Class 8A semifinals
No. 1 Loyola Ramblers (11-1) at No. 6 Stevenson Patriots (10-2)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Road to the semifinals: In the first round, Loyola def. Chicago Lane, 48-7 and Stevenson def. St. Charles East, 35-7. In the second round, Loyola def. Notre Dame, 24-0 and Stevenson def. Glenbard North, 20-16. In the quarterfinals, Loyola def. Maine South, 35-0 and Stevenson def. Barrington, 14-0.
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…Loyola has made the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 seasons, with its only miss in 2002. The Ramblers have gotten to the semifinals in each of the last five years and placed second in the state in 2011, losing to Bolingbrook in the championship game, 21-17. In 1993, Loyola won the Class 6A state title.
Skinny: There's not much of a history between Stevenson and Loyola. The teams have faced each other in the postseason just once, a second-round game in 1990 that Loyola won 10-7. During the regular season, Stevenson and Loyola last met up in a two-game series about 10 years ago. "I can't even really remember playing Loyola," said Stevenson coach Bill McNamara, a longtime assistant for the Patriots before taking over as head coach four years ago. Safe to say McNamara and the Patriots will remember this matchup against Loyola. The winner gets a trip to the state championship, a game that Stevenson has played in only once in its otherwise rich history. "The kids are all excited and we've had some very spirited practices this week," McNamara said. "I think they're very aware of the magnitude of our game and of how good Loyola really is."…Loyola dominated perennial power Maine South last week, taking advantage of multiple Maine South turnovers. "Maine South had three or four interceptions and they put the ball on the ground a couple times," McNamara said. "It's a lesson to us that we have to take care of the ball against Loyola."…Jack Gleason had 3 interceptions for Loyola while Charlie Pontarelli had 2 sacks. Quarterback Jack Penn scored 4 touchdowns for the Ramblers and threw touchdown passes to Joe Dixon and Owen Buscaglia. Running back Julius Holley was Loyola's main threat on the ground. "They are a lot like us," McNamara said. "They are big and fast and they have lot of weapons."…Stevenson's most high-profile weapon, senior Michigan State recruit Matt Morrissey, will most likely play in this game. The wide receiver and cornerback sat out the last two games with a strained hamstring. "Matt's still not completely 100 percent, but he's been working really hard to get himself ready," McNamara said. "We're worried about him and we'll be careful with him, but there will be points in the game when we will have him on the field."…Quarterback Willie Bourbon, who went 5-for-8 for 85 passing yards in driving rains last week at Barrington, loves to pass to Morrissey, but has been connecting well with Cameron Green lately. Green caught a touchdown pass against Barrington, as did Morrissey's replacement, sophomore Jake Sorenson. Meanwhile, running back Jack Joseph was steady and a great neutralizer of the elements as he helped the Patriots control the ball and run clock in the second half. "Jack also did a great job punting the ball for us," McNamara said. "All of his punts were over 30 yards and that was in terrible conditions. But that was important because it helped us with field position, which is big in the playoffs. It will be big again against Loyola."
Next: Winner faces either No. 8 Marist or No. 7 Naperville Central on Saturday, Nov. 30 in the 7 p.m. Class 8A IHSA state championship game at NIU's Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
Class 7A semifinals
No. 1 Lake Zurich Bears (11-1) at No. 3 Glenbard West Hilltoppers (11-1)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Road to the semifinals: Road to the quarterfinals: In the first round, Lake Zurich def. Elk Grove, 35-6 and Glenbard West def. Machesney Park Harlem, 49-14. In the second round, Lake Zurich def. Rockton Hononegah, 20-0 and Glenbard West def. Conant, 34-7. In the quarterfinals, Lake Zurich def. Wheaton North, 16-6 and Glenbard West def. Schaumburg, 42-21.
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…Glenbard West won the Class 7A state championship last year, defeating Lincoln-Way East in the title game, 10-8. This is the Hilltoppers' seventh straight playoff appearance.
Skinny: Glenbard West has eliminated Lake Zurich from the playoffs in two of the last four seasons. But the Bears aren't hung up on past results. "We never bring up anything like revenge," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "We don't believe in that. We wouldn't teach our kids to approach life in revenge mode, so we wouldn't teach them to do that for football." Proffitt and his assistants instead prefer to work from within. He says they focus on teaching their kids to dig deep and play with heart, passion and selflessness. It's gone a long way this season. "We've played teams this season with more talent, teams that are faster and bigger than us," Proffitt said. "But we play with a lot of heart. And at no time have we played anyone who has played better than we did as a team. We feel very good about that."…The Bears also feel good about the way their defense continues to dominate games. Led by linebacker Colton Moskal and defensive back Sean Lynch, Lake Zurich held a powerful Wheaton North team to just 6 points last week. And Northwestern-bound quarterback Clayton Thorson had just 33 rushing yards and 87 passing yards. Lynch, who has been battling injuries all season, is getting healthier and will also be counted on in the backfield this week. Ditto for quarterback Noah Allgood, who often is more dangerous on the ground than through the air…The rushing game is also big for Glenbard West. "They run the ball as well as anyone we've faced this year," Proffitt said of Glenbard West. "Just when you think you've got a plan for them defensively, you watch more tape and you're like, 'Nope, that won't work.' The tough thing about them is that they're so diverse, just within the run game. They've have multiple formations and they're very tough to defend." Scott Andrews (172 yards, 21 carries against Schaumburg) and Devonte Toney (99 yards, 14 carries) will see the most reps but Jermon Joyner also gets worked into the running back rotation. Meanwhile, quarterback Drew Vogg keeps defenses off-balance as a threat to throw at any time. "Their quarterback has had a number of touchdowns this season off of play-action passes," Proffitt said. "They're like us in that they definitely use the run to set up the pass. We've got to be ready for everything."
Next: Winner faces either No. 1 Edwardsville or No. 2 Mt. Carmel on Saturday, Nov. 30 in the 4 p.m. Class 7A IHSA state championship game at NIU's Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.