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Playoff football starts Friday, kicking off five of the most exciting weeks in the entire prep sports calendar.
Let's look at an alternative bracket of contestants. Some are as playoff-tested as Montini, others new to the scene or back in the dance like Willowbrook.
Yet they have all become familiar staples of the 2012 football season or, as the weather transitions from simply blustery to downright frigid, soon will be.
First of all, we're going to seed this thing a straight 1 through 32. Football coaches, fans, players, schools, perhaps everyone around these parts but bus drivers would like to see that happen. Given they'd make a pretty penny out of a Glenbard West-to-Belleville West trip, bus drivers would probably like it too.
Get ready because as the late actress Bette Davis once said, "It's gonna be a bumpy ride" through this imaginary playoff bracket of all things high school football.
* * *
Grabbing the No. 1 seed is, well, Straight Bracket.
At No. 2 we've got "All In," the Comcast SportsNet show focusing on Naperville North's current season.
Seeded third is everyone's favorite, Road Trip.
Earning the No. 4 seed is Concession Stand Parent Volunteers, coming off another excellent regular season.
Opening the action, Straight Bracket sets off a running clock — actually, that's the No. 20 seed, but we'll get to that — on the poorly regarded No. 32 seed, Freezing Rain.
The battle between Hand Warmers and Walking Tacos at Nos. 16-17 is a slight upset, and at No. 8 FieldTurf outlasts the 25th seed, Grass Surface, as expected.
FieldTurf's victory sets up an eagerly awaited second-round battle against No. 9 AstroTurf, which tripped up lower-seeded Baton Twirler.
Moving to the second group of eight, aforementioned Concession Stand Parent Volunteers easily relegates postseason newcomer "Gangnam Style," the No. 29 seed, to the dustbin.
Concession Stand Parent Volunteers will advance to play another easy first-round victor — No. 13 Pink Ankle Wrap, which came on strong down the stretch in October.
Pink Ankle Wrap handily dismisses that No. 20 seed, Running Clock. Often welcomed during the regular season, certainly no fan wanted to see Running Clock continue past the first round of the playoffs.
Alternately, in a huge upset by a narrow margin, No. 28 Long Underwear pulls off a stunner over No. 5 Tailgate.
That outcome turns many more heads and smartphones than the lesser but somewhat welcome upset, No. 21 Mascots over the upstart No. 12 seed, Huge Inflatable Mascot Heads Teams Run Through Onto the Field.
The lower bracket starts off easy. No. 2 "All In" eliminates No. 31 Shirtless Males.
The toughest contest of the first round has No. 18 Superfans — heartened to fill the void created by the ouster of Shirtless Males — inching past No. 15 Dance Squad.
A No. 7 seed, Regional Format does have its supporters down south. They are pleased by a solid victory over 26th-seeded Face Paint.
The final contest of this group of eight has No. 10 Cheerleaders edging No. 23 50-50 Raffle seemingly on will alone.
No. 3 Road Trip, looking good for a long haul to Champaign, easily handles White Out, which started the season strong but fell to a 30 seed as the weather started to turn.
Longtime fan favorite "Thunderstruck," the No. 14 seed, eliminates No. 19 Add-A-Tude, saddening its downstate support base.
In one of the last two matchups of the first round, No. 6 Rural Road Pep Signs chases down and escorts No. 27 Streakers from the postseason. The winner emphatically supports its claim that "This is Rural Road Pep Sign Country."
Finally, the No. 11 seed, "Back in Black," overpowers an old standby, No. 22 Everybody Up for Kickoff.
Anticipation for a would-be quarterfinal clash between the explosive, physical "Thunderstruck" and fundamentally sound rival "Back in Black" gets local media pining for, as one outlet headlines it, "A Close District Contest."
* * *
Enjoy your first round of playoff football, both real and imagined.
Basketball and citizenship
Our friend Matt Miller, former Waubonsie Valley basketball star now his running his own developmental company, M14 Hoops, is presenting his second annual fundraiser for breast cancer and homelessness.
From 2-5 p.m. Sunday M14 Hoops invites current players and those not familiar with his company to attend an event that will deliver proceeds to Wellness House, out of Hinsdale, and Hesed House, based in Aurora. Cost is $10 and a nonperishable food item. It's at the Illinois Basketball Academy, 460 Industrial Dr. in Naperville.
The event itself is a ball-handling clinic (bring your own basketball!), about 60-90 minutes, but Miller also plans on a disc jockey, 5-on-5 and 1-on-1 games, and T-shirts for the first 100 players. Most of Miller's clinicians are former name players, like Bobby Catchings of Neuqua Valley, from right in our area.
Those terrific Tigers
On Oct. 14 more than 150 Wheaton Warrenville South athletes participated in the first "Tiger Day of Caring." Senior Kelly Langlas, a WW South soccer and basketball player and also a member of the school's Athletic Leadership Council and the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation, organized the event.
This was the fall "Day of Caring" in what's planned to be a three-season enterprise, so fall Tigers athletes spread out to work good deeds. Golf, girls tennis, cross country, football, etc., spread out from the DuPage Convalescent Center to St. James Farm to the Immanuel Food Pantry in Warrenville and points in between.
For example, football and boys soccer players cleaned up parks and areas of the Prairie Path. The dance team went over to Glen Ellyn's SCARCE — School and Community Assistance for Recycling & Composting — to melt crayons for students with special needs.
This altruism is nothing new, at WW South and elsewhere. Another example: In August, WW South assistant football coach Joe Kish, whose real job is assistant principal at Franklin Middle School in Wheaton, was talking with another middle school principal. She mentioned the need for landscaping to be done before school started.
Soon Kish and Tigers coach Ron Muhitch had 18 players out there trimming bushes, pulling weeds and planting flowers.
Don't let that get out about Tigers football players planting flowers.
Seriously, WW South is looking for organizations that could use help. Athletic director Mike Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1