While the final results for the Polo and AFC football teams in Week 1 were different, both squads enter tonight's NUIC Upstate battle in Franklin Grove with plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
The Marcos beat division heavyweight East Dubuque on Saturday, 40-14. Polo (1-0) displayed the variety of ways it can attack an opponent, scoring in the running game, passing game, and on special teams.
"We knew that we had an athletic depth of talent coming into the season that should allow for us to create mismatches," Polo coach Andrew Hofer said. "Now we are looking for more consistency from both sides of the ball."
The Marcos' performance wasn't surprising to AFC coach Brad Winterland.
"We knew that they were going to be a very good team this year," Winterland said. "We are going to have to be disciplined and focus on our fundamentals."
Polo was led by Brian Cavanaugh, who had a rushing touchdown, two receiving touchdowns, and a kickoff return for touchdown.
AFC played three great quarters of football against another Upstate front-runner, Aquin, in Week 1. The Raiders led 15-14 going into the fourth quarter.
That's when things went south for AFC. The Bulldogs scored 17 unanswered points to win 31-15, and racked up about 170 yards of offense in the last 12 minutes.
"We outplayed a good Aquin team for three quarters," Winterland said. "Then we made a number of assignment mistakes that really cost us. We made mistakes that cost us the game, but they were minor mistakes that we think we can fix."
Before the fourth quarter, AFCs defense had been stout, led by linebackers Kevin Kurz (12.5 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) and David Zinke (10.5 tackles).
AFC, which went 1-8 in 2013, also has a number of experienced, talented players returning on both sides of the ball. The offense, which managed 176 yards of offense against Aquin, should improve as the season goes on.
"We were 16 percent on converting on third down, and that's just not good enough," Winterland said. "We'd missed an assignment, and we had a couple fumbled exchanges that cost us."
Hofer knows that the Raiders can be dangerous on offense, and has his team focusing on stopping their veer-option attack.
"The veer can be very effective," Hofer said. "It's all about having discipline on defense, and knowing your assignments. If we do that, I think we can have success against it."
The Marcos have won the last eight meetings between the two schools, including a 62-6 win in 2013.
Polo is also looking for its first 2-0 start since 2007.