The 2009 La Salle-Peru football team is in the business of making history this season.

Before this campaign, the Cavaliers had not beaten the Geneseo Maple Leafs since 1919, a 29-game losing drought that was broken when Jake Steele's 25-yard field goal went through the uprights for a 38-36 victory over the Green Machine in Week 7.

Another hurdle in history awaits this Friday night.

The Class 5A No. 8-ranked Cavaliers take on Sterling for a share of the NCIC Reagan Division title. L-P has not owned a share of the conference title since the 1979 Cavaliers under Joe Marini won the NCIC Northeast championship.

If L-P is victorious against Sterling, it will clinch at least a tie for the title if Morris is victorious over Dixon. If L-P wins and Morris loses, the Cavaliers win the conference outright.

L-P, Sterling and Morris each have one loss in the Reagan.

"The coaches really haven't said anything to us," La Salle-Peru senior quarterback Sam Renk said. "They don't want us to get distracted. It's kind of exciting because our community hasn't had that in a while."

Back in 1979, Herb Reese belted people out of their football spikes and Cam Valle ran when and where he wanted to.

Thirty years later, it's been Renk and company making all the headlines for the Cavaliers (7-1, 4-1 in NCIC Reagan).

Renk has already thrown for 1,040 yards on the season, and behind him is versatile senior running back Eric Jenkins, who has ran for 584 yards and seven touchdowns while also totaling 199 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

"On defense, that is where our fastest kids play," Sterling head coach Greg King said of trying to contain Renk and Jenkins. "We have a lot of speed on defense. Hopefully, we can try to contain them. It's going to be, No. 1, we've got our assignments and we have every gap covered, and No. 2, we use our speed and try to run them down."

Running them down is a tough task, considering both are state-qualifying sprinters for the L-P track team.

Renk and Jenkins are multi-talented threats for L-P.

Renk was the Cavaliers' leading rusher last week against Woodstock with 89 yards and a touchdown and now has 371 rushing yards and eight touchdowns for L-P.

Jenkins ran for two scores last week, caught four passes for 90 yards and also threw a touchdown against the Blue Streaks.

"They've got a lot of speed. They've got four three-year starters. They've got a lot of experience and they are big up front. They are a solid ball club," King said of the Cavaliers. "I was one of the only ones to pick them to win the conference from the start, so I knew they were going to be good."

Sterling (6-2, 4-1) figured to be pretty quality, too.

The Golden Warriors are the traditional conference contenders they are every year. They're big and they have good backs, which are staples of teams that take to the turf at Roscoe Eades Stadium.

Sterling is led this year by senior running back Corey Judd, who has been running at will over Golden Warrior opponents. Judd has piled up 1,021 yards and 15 touchdowns on 152 carries, which averages out to 6.7 yards per carry and 127.6 yards per game.

Judd has a pair of complements in the backfield in senior Chevy Bushaw and junior Corey Hartz.

Bushaw has totaled 457 rushing yards and Hartz has 392 rushing yards and three touchdowns in an offense that averages 285.9 yards per game.

Part of the reason is one big dude on the Golden Warrior line in the name of senior Tyler Loos, a 280-yard lineman who is getting Division I looks.

Sterling's not a big passing team, as shown by senior quarterback Drew Neubauer throwing for only 217 yards this season, so it's easy to see how to stop Sterling.

"That's been their forte, their running game, and primarily between the tackles. That's where the bulk of their yardage comes from," La Salle-Peru head coach Joe Sassano said. "They'll pass a few times here and there, but they're basically going to rely on (Judd and Bushaw) and they're just going to grind it out and try to control the clock and the game on the ground."

Very few teams have been able to contain the Cavalier offense, but King thinks his troops are up to the challenge.

The Golden Warriors only allow an average of 192.1 yards per game in a defense led by senior linebacker John Lopez (59 tackles) and senior lineman Chris Helfrich, who has 30 tackles and a team-high 3.5 sacks this season.

Alejandro Rivera is the leader of the speedy Sterling secondary with 46 tackles.

"They are a pretty stingy group," Sassano said of the Golden Warrior defense. "Again, it's going to have to start up front with our guys, whether it is run blocking or pass blocking, and then it's going to be up to Sam (Renk) to have all the right reads, whether we're running the ball or throwing the ball. And take care of that football. We can't give them anything."

Another goal on the line for the Cavaliers is a home playoff game, which would be clinched with a victory for an 8-1 record.

A 7-2 record would put a postseason opportunity at Howard Fellows Stadium in question.

That means L-P is focused on more than just making history.

"We want to go 8-1 and guarantee ourselves home-field advantage," senior end Mike Bergagna said. "It's good for us."

Jim Cogdal can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 139, or at sports@newstrib.com.

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