By Kevin Schmit and David Oberhelman
No. 12 Immaculate Conception (6-3) at No. 5 North Boone (8-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Immaculate Conception 42, Chicago Christian 6; North Boone 36, Burlington Central 7.
Outlook: North Boone hasn't reached the postseason since 2005 but looks good this year. The Vikings lost only to Richmond-Burton 35-14 in Week 8 and won the Big Northern East at 5-1. The Poplar Grove squad, the 1992 Class 1A champion, runs a spread offense headed by senior quarterback Austin Baden. The 5-foot-11 slinger has passed for 1,939 yards and 23 touchdowns and run for 932 yards and 14 touchdowns. Knights interior linemen Sean Fenton, Adalberto Suarez and Josh Broschinsky have to try to keep defensive lineman-linebacker Gus Eisele from busting up the option. Knights quarterback Demetrius Carr has headed an offense that's run for 2,389 yards and thrown for 794, but Knights coach Bill Krefft will take what North Boone gives. The return of receiver Tim Hipskind from injury helps the vertical game. IC's Suburban Christian background typically helps in the postseason.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 13 Raby (6-2) and No. 4 Aurora Christian (8-1).
No. 14 Bremen (5-4) at No. 3 Montini (7-2)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Bremen 42, Oak Lawn 17; Montini 38, Aurora Central 7.
Outlook: The three-time defending Class 5A champions seek their 16th straight playoff win. Bremen is a first-time opponent. The Braves, out of the South Suburban Blue, play five- and four-man defensive fronts and a spread offense, making Montini's preparation against them a somewhat familiar task. Bremen's Devonta Wilson is a 5-foot-11, 235-pounder with speed. He has run for 1,157 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Braves have balance, 6-3 junior quarterback Tyler Banovich completing 88 of 160 passes for 1,251 yards and 9 touchdowns, but with 6 interceptions. Montini will give Bremen a lot to defend, using both Mark Gorogianis and Alex Wills (back from concussion) at quarterback, adding tight end Matt Brachmann against that five-man front and giving tailback Dimitri Taylor, coming off a 243-yard game, plenty of handoffs. Starter Anthony Ferraro returns from injury to bolster the line. "The speed part of their game is what really kind of worries me," said Montini coach Chris Andriano.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 11 King (6-2) and No. 6 Sycamore (6-3).
No. 9 Glenbard South (6-3) at No. 8 St. Patrick (6-3)
Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday at Hanson Stadium in Chicago.
Last week: Glenbard South 41, Rock Island 28; St. Patrick 42, St. Viator 30.
Outlook: There's no doubt Glenbard South drew a tough bracket that likely includes top-seeded Cary-Grove for the winner of this one. The Raiders face a Shamrocks team that beat three playoff qualifiers highlighted by Benet's only loss. All-East Suburban Catholic Conference defensive back Nick Sandowski was crucial in that victory. Glenbard South, however, also has a hefty resume featuring last week's win at state-ranked Rock Island. The Raiders' running game has proved to be especially potent with Justin Gjerazi, Matt Loos, Zach Smith and others accounting for more than 2,000 rushing yards. Four straight weeks Glenbard South has tallied at least 40 points, and it's not just coming on offense. Last week sophomore Jack Curtis returned an interception for a touchdown. Bret Curtis, who had 11 tackles, a sack and 3 quarterback hurries against Rock Island, is the leader of Glenbard South's defense. Quarterback Octavio Renteria leads the Shamrocks' offense.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 16 Rockford Auburn (5-4) and No. 1 Cary-Grove (9-0).
No. 8 Hinsdale South (6-3) at No. 1 Oak Forest (8-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Hinsdale South 41, Willowbrook 22; Oak Forest 28, Thornton Fractional South 20.
Outlook: The Hornets came up big last week, claiming a sixth win to seal a playoff berth. Hinsdale South, short on playoff points, would not have qualified with five wins. Running back Arian Toney is on a tremendous roll, piling up 279 yards last week to climb to 1,094 yards on the season. He joins quarterback D.J. Deolitsis as a 1,000-yard rusher. Oak Forest's defense looked up to the challenge last week while holding Thornton Fractional South without a first down for a half. Oak Forest also boasts a run-heavy offense utilizing several players. Ben Santiago, who rushed for 140 yards last week, has taken over a starting spot. Santiago, Nick Ciufia and quarterback Tom Zale combined for more than 40 carries last week. Hinsdale South's defensive strength starts on the line where junior Antanas Riskus has shown steady improvement throughout the season. Linebacker Steve O'Neill is a rock for the Hornets, who are making their first playoff appearance since reaching the 2005 7A quarterfinals.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 5 Shepard (6-3) and No. 4 Perspectives (7-2).
No. 16 Elk Grove (5-4) at No. 1 Glenbard West (9-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Prospect 14, Elk Grove 10; Glenbard West 26, Downers Grove North 0.
