By Dave Oberhelman
No. 1 Kaneland (10-0) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way West (7-3) Class 5A
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Kaneland 48, No. 16 Belvidere 0; Lincoln-Way West 35, No. 8 Rochelle 0.
Outlook: Kaneland had little patience with a Belvidere team that pushed the Knights to the brink in last year's opener. Against first-year head coach Dave Ernst's Lincoln-Way West Warriors, the newest upstart from New Lenox-way, Kaneland will need the same urgency it displayed when Blake Bradford, Ryan Lawrence, Gary Koehring and company held Belvidere to 3 first downs and 73 total yards. "We weren't really happy with the results from last year," Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said of the 51-45 first-round squeaker over Belvidere. "That was kind of embarrassing to give up almost 600 yards to them. We came in wanting to prove something defensively." The Knights wasted little time offensively, Jesse Balluff's 41-yard touchdown run coming just 1:21 into the game. Bradford recovered a fumble and two minutes later Balluff scored again. The junior finished with 110 yards rushing and now stands at 930 yards on the season, with 13 touchdowns. Drew David fired a 56-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Pollastrini, David's 23rd touchdown pass, and little bulldozer Nate Dyer instituted a running clock on his touchdown blast with 3:10 left in the third quarter. "We're moving on, that's the big thing," Fedderly said. "We were not really prepared for it to go that way." The Knights must be prepared for a Lincoln-Way West team which the Rochelle folks told Fedderly was the best they'd seen all year, including Kaneland and Morris. The L-W West Warriors, who've reached the playoffs the last three seasons in their four-year history, in fact remind Fedderly of Morris. A punishing line leads an offense that can throw but prefers to run. Heading the line is 6-foot-7, 290-pound Notre Dame commit Colin McGovern and 6-3, 260-pound Derek Gurnea, who will give Kaneland defensive linemen Jaumaureo Phillips, Alex Snyder and Justin Diddell a game. West's Javier Montalvo, one of the heroes against Rochelle, has run for 815 yards, Nick Dangles for 623, and quarterback Justin Keuch has passed for 977 yards (but 6 picks to 5 TDs) and Adam Slattery leads in receiving yardage and TDs. "They'll spread it out," Fedderly said, "but they're going to try to run it down our throat." Defensively the Warriors go 4-3 and play different secondary coverage than Kaneland has seen. Defenders like tackles leader McKenna Wychocki are quick and, like Kaneland, they get lots of players to the ball. Lincoln-Way West allows just 11.6 points a game, about a point less than Kaneland. The Warriors, in a three-way tie for second behind Thornton in the South Suburban Red, lost 19-13 to Sycamore -- a team the Knights beat 30-7 -- but that was way back in the season opener. Fedderly predicts a hard-fought, hard-hitting game with a close score. If that's the case, the Knights have that come-from-behind Week 9 win over Morris to buoy their confidence, as well as quality kicker Matt Rodriguez, whose long field goal this season is 43 yards. "I think it's going to come down to really having some balance, not being one-dimensional, being able to do multiple things," Fedderly said.
Next week: The winner advances to the 5A quarterfinals against the winner of No. 13 Tinley Park (6-4) and No. 12 Joliet Catholic (6-4).
No. 4 Aurora Christian (9-1) at No. 12 Immaculate Conception (7-3)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Aurora Christian 49, No. 13 Raby 12; Immaculate Conception 59, No. 5 North Boone 34.
Outlook: Neither Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe nor Immaculate Conception coach Bill Krefft expects a repeat of AC's Week 7 47-20 win. One difference is the game will be played on IC's grass/mud field (it looks like rain) rather than the Eagles' turf as in the prior game. Both teams also returned impact receivers last week -- Aurora Christian's Northern Illinois-bound Chad Beebe (Don's son) and IC's Tim Hipskind, whose 3 catches against North Boone all went for touchdowns. Chad Beebe scored on the defending 3A champion's first play against Raby -- the Eagles' 37 tackles tied a program record for the fewest stops required, matching the output in a 52-0 win over Luther South in 2004. In Beebe's first game since Week 4, out with a broken arm, he caught 4 passes for 118 yards and 3 touchdowns. Beebe's presence running precision routes in the middle and perimeter of the field increases the ability of quarterback Ryan McQuade to hit deep threat Cory Windle, who has caught 36 passes for 624 yards and 11 touchdowns. While those two receivers and Ryan Suttle will spread the IC Knights from sideline to sideline, IC must also deal with the Northern Illinois-bound running back duo of Brandon Mayes and Joel Bouagnon, whose 100 yards last week reached the century mark for a fourth time this season. Defensively the Eagles lacked lineman Nick Larson last week, but have him back to give Don Beebe a full lineup. "I'm not so sure we've ever had that before," Beebe said. Along with Hipskind, IC returned linebacker Joe Iavarone last week against North Boone. The senior has missed four full games due to injury -- he made only 1 tackle against Aurora Christian in Week 7 -- yet remains the Knights' leading tackler. His return could likewise bolster the IC line by putting Sean Fenton back on the line in the Knights' 4-3 base. Both teams have size and skill up front, and it will depend whether the defenses stack the line or defend the pass as to what the coaches will emphasize. Should Aurora Christian stay deep in its 3-5, expect Knights quarterback Demetrius Carr and backs Danny D'Angelo and Sam Antes to run the ball; if not, Krefft will allow Carr to unleash his big right arm. Both coaches like the matchups they have in the skilled positions, and like many postseason games between familiar foes -- though these are first-time playoff opponents -- it will come down to adjustments and maybe turnovers. If it is close, kicker Trevor Hills gives Aurora Christian the edge there. "This is a very tough game in round two, a very tough game," Don Beebe said. "And to beat a team of the caliber of IC twice is very difficult to do."
Next week: The winner advances to the 3A quarterfinals against the winner of No. 1 Elmwood-Brimfield (10-0) and No. 9 Winnebago (8-2).