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For Z-B football, the time to step up is at hand

Zion-Benton's TristWright turns corner this run during last week's disappointing season-opening loss Deerfield. | JUDY FIDKOWSKI~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Zion-Benton's Tristin Wright turns the corner on this run during last week's disappointing season-opening loss to Deerfield. | JUDY FIDKOWSKI~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Every man, woman and child and who attends Friday’s football game between Waukegan and host Zion-Benton will be supporting the Be The Match program, thanks to the efforts of Zion-Benton High School.

The school will donate a dollar for every ticket sold to the Be The Match program — or Bee The Match program, if you happen to be a Zee-Bee fan. The Be The Match program raises funds and seeks donors to help cancer patients with potentially life-saving bone marrow transplants.

Adults will pay $4 to get into Friday’s game, and high-schoolers with IDs will pay $3. The sophomores start at 5, and the varsity game is at 7:30.

In addition to ticket sales, there will be tents set up on both sides so that fans age 18-60 can volunteer to be swabbed to be a possible future bone-marrow donor. The swabbing is free, easy and fast. Score will be kept on which side has the most fans volunteer.

Updated: October 7, 2013 12:51PM

Barring bad weather, there will be more sets of eyes watching Zion-Benton High School’s football team on Friday night than probably at any time in the school’s history.

Which means the Zee-Bees are being presented with a great opportunity to show that they’ve got game when they take on Waukegan in the first-ever varsity football game between the two schools.

There is, of course, another side of that coin, but nobody associated with the Zee-Bees wants to even think about going there. Last week’s 15-0 loss at Deerfield is in the rear-view mirror and everybody’s looking ahead to the biggest game this team will play all season.

The biggest for a couple of reasons.

■ It’s the Bee The Match game — supporting the Be The Match bone-marrow donor program. “It’s a databank of potential blood and bone- marrow donors. There will be a Be The Match tent on the Waukegan sideline, as well as one on our sideline,” said Z-B coach Bob Strickland.

“As far as I understand, they take a swab of the inside of your cheek, do all the markers on the DNA, and find out if you might be a match for a child with cancer. Our school is also donating money from the gate receipts to the Be The Match Foundation. What you’re really hoping for out of this is to realize the positives of this type of game. We want a great football game, great spectating, and a recognition of our common bonds. That’s where Be The Match fits in. It doesn’t matter what community you live in, cancer affects us all.”

■ Z-B is pretty much in a must-win situation if it wants to be a playoff contender in late October. An 0-2 start would be a dagger.

“Without a doubt, there’s some additional pressure,” Strickland said. “We’ve always played Deerfield very tough. It’s never a blowout game. Unfortunately, we had a touchdown called back and that affects the kids’ focus and intensity. You look at that game on the schedule and say, ‘That’s one we should win.’ In our conference we know there’s always going to be four big dogs no matter what. This year it looks like it will be Lake Zurich, Lake Forest, Stevenson, and Warren.

“That makes winning Friday’s game critical. We know now that we have to get one of those big dogs (to get to five wins and become playoff eligible). If you can beat one, that changes the whole complexion of the season because it changes the kids’ confidence. Then they want to go after the rest of them. Before we even get there, though, we have a game Friday night against Waukegan.”

Clearly, the Zee-Bee players are excited about this first-ever meeting between neighboring communities.

“It’s a big game. It’s Waukegan. Obviously it means a lot to us,” said senior DB Maurice Young. “It’s one of those games that you look at and say, ‘We have to win this one.’”

Junior DB Kyree Mcleanmoved to Zion in seventh grade from Waukegan; he played youth football with a lot of the guys on Waukegan.

“I played youth football with (Melvin) Bobo, Noel (Gonzalez), a lot of those guys, so it definitely means a lot to me. I’ve been looking forward to this one,” he said.

Ditto for senior Trenton Curry, who was not happy with the team failing to score last week. “We had a nice team meeting without the coaches. We found out a lot about each other. I think it helped bring us together as more of a family. We’re all thinking as one now,” he said. “We have too many offensive weapons. We have athletes all over the field. It’s not even just the first string, it’s our backups too. Now, we have to step up.”

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