Outlook: Why is Glenbard West wary of a 16th seed? Coach Chad Hetlet and the Hilltoppers remember well the Grens winning the Red Grange 7-on-7 Classic in the summer and earning a trip to a national event in Alabama. Quarterback Adam O'Malley directs an Elk Grove offense that can obviously pass the ball, but the Grens also show some diversity with Mikey Maize bringing power to the ground game. All season Glenbard West's defense has overcome injuries -- particularly to its linebacker corps. The Hilltoppers are about as healthy as they'll get, starting with Ruben Dunbar up front and Hayden Carlson at safety. Last week was their third shutout of the season. No one's been able to slow Glenbard West's three-headed running game of Scott Andrews, Joe Zito and fullback Devante Toney, recently returned from injury. The key to the offense, though, is the consistency of quarterback Henry Haeffner and the big-play potential of 6-foot-5 Vanderbilt-bound receiver Nathan Marcus.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 9 Libertyville (7-2) and No. 8 Machesney Park Harlem (7-2).
No. 12 St. Charles East (6-3) at No. 5 Wheaton North (8-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: St. Charles East 26, Larkin 0; Wheaton North 23, Wheaton Warrenville South 13.
Outlook: St. Charles East makes its first playoff appearance since winning the Upstate Eight in 2009 before it split into divisions. The Saints lost to three 9-0 teams -- Cary-Grove, Neuqua Valley, Batavia -- but didn't face another winning team. They're led by three-year starter Joe Hoscheit at linebacker and fullback and have athletes including tailback Erik Anderson, defensive end Andrew Szyman, receiver Brannon Barry. Coach Mike Fields hopes a plus-11 turnover ratio will play out to his advantage. Wheaton North needs to come down quickly from its first win over WW South since 2002. After rotating quarterbacks Johnny Peltz and Clayton Thorson all season, Peltz took virtually all the snaps last week. The Saints will have their hands full keeping tabs on all the Falcons' receivers, including Thorson, Matt Biegalski and Tom Colletti. Running back Patrick Sharp brings balance. Falcons outside linebacker Luke Sahly had one of his better games last week with 6 tackles and a sack.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 13 Prospect (6-3) and No. 4 Glenbrook North (8-1).
No. 14 Willowbrook (6-3) at No. 3 Rockton Hononegah (8-1)
Game time: 3 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Hinsdale South 41, Willowbrook 22; Hononegah 47, Rockford East 7.
Outlook: Last week's loss showed Willowbrook what it can't do in this one. The Warriors made six trips to the red zone and scored only once. The defense was gashed for nearly 400 rushing yards, a fact that can't be ignored when facing Hononegah. The Indians have attempted only 62 passes out of their tight double wing formation. Junior running back Alex Martin, who's rushed for 753 yards and 18 touchdowns, is the biggest danger in the offense. Willowbrook needs to avoid big gains on the jet sweep, an assignment for cornerback Hayden Adams and linebacker Zack Stubbs. Willowbrook's offense is more diverse led by quarterback Brian Johnson and running back Jeremy Barnes. The Warriors' X-Factor on both sides of the ball, and on special teams, remains Dom Battaglia. You may see him in the Wildcat or catching passes. He's a standout linebacker and he's a danger to take off for a first down on his rugby punts. Don't be surprised if Willowbrook breaks out some trick plays.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 11 Crystal Lake South (6-3) and No. 6 Lake Zurich (7-2).
No. 8 Downers Grove North (5-4) at No. 1 Batavia (9-0)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Glenbard West 26, Downers Grove North 0; Batavia 49, Elgin 12.
Outlook: If Downers North is looking for good news after last week's loss, it's on defense. The Trojans did as good a job against Glenbard West's ground game as anyone, but now the defense led by Vontae Diggs faces a 1,200-yard rusher and a quarterback who's thrown for 1,500 yards. The Trojans need to use their split-back veer to keep Batavia's offense off the field. Sophomore quarterback David Edwards is a load to bring down, and he's backed by running back Kyle Leto. Batavia coach Dennis Piron is a little wary about the jump to Class 7A from 6A, but his team beat 8A Glenbard North 42-41 in Week 1. Batavia's got plenty of horses on offense and defense. Junior back Anthony Scaccia has accounted for 1,713 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns, and poised junior quarterback Micah Coffey targets 6-foot-5 receiver Zach Strittmatter, 47 catches for 715 yards, 11 TDs. Marquise Jenkins knocked one quarterback out for the season with his speed rush from defensive end.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 5 Thornton (7-2) and No. 4 Thornton Fractional South (7-2).
No. 7 Andrew (6-3) at No. 2 Benet (8-1) Class 7A
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Benedictine University.
Last week: Andrew 27, Thornton 0; Benet 31, Joliet Catholic 21.
Outlook: Few teams are on the type of roll Benet's enjoying, but the Redwings are taking nothing for granted after winning their first East Suburban Catholic Conference title. Andrew notched its third shutout last week against a Thornton team that's hit 40 points four times. It's an aggressive, physical defense that will try to contain 6-foot-6 sophomore Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi, who last week posted stunning passing numbers of 28 of 34 for 388 yards and 4 touchdowns. Beneventi, though, also was sacked four times. Benet's sound offensive line needs to protect Beneventi and plow holes for a running game that last week gained only 4 yards. Andrew's spread, no-huddle offense showed its effectiveness last week as running back Jarvion Franklin and quarterback Jacob Platt each rushed for 100 yards and Platt added 150 passing yards. Benet linebacker Jack Crain, the ESCC defensive player of the year, leads a dominant unit with four shutouts.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 6 Plainfield North (7-2) and No. 3 Oswego (8-1).
