5 Things to Watch: Local sports stories to keep an eye on in the week to come

October Intrigue

The best of five National League Divisional Series between the rival St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago heads back to Wrigley Field knotted up at a game apiece. Game 3 Monday will be the first post-season game played on the North Side since 2008. The Cubs haven’t won there in the playoffs since 2003. But the heat is on the Cardinals, who will be challenged by Chicago starter Jake Arrieta. Arrieta’s ERA since the All-Star break is .73, the best in baseball history and he polished off the Pirates with a complete game shutout in the wild card game. Barring consecutive wins by the Cubs, the series returns to St. Louis for the decisive Game 5 Thursday.

Record Watch

Two of the metro east’s best high school running backs in recent years are on the verge of making history at their respective schools. With his 191-yards in a win over Collinsville on Friday, O’Fallon senior Kentrail Moran needs just seven yards this week against Belleville East to pass Duane Bennett for the Panther all-time record. Bennett when on to a successful college career at Minnesota. Moran will follow him to the Big 10 next season at Illinois. Triad’s Adam Hill was held to just 42 yards on nine carries in the undefeated Knights’ key win over Highland. That puts him at 1,025 yards on the season, and 336 yards shy of his school record. Triad has two tough games remaining against Civic Memorial (6-1) and Althoff (7-0).

Prep Playoff Push

The next team from the Southwestern Conference in line to nail down their place in the playoffs? Belleville East. At 5-2, they need a win against either O’Fallon or Collinsville in the next two weeks to secrue that playoff-clinching sixth victory. They’d do it behind a first-year head coach in former West assistant Kris Stephens and a high-octane offense that’s averaging 38 points per game. The O’Fallon Panthers may have something to say about that, though. O’Fallon fell into an 0-4 hole against teams with a combined 19 wins, but have since won three games in a row. Any hope of reaching the post-season on points depends first on its ability to win the last two games. O’Fallon will be at East on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Soccer Postseason

The Class 1A soccer playoff begin in earnest this week with regional tournaments being hosted by Gibault (at Oerter Park in Columbia), Greenville, Carlyle and Anna-Jonesboro. Gibault is the No. 1 seed in the Gibault Regional, while Althoff is the No. 2 seed at Greenville, Central is the No. 3 seed at Anna-Jonesboro and Mater Dei is the No. 1 seed at Carlyle. Semifinals in each regional are Tuesday or Wednesday, with championship games scheduled for Friday.

On the Links

Seniors Justin Hemings of Edwardsville and Mathew McCarthy will lead a a group of local high school golfers competing in postseason play this week. Hemings, who placed 17th in the Class 3A state Tournament a year, will lead the Tigers at Monday’s Alton Sectional at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course, while McCarthy leads Althoff into the Class 2A West Frankfort Sectional on Tuesday at Franklin County Country Club. McCarthy placed seventh in the Class 2A state finals a year ago. Three other IHSA sectionals also are on Monday. The Class 2A Normal Girls Sectional will be held at Weibring Golf Course, the Class 1A girls sectional is being held at Crab Orchard Golf Course in Carterville and the Class 1A Boys Sectional is being held at Union County Country Club in Anna. The top three teams and top 10 individuals not on those teams in each sectional qualify for the state finals which will be held on Friday and Saturday