No. 13 Prairie Ridge Wolves (5-4) at No. 4 Lakes Eagles (8-1)
When: 7 p.m., today
Playoff history: Prairie Ridge missed the playoffs last year (3-6), but had a run of seven straight appearances before that, including a Class 6A state championship in 2011. This is the fifth straight playoff appearance for Lakes, which advanced as far as the quarterfinals in 2011. Last year, the Eagles lost in the second round to Lake Forest, 23-21.
Skinny: Most teams run into trouble when their starting quarterback goes down. Make that double trouble if he's a Division I recruit. But Lakes has somehow been able to take the absence of Western Michigan-bound TJ Edwards in stride, even finishing the regular season as the top-scoring team in the North Suburban Conference (41.6 ppg). The senior quarterback has been sidelined for the last few weeks with a knee injury and will be unavailable again for round one of the playoffs. There is optimism he would be back for round two. "There's a high likelihood he would play next week, but that doesn't mean anything if we don't win this week," said Lakes coach Luke Mertens, who could be without two other starters as well, including star running back Cameron Johnson. "We've got a really great program in front of us in Prairie Ridge. It is definitely our toughest game of the year. But what I like about our team is that they keep stepping up in spite of all the adversity we've faced. We've been banged up and injured all year. These guys have been warriors and they're just getting the job done." …Mertens likes the contributions he's getting out of the three quarterbacks he's using on rotation in place of Edwards. Juniors Jake Balliu and Ethan Sage and sophomore Jordan Mercure will all get about an equal amount of reps. "They're all balanced. They can all run and throw," Mertens said. "And what I like is that they have every bit the moxie as TJ has, and you want that in your quarterback."…Prairie Ridge is a triple option team that gave Grayslake North fits a couple weeks ago. Grayslake North is the only team to defeat Lakes this season. That was back in the season opener, 49-39…Prairie Ridge is averaging 25.7 points per game and won its last three games to easily qualify with 44 points. "They played some tough teams this season and they've been on a roll lately," Mertens said of Prairie Ridge. "They're big up front, they like to run the ball and they've got some guys who can rip off some really long runs."
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 10 Rolling Meadows Mustangs (6-3) at No. 7 Grayslake North Knights (7-2)
When: 7 p.m., today
Playoff history: Rolling Meadows has been to the playoffs nine of the last 10 years, with its only miss in 2010. Last year, the Mustangs lost in the first round to Lake Forest, 42-24. Grayslake North is making its second playoff appearance in school history. Last year was the first, and the Knights lost in the first round to Notre Dame, 46-27.
Skinny: Get ready for break-neck pace. Both of these teams score a lot of points (Grayslake North, 35.3 ppg; Rolling Meadows, 33.8 ppg) and both like to keep their offenses moving with the no-huddle approach. "Our defense goes against us and is very familiar with a no-huddle, but it's all about being ready for the kind of tempo that Rolling Meadows will use," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "They are very similar to us in many ways, but their tempo is different. Getting that down will be a challenge and getting our defensive plays called in time will be another challenge."…Rolling Meadows quarterback Bobby Suchecki is also a lot like Grayslake North quarterback Merrick Gentile. Both are bigger quarterbacks who can run hard but also put up big passing numbers. Last week, Suchecki passed for 268 yards while Gentile rushed for 111 yards and 3 touchdowns…The Knights also get big rushing numbers out of Titus Booker, who rolled up a school-record 274 yards and 5 touchdowns on 26 carries last week against Woodstock North. Booker has been battling a high ankle sprain all season but is the healthiest he's been since Week 1. "We're going to have most everyone ready to go," said Wood, who expects 21 of 22 starters to be in action. "We've been lucky with injuries. We've had a lot of them, but we haven't lost many starters, or they've been able to get back quickly."
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 15 Antioch Sequoits (5-4) at No. 2 Sycamore Spartans (9-0)
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Playoff history: Antioch is making its fourth playoff appearance in the six-year tenure of head coach Brian Glashagel. The Sequoits missed the cut last year and lost in the first round in both 2011 and 2010. But in 2008, Antioch had its best playoff run ever, advancing to the semifinals before losing to Lemont, 38-14. Sycamore is making is sixth playoff appearance in the last seven years. Last year, the Spartans lost in the second round to Montini, 24-22.
Skinny: Antioch coach Brian Glashagel has a nickname for the type of football Sycamore plays. "We call it 'man ball,'" Glashagel said. "Sycamore is a very athletic and very big team. They're the kind of team that will just draw a line in the sand and run right over you. They're going to try to pound you and use their size. They kind of play an old-fashioned (smash-mouth) football. But there's a reason they're 9-0. They're very good at it."…Sycamore won the Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference by averaging 38.4 points per game. The Spartans defeated three 8-1 teams (Lincoln-Way West, Geneseo and Kaneland)… The Sequoits also played a tough schedule, which is why they were able to breeze into the playoffs with 44 points. Antioch faced two teams that were 8-1 (Lake Zurich and Lakes) and one that was undefeated (Glenbard South). The Sequoits won four of their last five games to reach the 5-win mark. "We feel like we're playing very well right now and that we're a pretty tough 5-4 team," Glashagel said…Antioch rolled up all 414 yards of its offense on the ground last week behind three 100-plus rushing efforts: Alex Taylor (137 yards), Griffin Hill (136 yards) and Cam Corey (102 yards)
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 16 Elk Grove Grenadiers (6-3) at No. 1 Lake Zurich (8-1)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Playoff history: This is the fifth-straight playoff appearance for Elk Grove. Last year, the Grenadiers lost in the first round to Glenbard West, 49-21. Lake Zurich is making its 12th straight playoff appearance. The Bears won the 2007 Class 7A state title and finished as the Class 7A runner-up in 2006 and 2010. Last year, Lake Zurich lost in the semifinals to Glenbard West, 19-13.
