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Football: Scouting first-round football playoffs, Lake County
 

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Football: Scouting first-round football playoffs, Lake County
 

CLASS 8A

No. 12 Warren (5-4) at No. 5 Stevenson (7-2)

Story Continues Below

When: 7 p.m. today

Last week: Warren lost to Lake Zurich, 17-13; Stevenson def. Zion-Benton, 28-14.

Warren playoff history: The Blue Devils missed the playoffs last season but are making their 12 playoff appearance in the last 14 years. Their furthest advancement was a trip to the quarterfinals in 1991 and in 2001.

Stevenson playoff history: The Patriots are making their 24th straight playoff appearance, dating back to 1989. Their best finish came in 2002 when they lost in the Class 8A state title game to Lockport, 35-14. The last two years the Patriots have advanced to the Class 8A quarterfinals. Last year, they were eliminated by Glenbard North, 28-0.

Skinny: There aren't any hard feelings between North Suburban Conference rivals Warren and Stevenson. But, this game isn't the first choice on either side for a playoff opener. "I'm sure both of us would appreciate playing someone new from a different conference," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "At playoff time, one of the exciting things is being able to see how you stack up against different teams and different conferences. But it is what it is and we have a lot of respect for Warren. We know it's going to be a tough game."…The Patriots didn't have it too tough the first time these two teams played. They rolled over Warren in a Week 5 division battle 39-7. "The thing you've got to remember is that Warren had some injuries and some key guys out of that last game," McNamara said. "Our guys remember that game and we want our guys to play with confidence, but they're also well aware of the fact that it will be a much different (Warren) team this time around."…The last time against Stevenson, Warren didn't play with its best runner in the mix. Senior Davonte Wilcox sat out the entire game. He is now back in the fold and makes Warren's passing game and quarterback Adam Reuss all the more potent. "With the spread offense that Warren runs, a good runner like (Wilcox) really spreads people out and opens up seams," McNamara said. "That opens up the passing game for them, too."…Stevenson's passing game has been tough to stop all season, and Warren found that out first hand. Quarterback Willie Bourban torched the Blue Devils for 288 yards and spread the catches between six receivers. Alan Velev, Anthony Bozin, Matt Morrissey and Cameron Green are typically his biggest targets. "We hit them with some big pass plays early and that really opened up the rest of our offense," McNamara said of the Warren game. "We hope to be well-balanced this time to keep Warren guessing."

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 4 Glenbard North vs. No. 13 Fremd.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

CLASS 7A

No. 11 Crystal Lake South (6-3) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last week: Crystal Lake South def. Grayslake Central, 42-0; Lake Zurich def. Warren, 17-13.

Crystal Lake South playoff history: The Gators are making their 12th straight playoff appearance, with their furthest advancement coming in the semifinals in 1986, 2005 and 2008. Last year, they lost in the Class 7A quarterfinals to Rockford Boylan, 30-13.

Lake Zurich playoff history: The Bears are making their 11th straight playoff appearance. Their best finish came in 2007 when they won the Class 7A state title by defeating Wheaton Warrenville South, 7-3. Last year, the Bears lost in the Class 7A semifinals to Rockford Boylan, 16-10.

Skinny: Points may be tough to come by in this game. Defense is the focus for both Crystal Lake South and Lake Zurich. South is coming off a shutout and Lake Zurich recorded five shutouts on the season and is allowing just 5.7 points per game. "Could we see a 3-0 ball game?" Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt asked. "Yeah, I think we could. Both teams have very good defenses. And against good competition, I don't think either team is really going to put up a lot of points because the philosophy on offense is all about ball control. They are very similar to us in that we both rely on our running games to maintain control of the game and the clock."…Lake Zurich's top rusher is Connor Schrader, who rolled up 106 yards last week against Warren. Sean Lynch also was tough to stop. He rushed for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns…Crystal Lake South will run its offense around senior running back Zevin Clark, who rolled up 183 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 15 carries last week against Grayslake Central. He's the beneficiary of the blocking of Toledo-bound lineman Boston Matthews (6-foot-4, 265 pounds). "We feel very good about the way we've been playing lately, but we're not overconfident at all because this is going to be a very tough game," Proffitt said. "We have a lot of respect for Crystal Lake South."…Lake Zurich and Crystal Lake South share a common opponent in Cary-Grove, which came out the winner in both games. Lake Zurich lost to Cary-Grove, 21-6 while South lost to Cary-Grove, 17-3.

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 3 Rockton Hononegah vs. No. 14 Willowbrook.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

No. 9 Libertyville (7-2) at No. 8 Machesney Park Harlem (7-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Last week: Libertyville def. Wauconda, 40-20; Harlem def. Freeport, 57-12.

Libertyville playoff history: The Wildcats are making their 16th playoff appearance in the last 20 years. Their best finish was in 2004 when they won the 2004 Class 7A state title by defeating Cary-Grove 13-3 in the title game. Last year, the Wildcats lost to Rockford Boylan in the first round, 40-0.

Harlem playoff history: The Huskies are making their 5th straight playoff appearance. Last year, they lost in the second round to Elk Grove, 39-22. The Huskies have never advanced past the second round.

Skinny: A Saturday afternoon game probably would have made sense for Libertyville, which is in for a long trip to the Rockford area. But Libertyville coach Mike Jones didn't want to go down that road again. Literally. Last year, the Wildcats opened the playoffs on a Saturday in the Rockford area and that didn't go so well. They lost 40-0 at Boylan. "I thought we should change it up and try something different," Jones said with a chuckle. "The other thing is that we wanted to stay in our routine and keep everything consistent. We're used to playing on Fridays."…The Wildcats are used to throwing the ball all over the field with quarterback Jack Deichl. He's coming off an impressive performance in the mud at Wauconda in which he completed 16 of 23 passes for 231 yards. His main target in that game, which has been the case all season, was Austin Williams, who tallied 114 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. The Wildcats weren't a one-trick pony, though. They also got 127 rushing yards out of Conor Simpson. "The more balanced we can be, the better," Jones said. "We had some injuries with our running backs earlier in the season but everyone is healthy now and that really opens up our offense. When we can get our running game going, we pass the ball even better."…Harlem is a bit more singularly focused. The Huskies love to put the ball into the hands of senior running back Kevin Witcik (6-foot-1, 195 pounds). "He just set their single-season school rushing record," Jones said of Witcik. "They want to get him the ball. He's a tough runner who is fast and shifty and likes to cut back. He's also got good size so he can run through people. They've got a few other guys who can run the ball, including their quarterback (Justin Van Wambeke), but they're really there to keep defenses honest so that you can't totally focus on Witcik. We're really going to have to slow Witcik down."

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 1 Glenbard West vs. No. 16 Elk Grove.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

CLASS 6A

No. 14 Notre Dame (5-4) at No. 3 Grayslake North (8-1)

When: 7 p.m. today

Radio coverage: WRLR 98.3 FM or WRLR.FM (stream)Last week: Notre Dame lost to Carmel, 20-13; Grayslake North def. Woodstock North, 35-29.

Notre Dame playoff history: The Dons are making their seventh straight playoff appearance. Their furthest advancement came in 1989 when they lost in the Class 5A state title game to Mt. Carmel, 32-0. Last year, they lost in the first round to Batavia, 35-28.

Grayslake North playoff history: This is the first playoff appearance for the Knights in the seven-year history of the school.

Skinny: Grayslake North coach Steve Wood never sleeps well during football season. But he's been sleeping like a baby this week, of all weeks. Grayslake North is making its first playoff appearance in school history tonight. "Well, that's such a good feeling that I just think there's a level of satisfaction with that," Wood said. "Plus we've been playing so well lately and this week we had a great week of practice. It's been a lot of fun. The guys are so excited and they're working really hard."…The Knights, who won their first-ever Fox Valley Fox title, certainly have their work cut out for them. They drew a tough 5-4 team in Notre Dame, which plays in one of the toughest conferences in the state in the East Suburban Catholic. "They play such a tough schedule. They are definitely battle-tested," Wood said of Notre Dame, a physical team that controls the tempo and the clock with its deliberate rushing game. Running back Chris James has rolled up more than 1,500 yards for the Dons so far this season. "Their quarterback (Dan Nagode) can throw the ball, but James is the main guys who gets the ball," Wood said. "I don't think we'll be able to shut him out, but we will definitely need to slow him down."…It's been tough this season for opposing defenses to slow down Grayslake North quarterback A.J. Fish. Just last week, he accounted for about 400 yards of offense himself. His ability to both pass and run the ball for big gains makes him dangerous. "A.J. has had a great year. He's been unbelievable," Wood said. "But the thing that's really made our team successful is that it's always been A.J. and someone else stepping up. One game it might be A.J. and Charlie Pine, another is might be A.J. and Titus Booker. Brad Baker and Vince Smith have stepped up, too and that has made it a little bit easier on A.J."

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 6 Chicago Foreman vs. No. 11 Chicago Steinmetz.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

No. 15 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 2 Lakes (8-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Last week: St. Viator lost to St. Patrick, 42-30; Lakes def. North Chicago, 62-0.

St. Viator playoff history: The Lions are making their first playoff appearance since 2009. They have never advanced past the second round.

Lakes playoff history: The Eagles are making their fourth straight playoff appearance and fifth overall in the eight-year history of the school. Last year, they lost in the Class 6A quarterfinals to Batavia, 42-0. It was their furthest advancement in the postseason.

