No. 13 Lyons Township (5-4) at No. 4 Bartlett (7-2)
When: today at 7: p.m. at Millennium Field at Streamwood High School
Lyons playoff history: This is the 14th playoff appearance for Lyons and third straight. The Lions advanced to a Class 8A quarterfinal last year, losing to Mt. Carmel, 41-10. It was the first quarterfinal appearance in school history. Lyons' all time playoff record is 8-13;
Bartlett playoff history: Bartlett is making its 11th playoff appearance in 12 years and second straight. The Hawks were defeated last year in the second round by Maine South, 36-12. Their all-time playoff record is 6-10. Bartlett reached a Class 8A semifinal in 2008.
Outlook: Bartlett takes on a scary team in Lyons, appropriate for the weekend before Halloween. "We've been a little Jeckyll and Hyde," Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said Friday. The Lions transform from mild to monster depending on the week. Lyons pulled off huge wins against playoff teams Stevenson (7-2) and York (6-3). They were also blown out twice by playoff teams: Hinsdale Central (6-3) beat Lyons 33-10 in Week 5; the Lions were beaten 41-14 in Week 8 by Proviso West (5-4). "Take nothing away from those teams because they're both good teams, but I thought we laid gigantic eggs emotionally," Weinberg said. "So, we'll see. I feel good about the week of practice we've had and I like the emotional vibe I've been getting from the team, but ultimately we'll see (today) at 7 o'clock."
The Hawks have to assume they'll see the Lions at their best. "When they played the good teams they beat them," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said. "Against average teams they played to the talent sometimes. But they beat Stevenson. They're a very good 5-4 team, there's no doubt about that." The Hawks have been preparing for multiple offensive looks from the Lions, who have used four quarterbacks this season and three in the last two weeks. The Hawks must watch out for Matthew Harris no matter where he lines up. A junior gaining Big Ten interest, Harris is mostly a wide receiver but has lined up under center. He's dangerous on punt and kick returns.
Weinberg calls Harris "a game changer." Senior running back Jamie Jones is the main rushing threat. Three of Lyons' five offensive linemen are seniors. Both teams have several juniors at key spots on defense. Lyons uses three junior linebackers. Bartlett is young in the secondary. The Lyons defense is anchored by senior second-year safeties Will Konstant and Michael Thomas. Bartlett's defense is led by middle linebackers Mike Partyka and Kevin Kirchhoff. Bartlett quarterback A.J. Bilyeu (Air Force) had an epiphany at midseason after he threw 5 interceptions in a loss at Batavia. He has since thrown 13 touchdown passes and only 1 interception. "I just decided I wasn't going to throw it to the other team anymore," Bilyeu said before the regular-season finale. "Bottom line, I didn't like that feeling. I was forcing things that weren't there, making bad decisions. I just have a different mindset now. I'm still doing the same things, but I'm being smarter and executing better."
The Bartlett offense has amassed 3,144 total yards. Bilyeu has completed 100 of 178 passes for 1,618 yards and 21 touchdowns. Sophomore James Butler has rushed for 734 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he has 22 receptions for 292 yards and 2 scores. Zach Karys (33 rec., 616 yards, 8 TD) and Lorenzo Mitchell (27 catches, 498 yards, 6 TD) are Bilyeu's main targets. It all works, thanks to an effective offensive line: left tackle Kevin Bauers (6-foot-3, 260 pounds), left guard Tyler Bernat (6-1, 280), center Ryan Gray (6-1, 250), right guard Nick Antolik (6-2, 245) and right tackle Jon Foston (6-4, 255). "Butler is very talented," Weinberg said. "They also have a couple of other change-up backs who run it well. Their quarterback throws it well, runs well. They've got some nice big kids up front. And they've got a couple of receivers. That's a very challenging offense to play against,"
Advancement: The winner plays the winner of Friday's game between No. 12 New Trier (6-3) at No. 5 Glenbrook South (6-3).
No. 9 Burlington Central (7-2) vs. No. 8 St. Francis (7-2)
When: today at 7 p.m. at College of DuPage
Burlington Central playoff history: Burlington Central is making its 15th postseason appearance overall and first since 2007. The Rockets are 10-14 all-time in the postseason, 3-10 in playoff road games. They have advanced to three state quarterfinals (2000, 2003, 2006).
St. Francis playoff history: St. Francis is making its 10th playoff appearance and program-record fourth straight. The Spartans are 8-8 all-time in postseason play. St. Francis won the Class 5A state title in 2008.
Outlook: Burlington Central coach Rich Crabel sees this game as an opportunity on multiple fronts. First, it's an opportunity to win the school's first playoff game since a 49-19 win at Byron in the second round of the 2006 playoffs. Secondly, a win gives the Rockets a home playoff game next week for the first time since the first round in '06. Moreover, it's an opportunity for Crabel and his staff to re-establish Burlington Central as a contender in Class 5A by beating a team from the Suburban Christian Conference, formerly the Suburban Catholic. In Burlington Central's previous 14 playoff appearances, they were knocked out of the tournament nine times by current SCC members. St. Francis finished third this season in the SCC Blue.
"This is a measuring stick for us," Crabel said. "This is the kind of team we have to compete with if we're going to be successful in 5A. That's the way we've put it to our kids. We've challenged them. When this team is not supposed to do something, we seem to figure out a way to do it." St. Francis is a wing-T offense keyed by junior running back Jack Petrando (164 carries, 1,166 yards, 15 TD). Also a linebacker, Petrando leads the defense with 72 tackles. Joining him in the offensive backfield is senior Jeff Rutkowski (385 yards, 6 TD). The Spartans are a run-oriented team with 2,243 yards on the ground. Quarterback Nick Donati has thrown for 564 yards on 45-of-99 passing, mostly on play action. St. Francis left tackle Kyle Bosch (6-5, 290) has offers from Stanford, Arizona and West Virginia in addition to six Big Ten programs. Bookend tackle Robert Dwyer (6-3, 270) played in the season finale after sitting out with injury since Week 2.
"We haven't been as big as anybody we've played," Crabel said, "but our system suits our kids. We'll go play defense and see what happens." The Rockets have been balanced offensively under coordinator and former BC quarterback Brett Porto, who is also the school's boys basketball coach. Central has rushed for 1,713 yards and thrown for 1,157 yards. Junior running back Joel Bouagnon has rushed for 1,291 yards and 14 touchdowns. No other Rocket has more than 83 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Ryan Ritchie has completed 80 of 152 attempts for 1,094 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just 3 times, and the Central offense has lost only 3 fumbles.
The Spartans' 3-5-3 defense is a "modern version of the 5-3 depending on what you do with it," Crabelb said. "I think there are certain things we can exploit with that. We've simplified some blocking schemes we think will benefit us." This will be the first game on turf in program history for Burlington Central. The Rockets practiced on a similar surface at DeKalb Friday to get acclimated.
Advancement: The winner plays No. 1 Kaneland (10-0). St. Francis would travel to Kaneland; Burlington Central would host Kaneland.