Skinny: Having coached over multiple decades, Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt has seen a lot of different kind of football. And then he saw film on Elk Grove the other day. Surprise! "Of all the offenses I've seen this year, and over the years, Elk Grove has as good and as unique of a concept as I've ever seen," Proffitt said. "This is a team that likes to throw the ball, but really, they're going to do what you give them, and it all depends on how you lineup. To do that is unique and to do it on the fly is a pretty big challenge. And they do it well. They definitely create some matchup problems for your defense."…Defensive problems have been few and far between this season for the Bears, who are allowing a mere 8.7 points per game. Lake Zurich, which has also pitched three shutouts this season, has a history of getting even stingier in the postseason. "I have a lot of confidence in our defense," Proffitt said. "We've played very well this season. But at this stage, you have to be concerned about everything you're going to see. We're going to have to be very disciplined going up against this offense."…Meanwhile, the Bears are also looking for more discipline on the offensive side of the ball. Last week, Lake Zurich lost 2 fumbles and quarterback Noah Allgood threw 2 interceptions in a 24-17 loss to Stevenson. The Bears also got tagged with 7 penalties. "It was frustrating because the boys thought they could have won that game," Proffitt said. "But you can't be thinking too much about coulda, woulda, shoudas. I think we've got that out of our system and we're ready to move on."…Two players won't be ready for Lake Zurich this week. Running back Joey Holtz, who has been slowed by injuries all season, suffered a knee injury against Stevenson and will likely be out for the rest of the season. And starting center Matt Michael went down with a foot injury against Stevenson and will miss this game. He'll be replaced by Chris Tsiapas…Elk Grove, which finished tied in the MSL East at 4-1 with Rolling Meadows and Hersey, averages 28.4 points per game but allows 22 points per game. The Grens scored just a field goal in last week's 3-0 win over Prospect, a team that finished with a 1-8 record.
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 11 St. Charles East Fighting Saints (6-3) at No. 6 Stevenson Patriots (7-2)
When: 3 p.m., Saturday
Playoff history: This is the seventh playoff appearance for St. Charles East in the last nine years. Last year, the Fighting Saints lost in the first round to Wheaton North, 41-13. Stevenson is making its 25th-straight playoff appearance, with its best year coming in 2002. That year, the Patriots advanced to the Class 8A state title game but lost to Lockport, 35-14. Last season, Stevenson lost in the second round to Glenbard North, 23-14.
Skinny: Of all the teams his team has played this season, St. Charles East, according to Stevenson coach Bill McNamara, is most like Kenosha Indian Trail. And that game didn't go so well for the Patriots, who lost their season opener in Wisconsin, 15-14. "Like Indian Trail, St. Charles East is a very solid team with good athletes and a tough defense," McNamara said. "It's a team without any real weaknesses. We're going to have to play very well to beat them." In all fairness to the Patriots, they are playing much better now than they were at the beginning of the season, when turnovers were a problem. Against Indian Trail, Stevenson rolled up 8 turnovers. Last week in a 24-17 win over Lake Zurich, the Patriots had no turnovers and only 2 penalties. "We were a little out of sync early in the season," said McNamara, whose team has won its last six games after losing its first two. "But to our players' credit, they've worked hard to eliminate the silly mistakes and sharpen their focus. It's translated to the games."…Stevenson, which is averaging 31.6 points per game, won the North Suburban Lake Division championship with its win over Lake Zurich. Quarterback Willie Bourbon threw for 162 yards in that game while running back Jack Joseph ran for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns…St. Charles East, which is averaging 34 points per game but allowing 29.4 points per game, won two of their last four games, which includes a big 55-12 Week 9 victory over Larkin.
Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 10 Warren Blue Devils (6-3) at No. 7 Glenbrook South Titans (7-2)
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Playoff history: Warren has made the playoffs 12 of the last 14 years. Last year, the Blue Devils lost in the first round to Stevenson, 26-13. Glenbrook South has made the playoffs in each of the nine seasons of head coach Mike Noll's tenure but has never advanced further than the quarterfinals. Last year, the Titans lost in the first round to Schaumburg, 42-7.
Skinny: Warren is facing a tall order in Glenbrook South quarterback Fitz Stadler. Literally. Stadler stands 6-foot-6 and has used his height to pick apart defenses. The Titans led the Central Suburban South with 37.8 points per game. "He's a big-body kid and a big weapon," Warren coach Dave Mohapp said of Stadler. "They run a Wing-T and he does a great job with play-action and hiding the ball. And he's a good thrower."…Warren has a good thrower of its own in quarterback Andrew Nickell, who leads the most prolific offense in the North Suburban Lake Division. The Blue Devils average 35.8 points per game and have hit the 600-yard mark in multiple games this season. However, Warren is coming off a 31-19 loss to Lake Forest last week in which it managed only about half its average. "We left our defense on the field all night," Mohapp said of the Lake Forest game. "We really need to establish ourselves (offensively) and put together some nice drives. We can be (a big-play team) but I don't think we'll see much of that in this game from either team. We're going to need to be patient and move the ball and get some drives going."
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw