No. 4 Joliet Catholic (10-1) at No. 1 Montini (11-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Joliet Catholic 45, No. 5 Kaneland 8; Montini 40, No. 9 Marian Central 7.
Outlook: A hugely hyped, championship-caliber game to be decided, as Montini coach Chris Andriano said, by which team "can impose their will on the other." His four-time defending 5A champs are 3-0 in the playoffs against 13-time state champion Joliet Catholic and coach Dan Sharp, beating the Hilltoppers in the 2009 and 2011 title games and 40-37 in last year's semifinals. Sharp's double-wing offense is pretty one-dimensional, but what a dimension: Mike Ivlow has run for 2,359 yards, 29 touchdowns, and fellow back Nick Borgra adds 951 yards rushing, 13 scores. After quarterback Nick Morrison went 0-of-2 passing against Kaneland while still a contest, Sharp mentioned they'll need the pass against Montini. The Broncos were on the other side of the ledger against Marian, quarterback Alex Wills passing for all but 2 of Montini's 306 yards. Montini's 4-3 defense also kept Marian from running the ball, and a huge key against Joliet Catholic starts up front with defensive linemen Dylan Thompson, Edgar Ruano, Anthony Ferraro and Eric Kibbey.
Next week: The winner advances to a 5A semifinal against the winner between No. 6 Lincoln-Way West (10-1) and No. 2 Sycamore (11-0).
No. 1 Lake Zurich (10-1) at No. 5 Wheaton North (9-2)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Lake Zurich 20, No. 8 Hononegah 0; Wheaton North 32, No. 4 Fenwick 31.
Outlook: Last week Wheaton North struggled at times running the ball and stopping the run. The Falcons were outgained 243-115 on the ground, creating a challenge against a Lake Zurich team that excels in both areas. Six players have rushed for at least 250 yards, led by 577 rushing yards by Ben Klett. The Falcons also need to watch out for play-action with quarterback Noah Allgood, who last week threw for 2 touchdowns. As dangerous as Lake Zurich is with its ball-control offense, the Bears are traditionally all about winning with defense. Last week's win marked their fourth shutout of the season. The unit's led by Syracuse-bound linebacker Colton Moskal, but he's just a part of the stout 3-5 scheme. Dom Garza, Northwestern-bound quarterback Clayton Thorson and receiver J.P. Forcucci combined for 106 rushing yards against Fenwick, but the Falcons need another big effort in the air. Last week Thorson threw for 413 yards and 5 touchdowns while receiver Matt Biegalski had 14 catches for 254 yards and 4 scores.
Next week: The winner advances to a 7A semifinal against the winner between No. 2 Schaumburg (10-1) and No. 3 Glenbard West (10-1).
No. 3 Glenbard West (10-1) at No. 2 Schaumburg (10-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Schaumburg 42, No. 10 St. Patrick 24; Glenbard West 34, No. 11 Conant 7.
Outlook: Healthy as possible this time of year, Glenbard West is playing its best football of the season at the perfect time. After last week rushing for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, Scott Andrews continues to make his case for being one of the state's best running backs. The Hilltoppers, however, are thriving with three talented backs. Powerful fullback Devante Toney added 175 yards and 2 touchdowns while Jermon Kindle Joyner added to last week's 435-yard effort on the ground behind a cohesive offensive line. Schaumburg's ground game has been just as effective in an offense that's notched 40 points five times including both playoff games. Saxons quarterback Stacey Smith has rushed for nearly 1,800 yards, although run defense is the strength of the Hilltoppers and stinging senior safety Hayden Carlson. Which defense will do a better job holding up against the physical pounding? Last week Schaumburg allowed 170 rushing yards and 400 total yards, while Glenbard West allowed 50 rushing yards and 210 total yards.
Next week: The winner advances to a 7A semifinal against the winner between No. 1 Lake Zurich (10-1) and No. 5 Wheaton North (9-2).
No. 2 Mt. Carmel (10-1) at No. 8 Downers Grove North (7-4)
Game time: 3 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Mt. Carmel 20, No. 3 St. Rita 15; Downers North 10, No. 5 Wheaton Warrenville South 7.
Outlook: An extremely physical game against WW South took its toll on the Trojans, who again will have to wait until game time to know the possible effectiveness of 6-foot-6 junior quarterback David Edwards and defensive standout Vontae Diggs. Both played extremely sparingly last week, but in the end they just couldn't make it through the whole game. The entire season Downers North hasn't enjoyed the presence of Edwards, Diggs and Toledo-bound receiver-defensive end Richard Olekanma on the field at the same time. If Edwards and Diggs struggle with injuries, the pressure of grinding out first downs falls on quarterback Sebastian Calvino and running back Kyle Leto. Getting past Michigan State-bound defensive lineman Enoch Smith Jr. and fellow lineman Steven Richardson, a Minnesota recruit, won't be easy. Slowing Mt. Carmel's similar run-heavy offense starts up front for the Trojans with E.J. Phillips and Joe Hill. Illinois-bound running back Matt Domer is a load -- and a workhorse. Last week he carried the ball 30 times for 250 yards.
Next week: The winner advances to a 7A semifinal against the winner between No. 1 Edwardsville (11-0) and No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (9-2).
No. 3 Neuqua Valley (10-1) at No. 7 Naperville Central (8-3) Class 8A
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Neuqua Valley 27, No. 6 Simeon 20; Naperville Central 24, No. 2 Homewood-Flossmoor 21.
Outlook: Neuqua Valley has won nine straight since losing 58-35 to Naperville Central. The defense has solidified around nose tackle Godrey Collins, safety Eli Tappin and middle linebacker Derrek Warkenthien. Wildcats quarterback Broc Rutter looks to add to Illinois-bound receiver Mikey Dudek's 24 touchdowns; Dudek's kick returns lend field position and points. Offensive balance by running backs T.J. Scruggs and Nolan Dean comes from a push by linemen Sai Klein, Brandon Barbee, Hank Michalski, Tom Cwiok and Jon Bylak. Naperville Central's defense allowed a lot of points to the Wildcats in Week 2, but part of the reason was injuries on back-to-back plays to linebackers Cole Wooldridge, a season-ender, and Bobby McMillen. The Redhawks have since adjusted on that side of the ball thanks to McMillen and linebacker Jack Wooldridge. The Redhawks are known as a fast-paced offense with quarterback Jake Kolbe and receivers Ben Andreas and Michael Kolzow, but last week they showed they can ground and pound with Kevin Clifford and Andreas.
Next week: The winner advances to an 8A semifinal against the winner between No. 8 Marist (8-3) and No. 4 Oswego (9-2).