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Article updated: 10/27/2013 12:01 AM
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Lots for Lakes to like as playoffs take shape
 

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Lots for Lakes to like as playoffs take shape
  • Stevenson's Cameron Green carries the ball on a kickoff return during Friday's game against Lake Zurich. The Patriots got a No. 6 seed in Class 8A and will host St. Charles East in the first round of the state playoffs next weekend.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Cameron Green carries the ball on a kickoff return during Friday's game against Lake Zurich. The Patriots got a No. 6 seed in Class 8A and will host St. Charles East in the first round of the state playoffs next weekend. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 

The moment the TV made the football playoffs official for Lakes, the already bustling home of head coach Luke Mertens got even louder.

It has become a playoff pairings night tradition for Mertens and his wife to host the entire team and staff for dinner. They welcomed more than 100 people into their home on Saturday night for pizza and other goodies.

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"When our name went up on the screen, the kids started cheering, and they were really loud," Mertens said. "I don't even think they knew who we got matched up with. They just saw our name and that was it. It could have said that Lakes was matched up with the Florida Gators and they would have been like, 'Yeah!'"

The good news for the Eagles is that they will not have to take on the Florida Gators. However, their draw is challenging nonetheless.

Lakes, which finished the regular season with an 8-1 record, earned the No. 4 seed in Class 6A and got matched up with No. 13 Prairie Ridge, which is 5-4 but also just two years removed from a state championship.

"They're always one of the top teams in the Fox Valley Conference," Mertens said of Prairie Ridge. "We're not too concerned about their number or ours. No matter who you play at this time of the year, you know it's going to be a very good team."

Lakes, which will host Prairie Ridge on Friday (game time TBA), is among six teams in the Daily Herald's Lake County coverage area to make the state playoffs. Grayslake North also earned a berth in Class 6A while Antioch (5-4) got in the Class 5A field on points after securing its fifth win on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Lake Zurich got the No. 1 seed in Class 7A and Stevenson and Warren both got in the Class 8A field.

For Lake Zurich, which is 8-1 after Friday's loss to Stevenson and drew No. 16 Elk Grove (6-3), the top billing is historic for the program.

"It's the first time in my eight years at Lake Zurich that we've gotten the No. 1 seed," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "But to be honest, I haven't given it much more thought than that, and neither have our kids.

"We could be the No. 5, 6 or 7 seed and it wouldn't make much difference. It also doesn't make a difference for your opponent. You could be playing a team that has a few losses but they could be from a really tough conference and could have played a tough schedule. I remember when we were 6-3 one year and we went to the semifinals. To me, the seeds don't mean that much."

Lake Zurich will host Elk Grove on Saturday, with the time yet to be confirmed.

Also playing on Saturday (2 p.m.) is Antioch, which got the No. 15 seed in Class 5A and needs the extra time to travel all the way to Sycamore, which is seeded second with a perfect 9-0 record.

"It's going to be a long trip, easily an hour-plus, and this is a team that we don't know much about," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "But we're just happy to be in."

The Sequoits certainly had to earn their spot. They defeated Vernon Hills Friday night to secure their fifth win, which made them playoff eligible. Their 44 playoff points made them an easy qualifier.

"We've won our last three games and four of our last five and that's what you want going into the playoffs. You want that momentum," Glashagel said. "I like where we're at, I like how we're playing right now. We're not a good draw for a 9-0 team. If I was 9-0, we're not the kind of team I'd want to see."

Meanwhile, in Class 6A, No. 7 Grayslake North (7-2) will be seeing a team in No. 10 Rolling Meadows that looks familiar.

"Rolling Meadows is a lot like us," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "They run the spread, their offense is very powerful and puts up a lot of points. They've got some kids who are tough to defend. We're going to have to play much better defense than we have been if we want to win."

Like Lakes, which is also in the 6A bracket, Grayslake North had a big team party during the pairings show.

"We had about 65 kids come out to our party at Buffalo Wild Wings, and we went through about 1,000 wings," Wood said. "They were all excited when they saw our name pop up. We're really excited to be in the playoffs again."

The Knights, who will be hosting Rolling Meadows at 7 p.m. on Friday, will be making their second straight playoff appearance. Meanwhile, Stevenson will be making its 25th straight playoff appearance.

The Patriots improved their stock Friday night by defeating previously unbeaten Lake Zurich.

Stevenson, 7-2 and the No. 6 seed in Class 8A, will host No. 11 St. Charles East (6-3).

Also in Class 8A, No. 10 Warren (6-3) will travel to No. 7 Glenbrook South (7-2).

"Over the years, we've always thought Glenbrook South could be a possible playoff opponent for us, but we just never got that draw," Warren coach Dave Mohapp said. "We've never played Glenbrook South before, even in the regular season, but we know they're always one of the best teams in their conference and we have a lot of respect for their coach, Mike Noll. We remember what he did back when he was a McHenry.

"We know Glenbrook South will be very well-coached and a very good team. I enjoy this part of it, getting to play a new team and getting a fresh start. That's the fun thing about the playoffs."

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