As a first-time champion of the East Suburban Catholic Conference, certain responsibilities fell on Benet's football team.
Most important was winning its opening playoff game last week.
"We felt it was important to represent the conference against Andrew," said Benet coach Pat New. "As conference champions we wanted to help show the quality of play in our league."
Benet (9-1) held up its end of the bargain with a 24-10 win over Andrew. The second-seeded Redwings play host to No. 3 Oswego (9-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lisle's Benedictine University.
The ESCC as a whole did well in the first round. The teams went 4-2 despite an upset loss by Marist. St. Patrick, Joliet Catholic and Notre Dame also advanced to the second round.
The best part for New is that St. Patrick and Notre Dame are in the Class 6A bracket, while Joliet Catholic competes in 5A. That means the Redwings can root for their conference mates without jeopardizing their own playoff future in Class 7A.
"Absolutely," New said. "I really want to see our conference do well."
Unbeaten Glenbard West started Saturday's game against Elk Grove like most other games. The top-seeded Hilltoppers (10-0) broke out to a 28-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.
By halftime, after the Grenadiers stunned the stadium with a pair of touchdowns late in the second quarter, Glenbard West's lead narrowed to 28-21.
While the Hilltoppers' future in the Class 7A bracket remains intact, things became scarier against Elk Grove when the Grens recovered a fumble early in the third quarter and had a chance to score a game-tying touchdown.
After an interception gave the ball back to Glenbard West, the Hilltoppers rolled from to a 49-21 victory. They'll play No. 9 Libertyville (8-2) Saturday on the road.
"We were tested because we let up, but I think it's good the way we responded," said Glenbard West Chad Hetlet. "There's a good lesson to be learned. You can't let up in a game ever, let alone in the playoffs. We put ourselves in a bad position when we didn't need to."
Through the first eight games of the season, Wheaton North (9-1) effectively utilized a rotation of senior quarterback Johnny Peltz and junior Clayton Thorson. Starting against Wheaton Warrenville South in Week 9, however, Peltz began taking the majority of snaps as Thorson played almost exclusively at receiver.
"If a kid's got a hot hand and is making good decisions, there's no reason to take him out," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski.
In the Falcons' 23-13 win over WW South and their 41-13 Class 7A first-round playoff win over St. Charles East, Peltz completed 37 of 49 passes for 441 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Thorson caught 8 passes for 113 yards.
Fifth-seeded Wheaton North travels to No. 13 Prospect in Friday's second-round showdown. The Falcons will determine the quarterback play depending on how the game progresses.
"I wouldn't say the plan is to stick with one quarterback going forward," Wardynski said. "Johnny was off to a good start and Thorson had some nice catches. We'll see how it goes on Friday."
Neuqua Valley (10-0) exploded for 35 unanswered second-half points to defeat Naperville North 56-20 in Class 8A, and in the process Wildcats tailback Joey Rhattigan appears to have set a couple new program records.
Gaining 228 yards against the Huskies -- 63 more than he did in Neuqua's Week 1 win over Naperville North -- Rhattigan has run for 1,511 on the season, breaking Anton Wilkins' 2007 mark of 1,485 yards. Rhattigan's 4 touchdowns runs increased his career record to 48.
The Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division co-offensive player of the year -- with Waubonsie Valley's record-setting tailback Austin Guido -- gives Rhattigan 3,021 yards rushing on the Neuqua varsity, surpassing Wilkins' 2,886 yards from 2005-07.
"He is still way more focused on this week and trying to go beat Bolingbrook than he is on accolades," said Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus.
Immaculate Conception coach Bill Krefft had hoped that returning 6-foot-3 senior receiver Tim Hipskind from injury would help spark the Knights' passing game.
He hoped right.
Hipskind, who missed the prior three games, caught 3 passes, each going for touchdowns in Immaculate Conception's first-round Class 3A victory at North Boone. IC (7-3) won the tricky battle of 12 vs. 5 seeds, 59-34.
"He's a big help," Krefft said of Hipskind, who can use his height to leap over shorter cornerbacks or as leverage on fade routes. "He's a big target, he runs routes very well, has great hands."
Hipskind's touchdown receptions of 27, 60 and 86 yards accounted for all his 173 yards receiving. Quarterback Demetrius Carr needed to hit only 1 other pass on the day, an 11-yarder to Joe Iavarone, also back after a litany of injuries. Receiver Sam Rose didn't catch a pass, but Krefft praised him for running to open areas and drawing defenders to him to free up other teammates, namely Hipskind.
Aspects such as the return of Hipskind and Iavarone have Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe thinking Saturday's second-round game won't be a repeat of the Eagles' 47-20 win over the Knights in Week 7.
"This is not going to be like what it was last game," Beebe said.
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