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By Dave Oberhelman
No. 6 Lake Forest (9-2) at No. 2 Batavia (10-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Lake Forest 27, No. 14 De La Salle 7; Batavia 48, No. 10 Rolling Meadows 13.
Outlook: Not since Week 2 against Richards has Batavia coach Dennis Piron sounded as wary against an opponent. Lake Forest's sole losses came to North Suburban Lake opponents still playing. "We're concerned about everything," Piron said. "We're impressed by their overall team but we think that they're in a league that as a whole is a defensive league. They, Lake Zurich and Stevenson represent their conference that kind of epitomizes defense. But don't get me wrong, they're very good on offense as well." Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli has taken the Scouts to the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons, including a semifinal berth last year and a second-round 31-17 loss to Batavia in 2011. "It's not so much fun when you're going through it," Spagnoli said of the North Suburban Lake, "but at this point of the year it's probably a benefit when you look at it in the rearview mirror." Batavia hopes to keep the main men in Lake Forest's Prostyle offense, quarterback Regis Durbin and tailback Hub Cirame, in front of them. Running behind three-year starting center Peter Durot and operating traps, screens and stretch plays out of various formations to keep a defense honest, Cirame has run 183 times for 1,215 yards and 22 touchdowns, Durbin adding 368 yards and 4 scores. Durgin has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards and 10 touchdowns, but also 8 interceptions. Cirame, good on screen plays, is the Scouts' leader in touchdown receptions with 8, but David Glynn is generally the top target, 39 catches for 487 yards. If this turns out to be close down the stretch, watch for Lake Forest kicker Kyle Gattari, who has made 10 of 14 field goal attempts. Piron is most impressed with Lake Forest's defense. "I'm very impressed by their speed level and by their overall tenacity, their communication, really all of the above," he said. "Very impressive, and fast, fast, fast." He called 6-foot-5, 235-pound linebacker Jack Kutschke -- whose 58 tackles are second to Jack Traynor's 73.5 -- "a nightmare." Outside linebacker Ben Audley leads Lake Forest with 4 sacks; safeties Geno Quaid (28 tackles) and Jack Yale (3 interceptions) are tough. Spagnoli knows Lake Forest will need everything it's got to try to contain Batavia's one-two punch of tailback Anthony Scaccia and fullback Kevin Green. Scaccia has set Bulldogs season rushing and touchdown records with 1,405 yards and 21 scores (27 total touchdowns); Green, coming on, averaged 6 yards a pop against Rolling Meadows. "If you are fortunate enough to slow that down," Spagnoli said, "they're dangerous through the air. That's a whole other issue. It's a bit of a two-headed monster. You've got to evaluate each series what you try to take away." Batavia quarterback Micah Coffey, targeting seven different receivers against Rolling Meadows, is 134-of-210 (64 percent) passing on the season for 1,836 yards, 23 touchdowns, 7 interceptions. Batavia's offense averages nearly 46 points, best in 6A. Combine that with linebacker Anthony Thielk surging with a team-high 78 tackles despite missing two games to injury, defensive ends Noah Frazier (9.5 sacks) and Josh Leonhard (9 sacks) each trying to eclipse Kevin MacFarland's 2006 program record of 10 sacks and the Dawg Pound may have lots to cheer despite stiff opposition. "We're home at Batavia, we're in front of our community, we think that's a good advantage," Piron said.
Next week: The winner advances to a 6A semifinal against the winner between No. 1 Rockford Boylan (11-0) and No. 13 Prairie Ridge (7-4).
No. 10 Aurora Christian (8-3) at No. 6 Seneca (9-2)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Aurora Christian 49, No. 15 Oregon 20; Seneca 46, No. 14 Robeson 14.
Outlook: This is a first-time meeting between Aurora Christian and the Seneca Fighting Irish, but there is a connection. Seneca second-year coach Ted O'Boyle, who took Flanagan to the playoffs nine of his 10 seasons there, is the nephew of Bill O'Boyle, a Western Illinois teammate of Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe; Bill O'Boyle also was a seven-year head coach at Beebe's alma mater, Chadron State. While Aurora Christian has won the last two Class 3A titles, Seneca searches for its first title since a 1990 2A championship; the Irish are the deepest in the playoffs since a 2000 3A quarterfinal appearance. Like much of the Interstate Eight Conference, where Seneca trailed only Wilmington in the Small Division, the Irish moved to a spread offense from old-school Wing-T and double-wing sets. Ted O'Boyle went to a single-back spread this year to take advantage of quarterback Bo Taylor (a House of Speed trainee) and running back Tommy Lovett. Both seniors, Taylor has run for 1,715 yards and 22 touchdowns and Lovett for 1,191 yards, 14 touchdowns. It is, however, a one-dimensional spread that has rushed for 3,183 yards and passed for just 422. Should Aurora Christian stymie Seneca's ground game that bodes well since Taylor has completed only 34 percent of his passes with 2 touchdowns, 7 interceptions. Aurora Christian defensive end Jackson Carpenter is most likely out injured, but defensive coordinator David Beebe may bring a linebacker such as Jon Czerwinski up to nose tackle and shift to a 4-man front from a 3-man. That gives at least one more player to hassle Seneca's right guard Chance Gonnam (290 pounds) and right tackle Brad Wyss (also with 106 tackles at middle linebacker, maybe the best Aurora Christian's seen this season, Don Beebe said). "We're going to have to play a perfect game and hope they make some mistakes and give us some turnovers," Ted O'Boyle said. Oregon had no luck last week on the turnover front against the Eagles. In fact, with another game to get his timing down after returning from injury, Aurora Christian quarterback Austin Bray enjoyed what Beebe called his top game this season: 8-of-11 passing for 235 yards, no interceptions and 2 touchdown passes to Brandon Walgren, 1 to tailback Legend Smith. Beebe said Seneca plays a blitzing defense that will bounce between 3-, 4- and 5-man fronts "sometimes in odd groupings." He noted: "This is where a veteran quarterback and a kid that's really smart -- like an Austin -- can check out of it." Like Aurora Christian, Seneca will have several key players going both ways -- Bo Taylor follows Wyss in tackles, and third is 6-foot-4 receiver-defensive end Austin Applebee, who has a team-high 12.5 sacks. They'll be spread sideline to sideline by Beebe's creative offensive calls, which have seen Walgren throw 2 touchdown passes out of a Wildcat formation in the first two playoff games. Should be fun. "They're going to have a lot of people there, we'll have a lot of people out, and that's the way it should be," Beebe said.
Next week: The winner advances to a 3A semifinal against the winner between No. 1 Winnebago (11-0) and No. 5 Stillman Valley (9-2).