Five Fox Valley area football teams learned their first-round playoff opponents when pairings were released by the IHSA Saturday night. Here's a look at the matchups each faces in the quest to reach a November title game in Champaign.
No. 10 Bartlett (6-3) at No. 7 Leyden (7-2): In Class 8A, Bartlett is making its 12th playoff appearance in 13 seasons against the West Suburban Conference (Gold) champion Eagles, who are playoff-bound for the third time in six years.
"What's tougher, a Hawk or an Eagle?" Bartlett coach Tom Meaney asked while his team sang the Bartlett fight song at a viewing party in Hanover Township. "We'll find out. I don't know anything about them or what they're running now, but they're a 7-2 opponent. They play tough competition all year long, so we'll have to be at our best."
The winner will play the winner of No. 15 Evanston (5-4) at No. 2 Loyola Academy (8-1).
No. 10 Huntley (6-3) at No. 7 Fenwick (7-2): The Huntley coaching staff had the correct forecast.
"Our projecting guys, prognosticators or whatever you want to call them, had us playing Fenwick so it's not a surprise," first-year coach John Hart said of the Class 7A matchup.
The playoff berth is the fourth in Red Raider history and their first since 2009. The Friars are in the playoffs for the 14th time overall and sixth time in nine seasons. Huntley faced 5 playoff teams this season, Fenwick two.
"If you want to be a good football team, you've got to beat good football teams," Hart said. "I think we should be able to compete with anybody."
The winner will advance to play the winner of ...
No. 15 Jacobs (5-4) at No. 2 Rockford Boylan (9-0): In the playoffs for a school record third consecutive season, Jacobs draws the defending Class 7A state champion.
"We played the defending 6A champs this year (Prairie Ridge), so why not the defending 7A champs?" Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "They have a lot of tradition, but we're excited for the challenge, no doubt. We know their tailback is a very good runner who has scored 20 touchdowns, but we're playing better defense. It could be an interesting matchup for us."
Boylan enters the game on a 37-game winning streak. The Titans also won the Class 6A state title in 2010.
No. 11 Crystal Lake South (6-3) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (6-3): These teams met in the second round of the 2009 playoffs, a game the Bears won 30-28.
The teams have a common opponent in Cary-Grove. The Trojans beat the North Suburban (Lake) co-champion Lake Zurich 21-6 in Week 2, then defeated CL South the following week 17-3. Coach Dave Proffit is quite familiar with CL South's 3-3-5 defense. He taught it to the CL South coaching staff several years ago.
"He was really gracious to sit down with us and get us started with our defense, so he knows us pretty well," Gators coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "They play in a tough conference so we'll see. We should be able to match up with them."
The winner advances in Class 7A to play the winner of No. 14 Willowbrook (6-3) at No. 3 Hononegah (8-1).
No 1 Cary-Grove (9-0) at No. 16 Rockford Auburn (5-4): The Trojans' eight-year streak of winning a first-round playoff game is bad news for the Knights, who make their first playoff appearance since 1990 and only the second in school history.
As the top seed in its half of the Class 6A bracket, Cary-Grove would not face a team seeded higher than No. 4 (Crystal Lake Central) before the semifinals. But you won't catch the Trojans looking ahead.
"In the playoffs you see everybody's A game and everybody fights a little harder," coach Brad Seaburg said. "The moment you look ahead is the moment you're out."
The winner plays the winner of No. 9 Glenbard South (6-3) at No. 8 St. Patrick (6-3).