The suspense was lifted Saturday night as high school football teams throughout the state learned their playoff matchups.
Ten of the 24 football-playing schools in the Fox Valley received postseason bids when pairings were released by the Illinois High School Association.
As was the case last year, Classes 7A and 8A will be true state tournaments with each field seeded 1-32.
That's not the case in Classes 6A and below, all of which are again split into brackets of 16. That means if there is a rematch of the season opener between No. 1 Prairie Ridge (9-0) and No. 3 Cary-Grove (8-1), it will happen in McHenry County, not Champaign.
Here's a look at each matchup.
No. 27 Lockport (6-3) at No. 6 St. Charles East (9-0): The Upstate Eight River champion Saints are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
These teams hosted a common opponent during the regular season: South Elgin (4-5). St. Charles East played the Storm in the season opener. The Saints held a 7-3 lead at the half and pulled away for a 39-9 win by outgaining South Elgin 271 yards to 161. Lockport defeated South Elgin 17-15 a week later but was outgained 400 total yards to 297.
No. 26 Maine South (6-3) at No. 7 West Aurora (9-0): The Upstate Eight Valley champion Blackhawks have reached the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1983-84.
Maine South has won five state championships since 1995, but these Hawks have 3 regular-season losses for the first time since 1991. They placed second in the Central Suburban North. The title went to New Trier (7-2). Though Maine South lost to the Trevians by 6 points, the Hawks led the league in scoring with 377 points (41.9 avg.).
No. 24 Huntley (6-3) at No. 9 Stevenson (8-1): Huntley played to the wire with Upstate Eight Valley champion West Aurora in a 27-21 loss in Week 6.
That experience could give the Red Raiders confidence against the North Suburban Conference champion Patriots, who went 7-0 against league foes. The only loss for Stevenson was a 28-20 setback against Palatine in the season opener.
The winner would likely fact No. 8 Brother Rice (8-1) in the next round.
No. 24 Carmel (5-4) at No. 9 St. Charles North (8-1): This is the third straight playoff appearance for the North Stars. They earned the No. 9 seed in Class 7A, just as they did in coach Rob Pomazak's first season, when their 8 wins included a first-round win over Rolling Meadows before they bowed out in the second round against Cary-Grove.
Carmel is one of seven teams in the 10-member East Suburban Catholic Conference to reach the playoffs. Three of the Corsairs' 5 victories came against playoff teams: Nazareth (5-4), Notre Dame (6-3) and Marian Central (5-4).
No. 28 Jacobs (5-4) at No. 5 Lincoln Park (8-1): Jacobs makes its second consecutive playoff appearance and its sixth in hall-of-game coach Bill Mitz's seven seasons leading the Golden Eagles.
This is the third straight postseason berth for Lincoln Park, which outscored its opponents by an average of 20.7 points per game.
No. 21 McHenry (6-3) at No. 12 Batavia (7-2): The Bulldogs make their seventh straight playoff appearance and their 20th overall. Though Batavia did not finish atop the Upstate Eight River for the first time in five seasons, several players with experience from last year's quarterfinal appearance remember the way.
McHenry is playoff bound for the first time since coach Tim Beagle led them to the postseason in 2007, which ended a 20-year streak.
No. 10 Marmion (6-3) at No. 7 DeKalb (7-2): The Cadets take on the Barbs, champions of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East.
Both teams have defeated four opponents that reached the playoffs. Likewise, DeKalb has defeated 4 playoff teams. They walloped Carmel (5-4) and Sycamore (5-4), defeated Morris (7-2) by a touchdown and lost the season finale by a point to Sterling (9-0).
No. 14 Wheeling (5-4) at No. 3 Cary-Grove (8-1): The Trojans are in the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year. They've reached at least the second round in each of their 12 previous appearances. Cary-Grove has won 8 straight since a season-opening loss to District 155 rival Prairie Ridge (9-0), which earned to top seed in the northern bracket of Class 7A.
The winner would face the winner of No. 6 Grayslake North (7-2) and No. 11 Lakes (6-3).
No. 12 Wheaton Academy (6-3) at No. 5 Aurora Central Catholic (8-1): These Metro Suburban Conference members were in the same division until ACC switched to the MSC Red this year. Wheaton Academy defeated the Chargers in the 2015 season finale 33-14.
Both private schools are used to beating the big boys. Wheaton Academy knocked off Class 8A neighbor West Chicago in Week 1. Aurora Central Catholic has defeated Riverside-Brookfield, the No. 5 seed in Class 6A, and Glenbard South, seeded No. 11 in 5A.
The winner would face defending Class 4A champion Chicago Phillips, which has reached consecutive title games.
No. 10. Westminster Christian (6-3) at No. 7 Stark County (6-3): The Warriors draw their second straight playoff bid in their fourth year of varsity football. Stark County's streak is a tad longer. The Rebels make their 21st straight playoff appearance, the last 12 under coach Jade Noard, who also coaches the boys basketball team.
Stark County was the Class 1A state runner-up a year ago. The Rebels lost to Arcola 35-17 in the state championship game.