Skinny: 62-0. 56-12. 42-14. 69-20. 60-0. Those are the scores from Lakes' games in five of the last six weeks. They were all wins for the Eagles, who weren't just defeating teams but destroying them. Lakes coach Luke Mertens has had a theme all week. "All that's going to change," Mertens said of the lopsided scores. "I've been telling our kids all week that we've gotten spoiled and that we've got to be ready for a completely different game against St. Viator. We're not going to get the ball and score in two plays. This is going to be a very tough game against a team that might be 5-4 but is very talented and plays in a very tough conference. This game could come down to the final minute. We're going to have to play a four-quarter game for the first time in a long time. I worry about our ability to face adversity and hang in there for four quarters. We really haven't been forced to do that."…The dynamic duo of quarterback T.J. Edwards and Direll Clark has put the Eagles on easy street for much of the season. Both can run for big gains and Edwards' ability to pass makes defending Lakes a nightmare. "We've played well the last few weeks, but we can't get caught up in our scores or our record," Mertens said. "You're never really as bad or as good as people say you are. I think we'll get our best read on where we are when we play a team like St. Viator."…The Lions like to run the ball but aren't afraid to take to the air. In fact, Mertens says that they would be considered a pass heavy team in the North Suburban Prairie. "Compared to the teams in our division, St. Viator passes a lot," Mertens said. "I would compare them to Wauconda in that way. It will be really tough to stack up against the run or drop back for the pass because they can do both so well."…St. Viator's top rusher is Mayo Arogundade while its top receiver is Kevin Hammarlund.

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 7 Rolling Meadows vs. No. 10 Lake Forest.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

No. 12 Chicago Lake View (6-2) at No. 5 Grant (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. today

Last week: Lake View def. Chicago Senn, 34-14; Grant def. Antioch, 16-9.

Lake View playoff history: The Wildcats are making their third playoff appearance in school history and first since 1996. They have never advanced past the first round.

Grant playoff history: The Bulldogs are making their seventh playoff appearance in the last eight years, with their furthest advancement coming in 2008 when they lost in the Class 6A quarterfinals to Lemont, 35-14. Last year, they lost in the second round to Lakes, 38-7.

Skinny: The injury bug keeps gnawing at Grant. This week in practice, the weary Bulldogs were thrown for another loop when backup quarterback Jake Bychowski got dinged up. He is still struggling with his sprained elbow, which kept him out for several games earlier in the season when he was starting at middle linebacker for Grant. He is now at quarterback in place of starter Kyle Whitman, who went down with a season-ending knee injury a few weeks ago. On top of that, the Bulldogs have endured season-ending injuries to leading rusher Jonathan Wells (shoulder) as well as their two starting cornerbacks. "It's been a crazy year," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "But honestly, we're used to it. We just have to keep rotating guys into different spots and find out who can help us most."…Rous was optimistic earlier in the week that he'd be able to start Bychowski at quarterback against Lake View, but he wasn't absolutely certain. "I can't say for sure who we'll start at quarterback," Rous said. "That's why we can't take anything for granted. We're going to be challenged just because we've got so much (movement in the lineup)." Juniors Jason Bach and Billy Sullivan could get some reps at quarterback if Bychowski isn't ready or needs some extended breathers…The Bulldogs might be breathing heavy while trying to keep up with a Lake View team that is fast and likes to run. "They have some very good athletes and they probably run the ball more than 80 percent of the time," Rous said. "The good news is that our defense has been playing really well lately and we're pretty healthy there."…Meanwhile, Rous wonders how the Lake View defense will respond to his team's option offense. "I have a feeling they don't see the option much down in the city," Rous said. "If we can run our option well, we might be able to give them some trouble."

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 4 Crystal Lake Central vs. No. 13 Chicago Hyde Park.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

CLASS 5A

No. 15 Wauconda (5-4) at No. 2 Marian Central (9-0)

When: 7 p.m. today

Last week: Wauconda lost to Libertyville, 40-20; Marian Central def. Wheaton Academy, 41-7.

Wauconda playoff history: The Bulldogs are making their sixth playoff appearance in school history and their first since 2007. Their furthest advancement came in 1992 when they lost in the Class 4A quarterfinals to Oswego, 48-0.

Marian Central playoff history: The Hurricanes are making their fourth straight playoff appearance. They've won four state titles: 1983, 1986, 1987 and 1989. The last two years, the Hurricanes have advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals. Last year, they lost to Montini, 52-27.

Skinny: Wauconda is widely considered the most pass-oriented team in the North Suburban Prairie Division. But the Bulldogs might just be about to meet their match in Marian Central. "Their quarterback (Chris Streveler) has already committed to the University of Minnesota," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "He is a big threat at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. There is a reason (Marian Central) is 9-0. We will have our hands full."…Streveler has passed for nearly 2,000 yards and has 19 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He's got three receivers who all have more than 20 catches each…But interestingly, the passing game isn't the Hurricanes' only weapon. Running back Ephraim Lee has rushed for slightly more than 1,000 yards. He's also rolled up 11 touchdowns…Meanwhile, Wauconda quarterback Austin Swenson completed 12 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown last week against a tough Libertyville defense in the mud. The Bulldogs will need fullback David Starkey to have a big game as well to keep the defense honest and give Swenson more time to hook up with top receivers like Chris Kass and Austin Piekarski.

Advancement: Winner gets a second round game against the winner of No. 7 Woodstock North vs. No. 10 Sterling.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

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