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No. 2 Rockford Boylan (11-0) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (9-2)
When: 1 p.m., today
Radio: WRLR (98.3 FM), pregame begins at 12:30 p.m. The game will also be streaming on the Internet at WRLR.fm.
Last meeting: In the 2011 Class 7A semifinals, Rockford Boylan defeated visiting Lake Zurich, 16-10. The Titans are now 1-2 against Lake Zurich in playoff action since 2006.
Rockford Boylan's road to the quarterfinals: Defeated Jacobs in the first round, 28-10; defeated Fenwick in the second round, 22-21.
Lake Zurich's road to the quarterfinals: Defeated Crystal Lake South in the first round, 49-0; defeated Rockton Hononegah in the second round, 17-6.
Rockford Boylan playoff history: The Titans have qualified for the playoffs in 21 of the last 22 years, since 1991. Their lone miss was in 2004. They are currently defending back-to-back state champions. They won the Class 6A title in 2010 by defeating Marmion in the championship, 48-19. Last year, the Titans won the Class 7A state title by defeating Wheaton Warrenville South in the title game, 21-14. Back in 1975, the Titans also got to a state championship game, but they lost the Class 5A title to Deerfield, 14-7.
Titans fun fact: Rockford Boylan is on quite a winning streak. In winning state titles in 2010 and 2011, the Titans did so by running the table each season. Add this year's 11-0 record to its back-to-back 14-0 seasons and that runs Boylan's winning streak to 39 straight games, dating back to August of 2010. That's the sixth-longest winning streak for football in state history. The longest winning streak for football in state history is Pittsfield's run of 64 straight wins between September of 1966 to September of 1973.
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.
Bears fun fact: Since 2006, Lake Zurich has been Lake County's most successful playoff team, by far. The Bears have won a state championship (2007), played in three state championship games (2006, 2007, 2010) and have advanced to at least the semifinals in five of the last six years. With 27 playoff games since 2006, Lake Zurich has had more postseason experience than any other team in Lake County. The next closest teams are Carmel with 15 games and Stevenson with 14. Only two teams in Lake County besides Lake Zurich have advanced to the semifinals since 2006: Carmel in 2007 and Antioch in 2008. Lake Zurich defeated Carmel in the 2007 semifinals (17-7) on its way to the 2007 Class 7A state title.
Conference successes: Rockford Boylan won the Northern Illinois (NIC-10) with a perfect 9-0 record. The Titans edged out second place Rockton Hononegah (8-1), which lost to Lake Zurich last week in the second round. Lake Zurich won the North Suburban Conference Lake Division with a 5-1 division record. Stevenson also finished at 5-1.
By the numbers: Rockford Boylan averages 41.5 points per game and is allowing 10 points per game, which includes 3 shutouts. Lake Zurich averages 24.6 points per game and is allowing 5.2 points per game, which includes 6 shutouts.
Coaches: Interestingly, both John Cacciatore of Rockford Boylan and Dave Proffitt of Lake Zurich are first-year coaches. Both replaced state championship coaches in Dan Appino and Bryan Stortz, respectively. Appino and Stortz both moved on during the off-season to other coaching jobs. Both Cacciatore and Proffitt were long-time assistant coaches in their programs before being elevated to head coach.
Skinny: Remember the Titans? Lake Zurich certainly does, but was trying not to make revenge or redemption a focus as it prepared this week for its familiar Class 7A quarterfinals opponent. Last year, Rockford Boylan eliminated Lake Zurich from the postseason by getting a 16-10 victory in the semifinals. "Revenge isn't part of the equation for us," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "What is part of the equation is that we've all been focusing on getting better every day since then. We could (not) care less about what happened last year or what happened a week ago. We don't dwell on the past."…But the past certainly could provide valuable information about the present, or at least it could provide a frame of reference. "We've played Lake Zurich in the playoffs three times in recent years so there is a familiarity there," Rockford Boylan coach John Cacciatore said. "We know they run the ball very well and that they do a fantastic job with their defense. The strength of what we do is also our defense. So, we've got the potential for a 3-0 game, I guess."…Lake Zurich is allowing a measly 5.2 points per game and has recorded 6 shutouts while Rockford Boylan is allowing 10 points per game, which includes 3 shutouts. "We both play a similar 3-3 defense and the strength defensively for both teams is speed," Cacciatore said. "For us, sometimes our offense isn't always consistent, but our defense is."…Three defensive starters return for Rockford Boylan from its 2011 state title team: free safety Peter Cimino, linebacker Ty Sharp and lineman Zach Agunod. Kicker Sean Slattery has been a weapon for the defense by pinning opponents deep into their own territory with his booming kicks. "He sets up our defense with his ability to put the ball into the end zone," Cacciatore said. "We really focus on trying to win the field position game."…Lake Zurich's defense stays fresh with its continuous rotation of defensive linemen throughout the game. Meanwhile, linebacker Robert Rossdeutcher is coming off a big game last week against Rockton Hononegah in which he came up with a clutch interception that helped to seal the win. And defensive backs Grant Soucy and Sean Lynch, who also had an interception last week, give that speed that Lake Zurich is known for in the defensive backfield…The Bears' defense will be charged with trying to slow a Rockford Boylan offense that is known for being a rushing monster but that has added more of a passing attack this season. Running back DeMarcus Vines is back from last year's state championship team and likes to run behind lineman Joe Fehrly, the only other returning starter on offense. Vines has nearly 1,300 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns so far. But junior quarterback Brock Stull has added a different twist to the run-oriented offense, having thrown for nearly 1,000 passing yards already. "They always run the ball so well," Proffitt said of Boylan. "But this year, they are definitely more diverse. I think they can throw the ball just as well as they can run it. Their quarterback is very good, so you can't really gang up on one (running back)."…The Boylan defense will try to gang up on Lake Zurich's headliner at running back, Connor Schrader. The Bears' offense runs through him and he is coming off a 118-yard rushing game last week against Hononegah. Quarterback Jake Stauner is also becoming a more dangerous weapon. After battling nagging injuries throughout the season, he is getting healthier each week. "They always seem to have a stable of running backs at Lake Zurich," Cacciatore said. "Their main back (Schrader) is really a tough runner. He's got a lot of power and can run you right over. But you can't concentrate on him too much because they will run just enough little counters at you to keep you honest."…Cacciatore says his team is as healthy as it has been all season. Proffitt continues to worry about injuries that have plagued his team all season. "I don't know if I've ever seen it this bad," Proffitt said. "We are struggling to get all 11 starters on the field for practice at the same time, for both offense and defense. We're just hoping everyone will be ready for game day."
Playoff advancement: Winner moves ahead to the Class 7A semifinals next week and plays the winner of No. 5 Wheaton North (10-1) at No. 1 Glenbard West (11-0).
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw