-3, so you know they’ll be hungry for a win at home.

Murphysboro (2-1) will host Massac County after the Red Devils dropped their Week 3 matchup against Carterville. With that in mind, the Patriots came up short last week and could take advantage of a long bus ride for Gary Carter’s team that has won its only road game of the year thus far.

Harrisburg also enters with a 2-1 record before hosting a West Frankfort club that earned a 15-0 victory over Sparta last Friday for its first win of the season. The Redbirds have been outscored 87-35 through three weeks while the Bulldogs have had better offense under first-year head coach Matt Griffith, outscoring opponents 84-47.

I’m looking to see if Fairfield (2-1) can respond on the road against an undefeated Flora team after the Mules lost their 37-game Black Diamond Conference win streak to Johnston City last week. The Wolves are off to a nice start in their first year replacing Chester in the BDC, but get a Mules team hungry for a new win streak.

If you want to talk about a team ready to right their wrongs from a week ago, it’s Carbondale (1-2) playing its first South Seven Conference matchup of the season against Centralia (2-1) this Friday. The Terriers suffered five turnovers a week ago in their loss to Waterloo and face a familiar Orphans team fresh off a loss against Mascoutah.

Both teams continue to chase Marion (3-0) at the top of the conference.

And then there’s the Saturday game between Olney (Richland County) and Pinckneyville with no conference ties on the line. It’s a chance for first-year coach Logan Spain to earn his first victory at Pinckneyville after falling hard against Benton last Saturday.

Pinckneyville’s football program has dealt with low roster numbers which is why last week’s game was its first of the season. The visiting Tigers enter the matchup at 2-2 following a loss to North Mac (Virden) a week ago.

BRADEN FOGAL covers prep sports for The Southern Illinoisan. He can be reached at braden.fogal@thesouthern.com or by calling 618-351-5118. 

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Related to this story

The Nashville Hornets totaled 220 rushing yards in the first quarter to defeat the Anna-Jonesboro Wildcats 47-22 on Friday night. Nashville took a 47-0 lead into halftime with a running clock and rested its starters in the final two quarters. Hornets improve to 3-1 and 1-0 in the SIRR-Mississippi Conference while the Wildcats fall to 2-2 and 0-1 in conference play.

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