NEWS

Previewing the area's playoff matchups

By JOSHUA WELGE - jwelge@shawmedia.com
10/27/2017

Here is a preview of the playoff matchups around the area.

Class 8A

No. 22 Stevenson (6-3) at No. 11 Hinsdale Central (7-2)

When: 3 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Loyola/New Trier

What to watch: A matchup that you'd usually see later in the playoffs, this typifies how deep the 8A field is. The Red Devils ride momentum into the playoffs, wins over rivals Lyons Township and Hinsdale South. Luke Skokna has been a workhorse the last two weeks without injured star Garrett Oakey. Indiana-bound tight end Matt Bjorson is the kind of playmaker teams want in big games. Hinsdale has won just one playoff game since the 2008 team finished second in Class 8A. Stevenson is making its 29th straight playoff appearance. Linebacker Maema Njongmeta averaged close to two sacks a game for most of the season for a Patriots' defense that allows just 10.2 points per game.

Class 8A

No. 19 Curie (7-2) at No. 14 Lyons Township (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Oak Park/Marist

What to watch: The Ben Bryant-led Lions' offense against a good Curie defense. Bryant, a Cincinnati recruit, led LT in two memorably close playoff games last year against Naperville North and Palatine. The Lions come in with momentum. Bryant threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and Brandon Fischer caught six passes for 99 yards last week against Oak Park. Curie has three shutouts on its defensive resume. Condors' 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior AJ Sanya is a bulldozer of a back. The grind of the West Suburban Silver schedule can't hurt LT against a Curie team that has two forfeit wins.

[Bill Ackerman]

Class 7A

No. 31 Downers Grove North (5-4) at No. 2 Normal Community (9-0)

When: 1 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Moline/Mt. Carmel

What to watch: The Trojans are heavy underdogs, but come in playing their best football – winners of three of their last four games, with a near-miss against Lyons Township. Jason Bell, with two interceptions, and Downers North's defense was stellar against York, allowing just 33 yards over the first three quarters. This is a big step up, though. Normal averages 48.6 points per game, tops in the 7A field. Nick Hesse ran for 176 yards and five touchdowns last week against Champaign Central. Quarterback Daylen Boddie and running back Varshaun Dixon are others to watch. Drew Shelly has run for 827 yards and nine touchdowns for Downers North.

No. 17 Benet (6-3) at No. 16 Maine West (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 27

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Harlem/Hononegah

What to watch: Redwings hope to recreate magic of last season, when they advanced all the way to the 7A semifinals. Benet should be more battle-tested than Maine West, with six playoff teams on its schedule to Maine West's three. Ben Cooney is a two-way standout for Benet, and with Devin Petersen leads the Redwings' defense. Sophomore Colin Gillespie started the last four games at quarterback after Matt Boyle was lost to a thumb injury. Led by standout quarterback George Markasis, Maine West has its first winning season since 2005.
[Daniel White]

Class 7A

No. 20 Fenwick (6-3) at No. 13 Wheaton North (7-2)

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Glenbard North/Batavia

What to watch: A hungry Falcons' team, back in the playoffs after a three-year absence, and a motivated group of Friars seniors, after the controversial manner in which last year's playoff run ended in the 7A semifinals. Fenwick 6-foot-5 junior wide receiver Mike O'Laughlin, a West Virginia recruit, was just named the Catholic League Lawless Player of the Year. Austin Glazier, committed to Fordham was recognized as the conference's Lineman of the Year. The Falcons took second in their final year in the DuPage Valley Conference. Senior running back Sam Singleton has run for 1,340 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jameson Smykal (47.5 tackles) and Brayden Anthony (39.5 tackles, 7.5 for loss) help anchor a physical Falcons' defense.
[Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com]

Class 6A

No. 16 Hinsdale South (5-4) at No. 1 Crete-Monee (8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 27

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Quincy/St. Laurence

What to watch: The Hornets were the last team into the playoff field. Their reward is a trip to the south suburbs against Crete-Monee, the 2012 Class 6A champion and 2015 runner-up. Hornets' wide receiver Destin Talbert, who holds multiple college offers, is the kind of game-breaker that makes an underdog dangerous. Crete-Monee's third-year starting quarterback Isaiah Rucker, a 6-foot-6 senior, has thrown for well over 6,000 yards and over 60 TDs in his career. He leads an offense that's averaged 46.2 points per game, tops in the 6A field.

