By Kevin Schmit and Dave Oberhelman
No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor (10-0) at No. 20 Glenbard West (8-2)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Homewood-Flossmoor 49, No. 29 Evanston 21; Glenbard West 31, No. 13 Neuqua Valley 28.
Outlook: Glenbard West will face the most electric talent it's seen all season, but the Hilltoppers also boast quite a bit of electricity on offense. Quarterback Cole Brady quietly has emerged as an effective leader, throwing last week for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns. There's big-play potential with 6-foot-4 receiver Alec Pierce and dangerous red-zone play from 6-5 tight end Alex Pihlstrom, who caught 2 touchdown passes. With running backs Ryan Diver and Dre Thomas, the offense has become a handful. Defensively, the return from injury of linebacker Eric Samuta has settled down the entire unit. From Dionte Moorehead up front to Jackson Goleash at safety, Glenbard West must find a way to silence the Vikings. Last week quarterback Bryant Wright ran and threw for over 100 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns. Northern Illinois-bound Tyrice Richie, who also rushed for over 100 yards, is a threat in the run and the pass game for one of the five remaining unbeaten teams in Class 8A.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 8A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 5 Oswego and No. 12 Edwardsville.
No. 31 Waubonsie Valley (6-4) at No. 18 Lincoln-Way East (8-2)
Game time: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Waubonsie Valley 33, No. 2 Hinsdale Central 23; Lincoln-Way East 63, No. 15 seed Taft 15.
Outlook: Waubonsie Valley beat a top-3 seed in its first-round game a second straight year. Tight end Chuck Robinson set program records on 214 yards receiving and 4 touchdown catches as patient quarterback Tanner Westwood hit play-action passes. Giving Lincoln-Way North more to prepare for, Waubonsie got its most production all season from a veer-option halfback, Quaid Gill, who ran for 58 yards. Gaining turnovers on Robinson's fumble recovery and Josh Dominiak's interception was a crucial factor for advancement and also will be against this Class 8A preseason favorite. Due to Lincoln-Way North closing, tested Griffins coach Rob Zvonar gained players such as quarterback Jake Arthur, who has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,439 yards, 17 touchdowns out of a read-option scheme. Warriors coach Paul Murphy said it's not so different from his own offense, which benefits Warriors defensive lineman Marcus Francique, Eliase Quaye and the rest of the 4-3 scheme.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 8A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 26 Maine South and No. 10 Barrington.
No. 15 Glenbard North (8-2) at No. 2 East St. Louis (10-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Glenbard North 49, No. 18 Pekin 0; East St. Louis 44, No. 31 Lincoln-Way West 7.
Outlook: The last time these teams met East St. Louis beat the Panthers 48-6 to win the 1991 Class 6A championship. Glenbard North tuned up for this meeting by pounding Pekin for 418 yards rushing, including Vittorio Tricase's 202 yards and 4 touchdowns, Isaiah Hawkins' 161 yards, 2 TDs. The passing game was unnecessary then but will be here. Panthers quarterback Shane Conway has completed 59 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns, much of his yardage due to Jace James' 43 catches for 962 yards. James intercepted 2 Pekin passes last week for 11 picks on the season. Linemen Joe Perilli, Joe Vazquez and Co. face a Flyers defense that forces the pass and has 43 sacks. Fast as usual and outscoring foes by 36 points on average, East St. Louis boasts such college recruits as quarterback Reyondous Estes, running back Jarrell Anderson and receiver-cornerback Jeff Thomas, who leads the Flyers with 33 catches for 617 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 108 tackles, 3 interceptions.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 7A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 7 Glenbrook North and No. 23 Willowbrook.
No. 7 Glenbrook North (9-1) at No. 23 Willowbrook (7-3)
Game time: 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Glenbrook North 17, No. 26 Simeon 7; Willowbrook 34, No. 10 Quincy 13.
