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Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
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updated: 10/28/2016 1:01 PM

Football: Scouting Week 1 of the playoffs, Northwest

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  • Jason Shannon and his Wheeling teammates travel for a tough Class 6A test at Cary-Grove on Friday night.

      Jason Shannon and his Wheeling teammates travel for a tough Class 6A test at Cary-Grove on Friday night.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

CLASS 8ANo. 23 Leyden (7-2) at No. 10 Barrington (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Playoff history: Leyden 8th appearance (7-6), Barrington 22nd appearance (23-21)

Playoff meeting: 1998: Barrington 21, Leyden 20

Outlook: The only playoff matchup that will feature two area teams. Leyden, which has won its last 5 games, thought from the start of the season that it could win the West Suburban Gold. And coach Tom Cerasani's team delivered. Michael Wilms leads the Eagles with 1,065 yards on the ground. Donovan Brown has rushed for 695 yards while Jalen Moore has been solid running the ball for the Eagles with 370 yards. After losing to Palatine in Week 8, Barrington exploded into the playoffs with a season-high 54 points in Week 9. The Broncos features one of the most potent 1-2 rushing punch in quarterback Ray Niro, who has rushed for 1,206 yards and Logan Moews, who has gained 1,179 yards. And when teams stack the line, Barrington has been able to find Josh Babicz, who has 38 catches for 471 yards.

No. 30 Notre Dame (6-3) at No. 3 Palatine (9-0) When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Playoff history: Notre Dame 17th appearance (12-16), Palatine 21st appearance (27-20)

Playoff meetings: Never met

Outlook: After losing last November in the state semifinals, Palatine could not wait to get back to the playoffs. The Pirates did in style, going undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1997. Palatine has been dynamite on offense, averaging over 40 points per game. Zach Oles is the trigger, having thrown for 1,888 yards and 18 touchdowns. Despite having teams keying on him with the zone-read, Oles has rushed for 487 yards. Oles has handed to running back Josh Turner, who has delivered with 823 yards and has rushed for over 100 yards in his last 2 games. Notre Dame and legendary coach Mike Hennessey make their second trip to the NW burbs after beating St. Viator last week. The Dons have lost 2 of their last 4 games and most recently won in the Class 8A playoffs in 2013 against Fremd.

No. 25 Fremd (5-4) at No. 8 Brother RiceWhen: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Playoff history: Fremd 26th appearance (14-25), Brother Rice 18th appearance (23-18)

Playoff meeting: Never met

Outlook: Fremd is playing its best football right now and has outscored opponents 142-28 over the last 3 games. Rice would have preferred to play the game Friday night, but Fremd wasn't looking forward to a long ride through Friday afternoon traffic and ended up with a Saturday contest. The Vikes will have their hands full when they arrive, as Brother Rice lost its first game last week to Loyola. Fremd's defense, led by Jimmy Walsh, Zach Nemec, Myles Messner, Austin Schwantz, Luke Bilek, Will McCabe and Nick Rattin, will need to slow down Crusader quarterback Dino Borelli and wide receiver Ricky Smalling.

CLASS 7ANo. 30 Thornwood (5-4) at No. 3 Rolling Meadows (9-0)When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Playoff history: Rolling Meadows 17th appearance (8-16), Thornwood 7th appearance (7-6)

Outlook: Meadows has advanced to the playoffs the last six years and 13 times in the last 14 years. The Mustangs have won just one playoff game in the last 7 seasons, but should be poised for a deep run this year. They are averaging 36 points with an offense led by quarterback Asher O'Hara, who has thrown for 1,126 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kevin Lacosse has rushed 702 yards. The defense has been equally impressive, having allowed just 64 points all season. The defense and special teams have actually scored 50 points this year with 3 interception returns, 4 blocked punts, a fumble return and safety. Thornwood qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Thunderbirds have done it with defense, pitching three shutouts -- including their final game of the season, which they needed to win in order to qualify this year.

No. 22 Hoffman Estates (6-3) vs. No. 11 Benet (7-2) at Benedictine UniversityWhen: Friday, 7 p.m.

Playoff history: Hoffman Estates 7th appearance (2-6), Benet 20th appearance (19-19)

Playoff meetings: Never met

Outlook: Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci wanted his team to be ready for their first playoff appearance in 22 years. So much so, he benched his starters last week to ensure that he had a healthy team. The hall of fame coach will find out if his unusual strategy will pay dividends. But make no mistake; this is a Hoffman Estates team that belongs in the postseason. Before last week, the Hawks averaged 34 points per game with quarterback Austin Coalson, who has thrown 19 TD passes, and wide receiver Jaylan Alexander, who has 51 catches, leading the way. Benet is makings its fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs. The Redwings finished second in the East Suburban Catholic and average nearly 30 points per game.

CLASS 6ANo. 14 Wheeling (5-4) at No. 3 Cary-Grove (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Playoff history: Wheeling 7th appearance (1-6), Cary-Grove 21st appearance (42-21)

Playoff meeting: Never met

Outlook: Wheeling is making its first trip to the playoffs since 2008, thanks to winning their final 4 games of the season. The Wildcats have been on a roll during that span, outscoring their opponents 95-14. Jalen Dennis has been the cog that has the Wheeling offense operating in high gear. Dennis is coming off of a 412-yard passing performance and has thrown for 1,423 yards and 9 touchdowns. That could bode well for the Wildcats because typically Fox Valley teams have difficulty defending against the pass. Cary-Grove is making its 13th consecutive playoff appearance. The Trojans can be dangerous against teams unfamiliar with their double-wing option offense. Cary finished second in the Fox Valley this season to Prairie Ridge.

No. 13 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 4 Rockford Boylan Catholic (8-1)When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Playoff history: St. Viator 17th appearance (7-16), Boylan 31st appearance (52-28)

Playoff meetings: Never met

Outlook: St. Viator is back in the playoffs after a one-year absence. But the Lions aren't roaring in after losing their last two games. Still it was difficult to contain the excitement from first-year head coach Dave Archibald. "We are really excited to be in the playoffs," Archibald said. "This senior group has worked to overcome a tough season last year." St. Viator features a dynamic offense with tight end Cole Kmet, who is coming off a 10-reception, 201-yard game, and running back Darreontae Jackson has rushed for 958 yards this year. Boylan is making is also back in the playoffs after missing last year to end a streak 11 consecutive years. The Titans, who are the only private school in the NIC-10, won the conference title this year thanks to a defense that allowed just over 13 points per game.

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