Class 6A

No. 13 Deerfield (5-4) at No. 4 Willowbrook (8-1)

When: 4 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of DeKalb/Montini

What to watch: Willowbrook enters the playoffs with momentum galore, winners of seven straight games and program's first conference title since 1982, first West Suburban Gold title ever. It's the Warriors' most wins since 1994. Willowbrook's up-tempo offense starts with workhorse running back Jack Jessen, who has rushed for over 1,600 tackles and also leads the Warriors in tackles. Scotty Tumilty, who had two interceptions against Downers Grove South last week, is part of an opportunistic defense. Deerfield has one playoff win since 2006. Can Willowbrook repeat last year's playoff run?

No. 12 Montini (6-3) at No. 5 DeKalb (7-2)

When: 1 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Willowbrook/Deerfield

What to watch: Like clockwork, it's Montini in the playoffs – this is the Bonco's 25th straight appearance. Quarterback Nick Orlando can beat teams with his arm, and with his feet. Montini is 10-0 in first-round games since 2007. DeKalb is making its fifth straight playoff appearance, Northern Illinois Big 12 East champs for the fourth consecutive season. DeKalb's Jaylen Hobson ran for 1,113 yards and nine touchdowns, quarterback Noah Valin has thrown for 1,089 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.
[Bill Ackerman - For Shaw Media]

Class 6A

No. 15 Springfield (5-4) at No. 2 Nazareth (8-1)

When: 2 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Danville/T.F. South

What to watch: A dynamic Nazareth offense. The Roadrunners have averaged nearly 32 points in their last seven wins, and bounced back well from a Week 7 loss to Marist. Devin Blakley, who has an offer from Iowa State, has run for 682 yards and eight touchdowns, and caught two TDs. Rangy wide receiver Diamond Evans is averaging almost 19 yards per catch with four TDs. Springfield, making its first playoff appearance since 2012, allowed 49 points in losses to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Rochester the last two weeks. Springfield quarterback Lucas Rockford, a two-year starter, had completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,148 yards and 19 TDs going into Week 9.

No. 15 Lake Forest (5-4) at No. 2 Riverside-Brookfield (8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 27

Advancement: Winner plays winner of De La Salle/Hoffman Estates

What to watch: The running of Nick Del Nodal, who had 142 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' impressive 37-7 win over Glenbard South in Week 9. Hunter Hughes and Zach Vaia connected for two TDs in that game. R-B hasn't had great playoff success of late, with its 2015 quarterfinal run accounting for the program's only postseason wins since 2004. Lake Forest is one of only two teams in the 6A bracket that's given up more points than it's scored, but take that with a grain of salt considering it plays in the powerful North Suburban Conference. The Scouts won their last three games to qualify.

Class 5A

No. 13 Woodstock North (5-4) at No. 4 Lemont (8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 27

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Lakes/Westinghouse

What to watch: Lemont, usually a 6A mainstay, slipped down in classification – bad news for the rest of the 5A field. Anthony Martin ran for 217 yards and a touchdown last week in a 42-0 win over Bremen, as the Indians wrapped up an unbeaten conference championship. Mark Mathias threw for 174 yards with two passing touchdowns and a running TD. Austin Nagel had four catches for 105 yards and a TD. Nathan Ascolani and the Lemont defense allows just 8.1 points per game, fewest in the 5A field, with four shutouts in its last five games. Lemont is 12-0 in first-round games dating back to 2004. Woodstock comes in heavily short-handed. Already without its top two quarterbacks because of injury, the Thunder lost third-string QB Ryan Zinnen to a broken ankle in Week 9, while running back Joseph Grover suffered a significant leg injury. The Thunder will most likely will play Carter Coalson at QB.

No. 11 Glenbard South (5-4) at No. 6 Lane (8-1)

When: 7:15 p.m. Oct. 28

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Antioch/Marian Central

What to watch: The Raiders, coming off rough losses to IC Catholic Prep and Riverside-Brookfield, should be steeled for anything. Quarterback Jack Crouch is a playmaker both running and passing the ball for Glenbard South. Nick D'Ambra and Adam Haushahn lead the defense. Payton, one of seven Chicago Public League teams in the 5A northern bracket, is 0-6 in its last six playoff appearances.

Class 3A

No. 12 Watseka (7-2) at No. 5 IC Catholic Prep (8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 27

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Paxton-Buckley-Loda/Peotone

What to watch: Can anyone slow down the Knights? IC Catholic Prep, the defending 3A champs, have a 41-point margin of victory, tops in the bracket. The margin in five playoff wins last year was 45 points, and the Knights haven't missed a beat despite losing quarterback Luke Ricobene to injury. Freshman Kyle Franklin has run for 806 yards and nine touchdowns, Lazerick Eatman 778 yards and 11 TDs for the Knights. C.J.West, IC's third quarterback this year, has settled in, completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,177 yards and 19 TDs. Watseka, an hour northeast of Champaign on the Indiana border, has its most wins since 2012. It last won a playoff game in 2002.

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