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Montini's drive for five begins Friday in Lombard.
The Broncos, four-time defending champions in Class 5A, aim to become the second high school football team in Illinois to win a fifth consecutive crown. Driscoll won seven straight between 2001 and 2007, all in Class 4A except for the 2004 title in 3A.
Along with Montini's current string of four championships, Joliet Catholic won four straight between 1975-78 as did Mt. Carmel (1988-91) and Providence (1994-97). Rochester will go after its fourth straight Class 4A title this playoff season.
Montini (9-0) will have to do yeoman work to even have a shot at a fifth straight 5A championship. Provided the top-seeded Broncos get past No. 16 seed Morgan Park in their playoff opener they face a prospective second-round game against fellow SCC power Marian Central, which Montini beat 40-35.
A quarterfinal could see Montini play either Joliet Catholic or Kaneland, which have been recent Montini semi and title-game foes.
Further into the future, 5A semifinal prospects include Sycamore, Lincoln-Way West, former Driscoll coach Tim Racki's Nazareth club and local hopefuls St. Francis and unbeaten Glenbard South.
"It's going to be tough, but hey, it's what we signed up for," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "We're ready."
By about noon Saturday, Naperville Central coach Mike Stine was 99 percent sure his team would be matched up against Downers South in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs.
When the pairings were announced by the IHSA nine hours later, Stine was right on the mark. His seventh-seeded Redhawks (6-3) face No. 10 Downers South (6-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in Naperville.
It takes a certain type of mind to be able to figure out all the mathematical possibilities for potential opponents. Stine developed his skill of determining matchups at a young age.
"I used to try and figure out the matchups when I played in high school, and then I did it for my dad (Everett Stine) when he coached at Dixon," Stine said. "I've been doing this for years."
Stine was so confident in his Downers South projection that he contacted Mustangs coach Mark Molinari to begin laying the groundwork for film exchange and game logistics.
Despite Naperville Central's rare absence from the playoffs last season, Stine obviously didn't lose his touch.
"It becomes an addiction," he said. "It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle."
In with an exclamation point:
Fenton may have been playoff eligible with five wins, but Bison coach Mark Kos knew his team needed a sixth victory in last week's Metro Suburban Conference showdown at rival Riverside-Brookfield.
His players responded accordingly.
"We knew what was at stake and for four quarters we didn't have any letdowns," Kos said. "From the opening kick we just put the pedal to the floor."
Kos called last Friday's 43-14 victory over Riverside-Brookfield his team's most complete game of the season. At 6-3 Fenton enters the Class 6A playoffs as a 12th seed and will play No. 5 Marmion (7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in Aurora.
Fenton rushed for more than 200 yards, led by Alex Cowan's 142-yard effort, and Willie Wassmann threw 3 touchdown passes. The defense, meanwhile, stifled the Bulldogs to fewer than 150 total yards.
Kos credits his senior leaders — players like Cowan, Wassmann, Nikko Avila and Phil Espinoza — with keeping Fenton focused on a playoff push through the final third of the regular season.
The Bison have been in must-win mode ever since Fenton's Week 7 loss to Glenbard South.
"We've had this mindset for a while," Kos said. "We knew at the end of Week 7 that we had to win out."
It may have been difficult to notice through the success, but Glenbard West (8-1) has dealt with significant injury issues all season long.
Last week the Hilltoppers overcame the absence of two starting running backs — Devante Toney and Jermon Kindle Joyner — to beat York 35-7. Scott Andrews, Pernevlon Sheppard and Sean Mackey combined for the bulk of the team's 140 rushing yards.
Look for Glenbard West's ground game to get a huge boost with the return of Toney and Joyner for Saturday's Class 7A game against Harlem. Toney, a 5-foot-9, 210-pound fullback, is an especially important addition to the backfield.
"Whether he's running or blocking he gives us more power in the backfield," Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet said of Toney, who missed four regular-season games. "He's the fastest player on our team, he's got fresh legs. He's hungry to get back."
Toney began the season by playing nose guard on defense in addition to splitting time at fullback. But with the emergence of defensive linemen Trevor Hamilton and Dan Rustmeyer, Hetlet plans on using Toney exclusively on offense.
"Devante definitely could help us on defense, but he really helps our run game," Hetlet said. "As a defensive coordinator I want as strong a running game as possible because it lets our defense rest on the sideline."
Back in the Chase:
Last week Hinsdale Central needed to beat rival Downers Grove North just to reach the playoffs. The Red Devils came through with a 20-14 victory behind the return from injury of senior quarterback Chase Hamilton.
Hamilton broke a bone in his leg in Week 3 but healed up just in time to help Hinsdale Central reach the magical mark of 5 wins. The 13th-seeded Red Devils hit the road to play No. 4 Oswego (7-2) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
After receiving a doctor's clearance to practice last Monday, Hamilton was cleared to play last Thursday and threw for 63 yards against Downers North.
"We were hopeful he'd come back by the end of the season, and he played pretty well," said Hinsdale Central coach Rich Tarka. "With him in there we're definitely getting closer to becoming the team we expected to be at the start of the season."
Hamilton was eased into his first game back. Junior Thomas Ives completed both passes he attempted while linebacker-running back Jacob White added 80 rushing yards. Tarka said he plans on rotating all three players behind center again this weekend.
"We didn't want to put Chase too much at risk in his first game back," Tarka said. "It's a huge boost having him back."
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