Outlook: By winning its first playoff game since 1990, the Warriors get to play host to their first playoff game since 1994. Expect Willowbrook to keep riding the two-way play of Jack Jessen, who last week rushed for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns while also standing out at linebacker. But he's able to get some room to run because of the balance the passing game has provided. Quarterback M.J. Ranieri has multiple receivers to throw to, a list headed by two more two-way players in Jon Kelso and Khalif Copeland. Even though Simeon held Glenbrook North to only 17 points, the Spartans averaged nearly 38 points a game in the regular season. Quarterback Kevin Burnside and running back Jimmy Karfis are the offensive leaders for the Central Suburban Conference North co-champions, who dropped their only game by a point to Vernon Hills. Glenbrook North hasn't advanced to the quarterfinals since 2004 while Willowbrook hasn't won two playoff games since 1990.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 7A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 15 Glenbard North and No. 2 East St. Louis.
No. 11 Benet (8-2) at No. 6 Normal Community (9-1)
Game time: 3 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Benet 29, No. 22 Hoffman Estates 23; Normal Community 20, No. 27 Belleville West 18.
Outlook: It wasn't the path Benet expected, but the Redwings gladly will take it into the second round. They focused on the positives of breaking out to a 23-0 halftime lead last week, as opposed to the 30-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run by Marty Dosen they needed to pull out the victory. This week Benet takes a two-hour bus ride Saturday morning in hopes of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012. Against talented Ironmen quarterback Grant Price in a spread, no-huddle attack, the Redwings need to keep up the pressure applied last week by lineman John D'Angelo and linebacker Ryan Liszka. Ballhawks like defensive backs Ben Cooney and Erik Jones won't hurt, either. As always, balance is the key with the Redwings' offense. Dosen notched another 100-yard rushing effort last week, and quarterback Jack Sznajder came up with a critical 62-yard touchdown strike to Michael Challenger. Normal Community seeks its second straight quarterfinal appearance.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 7A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 3 Rolling Meadows and No. 19 Lincoln-Way Central.
No. 1 Prairie Ridge (10-0) at No. 9 Montini (7-3)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Prairie Ridge 41, No. 16 Deerfield 0; Montini 41, No. 8 St. Ignatius 8.
Outlook: Projected 60-degree temperatures mark a contrast from the 2015 snowy semifinal when Montini's 22 unanswered points beat Prairie Ridge 35-27. Wolves quarterback Samson Evans' fumble returned for a Montini touchdown was huge, and Evans seeks retribution after rushing for 1,124 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. Owing most of his 711 yards passing and 13 touchdowns to receiver Austen Ferbet, Evans keys the Wolves' triple-option offense, the likes of which Montini has seen before. The Broncos look to present confusing defensive fronts and control the line of scrimmage. that's right up the alley of two-way linemen Joe Spivak and Michael Ross. Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp owns a 20-10 playoff record, won the 2011 Class 6A championship and presents a strong challenge to Montini's seven straight title-game appearances. Thus, in an all-hands-on-deck approach Broncos coach Chris Andriano anticipates running back Prince Walker and slot back Will Smith will play.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 6A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 13 St. Viator and No. 12 Lake Forest.
No. 8 Paxton-Buckley-Loda (9-1) at No. 1 IC Catholic Prep (10-0)
Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Paxton-Buckley-Loda 50, No. 9 Mercer County 2; IC Catholic Prep 49, No. 16 St. Joseph-Ogden 8.
Outlook: Considering it shares St. Joseph-Ogden's mission of ball control, Paxton-Buckley-Loda may be wary after IC Catholic needed just 18 plays in less than six minutes of possession to score 6 touchdowns, plus Lazerick Eatman's 74-yard kickoff return. Knights running back Jordan Rowell now ranks 14th on IHSA all-time records with 5,131 yards rushing, including 1,396 this season with 24 touchdowns. Should PBL load the box quarterback Luke Ricobene has completed 68 percent of his passes for 21 yards to just 5 interceptions. Keeping Rowell, Eatman and IC threats like receiver Khalil Saunders in front of them is the goal of a young PBL defense. Then again, coach Jeff Graham's Panthers have scored 42 or more points in six of their last seven games. It's a balanced attack, quarterback Dalton Coplea having passed for about 1,400 yards and running back Keenan Crabb rushing for 1,200. In the whomping of Mercer County, Crabb and receivers Andrew Zenner and Cole Eshleman each contributed about 100 yards.
Next week: The winner advances to a Class 3A quarterfinal game against the winner between No. 4 Wilmington and No. 5 Byron.