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Local

Strong finish start of bright future

Thinking playoffs ... in 2014

Dixon's Matt Coffey fights for yards during last week's game against Sterling. Coffey will be one of the players that will return to the Dukes next fall.
Dixon's Matt Coffey fights for yards during last week's game against Sterling. Coffey will be one of the players that will return to the Dukes next fall.

Wait till next year.

Dixon has not been to the playoffs since 2006. And, that's the Dukes' only playoff berth since 2001.

There's a good chance that will change ... next year. Dixon will leave the Northern Illinois Big 12 after the school year, and join the Big Northern Conference.

The Dukes will go from the smallest school in the NIB 12 West to the largest school in the BNC West.

Dixon (2-6, 1-3) still has a lot to play for this year in its finale Friday night at Streator (2-6, 2-2). The Dukes can go from a winless 2012 to a three-win 2013, and Dixon wants to send its seniors out on a high note.

But, the Dukes are junior-dominated, and those juniors can't help but think ahead a bit.

"Next year, the playoffs are definitely realistic," receiver/defensive back Matt Coffey said. "They were this year, but we let some games slip away. Next year's not going to be a cakewalk. The Big Northern's not an easy conference, but there's no doubt we can go to the playoffs. We're very talented, and we definitely can."

"I think we'll have a good chance at the playoffs, because we'll have a lot of experienced guys coming back, and we'll all be in sync," lineman Alex Helander said.

Third-year Dixon coach Dave Smith thinks it's arrogant for coaches to talk in October about everything their team will accomplish next year.

But.

"Next year, I think we will be a playoff team, but I thought that this year," said Smith, who coached in the Big Northern at Burlington Central for 7 years. "I would have liked to have been in that conference this year."

Still, the Dukes are focused on the task at hand, and that is finishing 3-6 with a win at Streator.

"This game is really big. Not only is it our seniors' last game, but it's our last game in the confernence," junior running back/linebacker Cody Mighell said. "We want to come out with a big win to send the seniors out with a win, and we can go out with a win in this conference."

"There's no playoffs for us, so this is our playoff game," Smith said. "We want to play well for the seniors."

By the numbers

(Comparing 2012 NIB 12 West football enrollments to the BNC West)

NIB 12 West: Ottawa 1,425; LaSalle-Peru 1,261; Sterling 1,024; Streator 890; Geneseo 857; Dixon 802

BNC West: Rockford Lutheran 655.05 (multiplier) Rock Falls 649; Mendota 622, Stillman Valley 590; Winnebago 552; Byron 506, Oregon 492

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