The good news for the brand new Northern Lake County Conference is that it is very well-represented in the high school football state playoffs.
Half of the league's eight teams made the 256-team, eight-class field, which was announced on Saturday by the IHSA.
The bad news is, they're all playing each other. So after next weekend, only 2 of the league's four playoff teams will still be around.
"It's like the IHSA thought we were the old Catholic League and were like, 'We've got to get these guys out of here,' so they put us all against each other," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said with a big laugh.
"The natural thing for the playoffs is that you're excited to play someone new, so you don't get that playing a team from your conference. But it's still good for the conference. It's a compliment to the new conference that four teams got it."
Antioch won the Northern Lake County Conference with a perfect 7-0 record in league play and a 9-0 record overall, its first undefeated season since its 2008 team advanced to the state semifinals. The Sequoits are seeded No. 2 in Class 6A and will host fellow NLCC member Wauconda, the No. 15 seed. The Bulldogs went 5-4 and qualified for the playoffs on points with 42.
In Week 3, Antioch squeaked by Wauconda, 33-29 for its narrowest win of the season. On the season, Antioch defeated its opponents by an average of 21.1 points per game.
"It was a tale of two halves," Glashagel said of the regular-season win over Wauconda. "We had an explosive first half and they had a really good second half.
"We won the game, but we weren't happy with it at all. It was the most silent in the team room after a win I've ever seen. The kids weren't happy, the staff wasn't happy. We weren't happy with how we played, so if anything, I think that will help with our preparation. Even though we won that game, our kids aren't going to overlook anyone, especially Wauconda. They know what they're going to be in for."
Ditto for Grayslake North and Lakes. Those two Northern Lake County Conference teams also made the 6A field, and they are going up against each other.
No. 6 Grayslake North (7-2) will host No. 11 Lakes (6-3) at 7 p.m. on Friday. Lakes defeated Grayslake North during the regular season, 31-14 in Week 3.
"We're not going to have to say much (to the players)," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "They have all the motivation they need. It's the playoffs, but they also get a rematch against a team that beat them this season, and it's a team that is a huge rival for us."
Wood often points out that contrary to popular belief, sister school and cross-town foe Grayslake Central isn't necessarily Grayslake North's biggest rival. Lakes could just as easily hold that title.
"Lakes is a huge rivalry for us because most of our kids actually go to middle school with the kids from Lakes, and a lot of them play youth football with those Lakes kids," Wood said. "All the Grayslake North and Lakes kids know each other so this is always a big game for us.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere on Friday. We are so excited about it. We did not play well against them at all earlier in the season. We had a lot of penalties, we had opportunities to score and we didn't. They just beat us, and we are very motivated."
Speaking of new conferences, Vernon Hills made a big statement in its new conference, the Central Suburban North.
The Cougars were in a position to win the league title, but fell just short in Friday's 14-9 loss to Highland Park. A win would have given Vernon Hills at least a share of the title. Instead Highland Park and Glenbrook North shared it.
Vernon Hills finished the regular season with a 6-3 record and earned the seventh seed in Class 5A. The Cougars will be hosting No. 10 Chicago Urban Prep/Bronzeville (6-3).
"Our kids were obviously upset (on Friday night) because they really wanted to win the conference," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "It was a game we could have won. We doubled them up in yardage, but we had two interceptions in the fourth quarter when we were driving.
"But the good thing is that we are really battled-tested. This whole year, we've played pretty much all 6A schools, and two 7A schools and an 8A school. Now we're dropping into 5A and finally getting to play teams our size. We feel really good about that."
So what does Bellecomo and his staff know about Urban Prep?
"We know nothing about them right now," Bellecomo said with a laugh.
But Vernon Hills has help on the way. Former star running back Vinne DeFrancesco, who gained more than 1,000 yards for Vernon Hills during the 2005 season, is now the head coach at Lincoln Park, also a Chicago Public League school. He's going to help Vernon Hills with a scouting report.
"Vinnie texted me and said he can help us with some information," Bellecomo said. "He's actually seen Urban Prep play. That will help."
It certainly will be a help to Libertyville that there is a familiarity already there with its first-round playoff foe.
The Wildcats (5-4) are seeded No. 32 in Class 7A and will face undefeated (9-0) and No. 1 Bradley-Bourbonnais. Last year, Libertyville defeated Bradley-Bourbonnais in a memorable "snow-out" game in Bradley in the state semifinals.
"They were young last year, so they have a lot of guys back, and they're talented," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said of Bradley-Bourbonnais. "They had a great year this year, like last year was kind of (a springboard) for them. This will be a big challenge for us."
Part of the challenge for Libertyville was just getting into the playoffs in the first place.
With just 5 wins, the Wildcats qualified on points, but barely had enough of them with 38. Only three other 5-4 teams in the entire field had fewer playoff points than Libertyville, and all three were at 37 points.
"We're just happy to be here," Jones said. "But that being said, I do think we are a very good 5-4 team. We've been in every game, we just had some tough situations, like an overtime loss, and we also had quite a few injuries this year.
"But we are pretty healthy now and I think we're going to be able to compete with anyone."
Two other Daily Herald area teams made the Class 7A field.
No. 13 Lake Zurich (7-2) will host No. 20 Machesney Park Harlem (6-3) and No. 24 Carmel (5-4) will visit No. 9 St. Charles North (8-1). Carmel had the second-most playoff points of the 52 teams that made the field with a 5-4 record. The Corsairs finished with 53 playoff points.
In Class 8A, No. 9 Stevenson (8-1) takes an eight-game winning streak into its home playoff game against No. 24 Huntley (6-3). The Patriots have not lost since their season opener against Palatine (28-20).
Also from Lake County in Class 6A are No. 16 Deerfield (at No. 1 Prairie Ridge) and No. 12 Lake Forest (at No. 5 Riverside-Brookfield).
Highland Park made the Class 7A field. The No. 17 Giants will travel to No. 16 Plainfield North.
First-round playoff matchups
No. 7 Vernon Hills (6-3) vs. No. 10 UP / Bronzeville (6-3)
No. 5 Riverside-Brookfield (7-2) vs. No. 12 Lake Forest (6-3)
No. 2 Antioch (9-0) vs. No. 15 Wauconda (5-4)
No. 6 Grayslake North (7-2) vs. No. 11 Lakes (6-3)
No. 1 Bradley-Bourbonnais (9-0) vs. No. 32 Libertyville (5-4)
No. 9 St. Charles North (8-1) vs. No. 24 Carmel (5-4)
No. 13 Lake Zurich (7-2) vs. No. 20 Harlem (6-3)
No. 9 Stevenson (8-1) vs. No. 24 Huntley (6-3)