No. 4 Glenbard North (8-1) at No. 13 Fremd (5-4)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Glenbard North 21, Naperville North 14; Fremd 42, Hoffman Estates 7.
Outlook: Not that Glenbard North needed the extra motivation, but having a home game taken away because of sanctions from the 2007 playoff meeting between these teams adds a little extra focus for this rematch. The Panthers, hoping for a repeat of their 2007 run to the Class 8A final, will lean on the run game of junior Justin Jackson, who has rushed for 1,712 yards and holds offers from Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Boston College. Focus too much on Jackson, however, and quarterback Brian Murphy will burn a defense with receiver Ryan Storto. Fremd did a tremendous job qualifying for the postseason with two straight dominant wins. A switch to the single wing offense has brought a spark to the team with Jeff McGlade, Jack Bossong and others, filling in for injured quarterback Sam Beutler, directing the run-heavy offense. Linebacker Mario Rodriguez and the Panthers' defense certainly are accustomed to facing run-first teams after Naperville North last week rushed 45 times.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 12 Warren (5-4) and No. 5 Stevenson (7-2)
No. 16 Naperville North (5-4) at No. 1 Neuqua Valley (9-0)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Glenbard North 21, Naperville North 14; Neuqua Valley 42, Bartlett 14.
Outlook: This is a different Naperville North team from the Huskies' 43-20 season-opening loss to Neuqua Valley. Offensively, they've been stunning running the ball behind a line led by Iowa-bound Colin Goebel. The Huskies average 50 rushes with up to six different runners. Sharad Crosby, DeSean Brown and quarterback Johnny Brown each have rushed for at least 500 yards. Ben Brancaleon, Eric Montgomery and the Huskies' defense held Glenbard North's ground game to 142 yards. Neuqua runs a 3-5 defense with three-year starting linebacker Sam Norgaard in the middle. Safeties Dennis Thurow and Spencer Donahue are excellent against the run. A huge key to Neuqua's first 9-0 season has been quarterback Dylan Andrew -- not flashy, only highly accurate with 14 touchdowns, 1 interception. While 1,300-yard rusher Joey Rhattigan and speed receiver Mike Dudek draw attention, the Wildcats have unsung heroes like tight end Ryan Kuhl who can surprise teams.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 9 Bolingbrook (7-2) and No. 8 Sandburg (7-2).
No. 13 Proviso West (6-3) at No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (8-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Proviso West 26, Oak Park 23; Waubonsie Valley 41, Metea Valley 14.
Outlook: It's great to see Proviso West coach Famous Hulbert leading the Panthers to the playoffs a fourth straight season after never making it before. Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy respects that and no doubt his players will after the Warriors entered last year as a No. 1 seed and promptly got eliminated. "I think the film we showed our kids got their attention," Murphy said. Jameer Thurman is a safety with Division I interest and a Central Michigan offer; Jamaal Payton is a physical 215-pound linebacker and tailback. Proviso West is big up front offensively, will run power and spread schemes, and is fast on the defensive front. But seven players go both ways against two-platoon Waubonsie. The Warriors option offense headed by quarterback Dylan Warden, lineman Jackson Hynes and 1,800-yard rusher Austin Guido is tough to diagnose. On defense linebacker Hugh Griffin -- 18 tackles last week -- and lineman Trevor Hardin illustrate both Waubonsie's athleticism and power.
Next week: The winner plays the winner between No. 12 Oak Park (6-3) and No. 5 Hinsdale Central (7-2).
No. 12 Oak Park (6-3) at No. 5 Hinsdale Central (7-2)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Proviso West 26, Oak Park 23; Hinsdale Central 20, York 17.
Outlook: Hinsdale Central suffered a heartbreaking 42-41 overtime loss to Oak Park, a loss that stung even more after the Red Devils staked themselves to a 31-20 halftime lead. Health at the skill positions is a major factor for Hinsdale Central, which last week gradually worked running back Jack Adams, who rushed for 193 yards in the first meeting, into the lineup. Six-foot-six receiver Ian Bunting, who boasts a scholarship offer from Purdue, has missed several games with an ankle injury and may not return for this one. Regardless, Hinsdale Central will lean on center Brian Allen and quarterback Brian Owens to keep the chains moving. The force of Oak Park's offense is standout running back Jakari Cammon, who rushed for 200 of his 1,200 season yards against the Red Devils. Linebacker Andrew Pyle, who's notched 23 tackles the last two weeks, is a consistent double-digit tackler for Hinsdale Central. No doubt the defense aims to make up for the 42 points allowed the first meeting.
Next week: The winner advances to play the winner between No. 13 Proviso West (6-3) and No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (8-1).