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Class 7A semifinals
By Kevin Schmit
No. 1 Lake Zurich (11-1) at No. 3 Glenbard West (11-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Road to the semifinals: Lake Zurich beat No. 16 Elk Grove 35-6, No. 8 Hononegah 20-0 and No. 5 Wheaton North 16-6. Glenbard West beat No. 14 Harlem 49-14, No. 11 Conant 34-7 and No. 2 Schaumburg 42-21.
Playoff history: Lake Zurich is making its 17th playoff appearance and 12th straight. The Bears won the 2007 Class 7A title and finished second in 2006 and 2010. Glenbard West is making its 24th playoff appearance and seventh straight. The Hilltoppers are the defending 7A champions and also won the 5A title in 1983. They finished second in 1976 and 2009. This is the fourth playoff meeting in five years between the teams. Glenbard West won the previous three.
Outlook: Lake Zurich is a traditional defensive power, and this season is no different. The Bears boast four shutouts and have allowed only 12 points in the playoffs. Syracuse-bound linebacker Colton Moskal is the leader of a unit that relies on a handful of two-way players in its 3-5 scheme. It'll be a great matchup going against Glenbard West's dominating run game. Scott Andrews, who's rushed for 1,444 yards and 27 touchdowns, is the speed demon in the backfield. Jermon Kindle Joyner also offers speed and athleticism. Fullback Devante Toney's game is strictly power. Together they've combined for nearly 2,300 of the team's 3,600 yards on the ground in front of a line led by North Carolina State-bound Eric Shute. The Bears can't be too focused on the run, though, because Hilltoppers quarterback Drew Vogg will burn them on play action with receivers Luke Domask and Hayden Carlson. The game plans will look pretty similar on the other side of the ball, including similarities with the 3-5 defense. As good as the Hilltoppers have been on defense, they'll finally be nearly at full strength thanks to the return from injury of linebacker Austin Warden. Fellow linebacker Grant Greeno missed the Conant game, but he returned last week. And because of the better health on offense -- fullbacks Donahvon Vaughn and Sam Brodner are back in the lineup -- it'll allow Toney to see more time on the defensive line. There may be no defensive back in the state better at combining run support and pass coverage than Carlson. Lake Zurich is outstanding at distributing the ball in the ground game, although Sean Lynch is the closest thing to a go-to back. Lake Zurich's big offensive improvement this season has been in the pass game with quarterback Noah Allgood. Like with Glenbard West, the Bears can be awfully dangerous in play action.
Intangibles: There won't be any secrets between these teams. Not only do they play similar styles, but they've seen each other just about every postseason in recent years. Because of that, execution is this game's biggest key. How will the grass surface of Duchon Field hold up? It may be dry but rock solid due to the cold temperatures.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A championship game to face Saturday's winner between Mt. Carmel (11-1) and Edwardsville (12-0).