No. 6 Stevenson Patriots (9-2) at No. 2 Barrington Broncos (10-1)
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Road to the quarterfinals: In the first round, Stevenson def. St. Charles East, 35-7 and Barrington def. Evanston, 23-8. In the second round, Stevenson def. Glenbard North, 20-16 and Barrington def. Warren, 21-13.
Playoff history: 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…Barrington is making its ninth playoff appearance in the last 12 years. The Broncos missed last year and haven't advanced past the quarterfinals since placing second in the state in 1998.
Skinny: Sometimes lost in the bling of multiple Division I prospects and an offense that can put a ton of points on the board (30.8 ppg) is Stevenson's grit. The Patriots dusted it off during the regular season in bouncing back to get a win over Lake Zurich after falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter. They showed their grit again in last week's win over Glenbard North, which had eliminated them from the playoffs the previous two seasons. Stevenson fell behind 14-7 in the first quarter but kept plugging away. "Our kids seem to respond really well with their backs against the wall," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "We've had injuries this season, we've had some tough things happen to us and the guys are able to deal with it because we have solid leadership and they understand and trust each other. They are a team in every sense of the word." … The Patriots will likely be an incomplete team in Barrington. Star wide receiver and cornerback Matt Morrissey, who has committed to Michigan State, strained his hamstring in practice last week and was kept out of the Glenbard North win. He's been doing rehab all week and will be a game-time decision. Even if he plays, though, it will likely be in a limited role … Morrissey's potential absence will put more on the shoulders of receiver Cameron Green, who has received offers from Illinois and other Division I programs. Green responded last week by totaling 98 receiving yards on a couple of catches. He also picked off a Glenbard North pass and scored the winning touchdown on a 75-yard punt return … Barrington has a couple of big-play receivers of its own in Scotty Miller and Dylan Bingham, who caught a 66-yard touchdown pass last week against Warren. Quarterback Daniel Kubiuk completed 18-of-33 passes for 188 yards and isn't afraid to tuck the ball and run, just like Stevenson quarterback Willie Bourbon, who rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown last week. But Jack Joseph and Nate King will get the bulk of the carries for Stevenson and Barrington, respectively. "In a way, Barrington kind of reminds us of us," McNamara said. "They've got a solid defense, they are skilled and athletic and they've got some pretty good balance on offense between the run and the pass. We're going to have to have all three phases going in order to win. We know Barrington is good and that it will be a challenge but the kids have shown a lot of energy this week. We've haven't gotten past the quarterfinals (since 2002). We really want to take that next step."
Next: Winner advances to the semifinals and will face the winner of No. 5 Maine South (9-2) at No. 1 Loyola Academy (10-1). That game kicks off at noon Saturday.
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 1 Lake Zurich Bears (10-1) at No. 5 Wheaton North Falcons (9-2)
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Road to the quarterfinals: In the first round, Lake Zurich def. Elk Grove, 35-6 and Wheaton North def. Glenbrook North, 53-7. In the second round, Lake Zurich def. Rockton Hononegah, 20-0 and Wheaton North def. Fenwick, 32-31.
Playoff history: 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…Wheaton North is making its seventh straight playoff appearance. The Falcons have won three state championships (1979, 1980, 1986.) Last season, Wheaton North was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Glenbard West, 3-0.
Skinny: Wheaton North requested Lake Zurich's game film of its regular season loss to Stevenson, a team that Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt says closely resembles Wheaton North. "When I watch Wheaton North, I feel like I'm watching Stevenson," Proffitt said. "They (Wheaton North) know now how we defended Stevenson. We're going to have to come at them with something different. It will be a challenge because they've got a Division I quarterback, a Division I receiver and a couple of underclassmen who will probably be Division I when it's all said and done. That's a good football team." Wheaton North quarterback Clayton Thorson is headed to Northwestern while receiver Matt Biegalski recently committed to Illinois State. Biegalski and Thorson made some key connections last week in Wheaton North's big comeback win over Fenwick. The Falcons were down by 25 points but Biegalski began to get open and wound up with 14 catches for 245 yards and 4 touchdowns. "Their quarterback can do it all. He can throw deep, he can throw short, he can run and he reads coverage very well," Proffitt said. "And (Biegalski) is big and fast just like (Stevenson wide receiver Matt Morrissey). Obviously, we've really been working on our pass coverage this week." … The Bears have also been trying to keep everyone in one piece at practice. They're poised to enter this game the healthiest they've been all season. Most of the players who have been in and out due to injury this season should be ready to go for Wheaton North. "It's seems like there's always been someone injured, and usually a lot more than just one or two guys," Proffitt said. "But we're finally getting healthy and we're thinking we'll have just about everyone, which is good because we're going to need everyone. There are guys who won't be 100 percent, but they'll be able to play." … Colton Wagner caught 2 touchdown passes from Lake Zurich quarterback Noah Allgood last week in a game that otherwise showcased the defenses. Lake Zurich managed just 8 first downs and 183 total yards while Rockton Hononegah finished with 137 total yards and 10 first downs. The shutout was the fourth of the season for the Bears, who are allowing just 7.6 points per game.
Next: Winner advances to the semifinals and will face the winner of No. 3 Glenbard West (10-1) at No. 2 Schaumburg (10-1). That game kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday.
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw