CLASS 7ANo. 13 Lake Zurich Bears (8-2) at No. 4 Fenwick Friars (9-1) When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: Triton College
Last week: Lake Zurich def. Harlem, 40-0; Fenwick def. Hononegah, 31-10.
Playoff history: Lake Zurich has made 19 straight playoff appearances and 14 in the last 15 years. The Bears, won a state title in 2007 and placed second in 2006, 2010 and 2013, missed the playoffs in 2015 … Fenwick is making its 17th playoff appearance and its fourth in five years. The Friars missed the playoff last season with a 3-6 record.
Skinny: Long heralded for its stingy defense, which is allowing just 11 points per game, Lake Zurich has won three games in a row in part because its offense is playing some of its best football of the season, particularly in the passing game. The Bears shifted from a run-oriented offense to a spread offense prior to the season and junior quarterback Evan Lewandowski seems to be hitting his stride. "A big thing for us is the confidence that Evan has been playing with lately," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "It's been a great booster in his performance and it's so important for us because you can't be one-dimensional in the playoffs. The defenses are too good. We have to be able to pass. It takes the pressure off our run game, and it makes us more productive."…Lewandowski threw a touchdown pass last week while running back Joey Stutzman rushed for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns ... Proffitt says that Fenwick is a big-play offense, capable of putting a lot of points on the board. "We're going to have to control the ball on offense so that we can keep their offense off the field," Proffitt said … Last week, the Bears held Harlem to negative-10 total yards of offense and just 2 first downs.
Next: Winner advances to the quarterfinals and will face the winner of No. 28 Jacobs vs. No. 12 Batavia.
CLASS 6ANo. 7 DeKalb Barbs (8-2) at No. 2 Antioch Sequoits (10-0)When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Last week: DeKalb def. Marmion Academy, 35-20; Antioch def. Wauconda, 29-28.
Playoff history: DeKalb is making its eighth playoff appearance and its fourth straight. Antioch is making its 17th playoff appearance and its third in the last four years. The Sequoits missed the playoffs in 2015.
Skinny: There was a collective skip in the steps of the Sequoits as they met up at practice on Monday. They narrowly escaped a first-round upset by Northern Lake County Conference foe Wauconda and are hoping they can take that positive energy into Round 2. Antioch drove 97 yards in the final minute of the Wauconda game and needed a 2-point conversion to get a one-point win. "We were out of it. Fans in the stands, everyone thought we were done," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "But we came back from the dead. There was a smile on every guy's face on Monday. We've learned that we're not out of anything, no matter how dead you think we are. We can find ways to win tight games. I think that if we can keep this game (against DeKalb) tight, we'll find a win to win." … Of Antioch's 385 yards of offense last week, 353 came on the ground. The Sequoits were led by Brandon Lind (127 yards) and Hunter Price (124 yards). DeKalb, which runs an explosive spread offense, averages 38.1 points per game, tops in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference. Glashagel says that DeKalb's quarterback reminds him of former Libertyville star quarterback Riley Lees and that his team's best defense might be a ball-control offense. "We need to grind out first downs and control the clock," Glahsagel said. "If we were a basketball team, we'd need to make like 12 passes before we take a shot. If we get in a shootout, it won't happen for us. We need to have really long, controlled drives. We need to keep their offense off the field."
Next: Winner advances to the quarterfinals and will face the winner of No. 3 Cary-Grove vs. No. 6 Grayslake North.
No. 6 Grayslake North Knights (8-2) at No. 3 Cary-Grove Trojans (9-1)When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Last week: Grayslake North def. Lakes, 42-28; Cary-Grove def. Wheeling, 34-8.
Playoff history: Grayslake North is making its fifth overall and fifth straight playoff appearance. Cary-Grove is making its 23rd playoff appearance. The Trojans were Class 6A state champions in 2009 and placed second in 2012 and 2014.
Skinny: There's been a lot of references to Appalachian State this week at Grayslake North. In college football, Appalachian State has gladly taken on the identity of an underdog mid-major program that takes on major Division I teams and often beats them. "We're going to embrace that mentality, too, the underdog mentality," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "We're playing a very good program this week in Cary-Grove. People would see us at the underdog. But we are embracing that challenge. We don't have to beat them four times in a seven-game series. Just once and we are a good team, too, definitely good enough to win one game against anyone. We just need to believe we can win. For us, it's the mental part of it, not necessarily the physical." … Grayslake North, which boasts the stingiest defense in the Northern Lake County Conference and is allowing just 16.3 points per game, will be up against Cary-Grove's effective triple-option offense. "They aren't as big as they have been in the past, but they are very fast," Wood said of Cary-Grove. "They do what they do very well, but it can become monotonous to try to stop it. We're going to have to be very focused on defense." Led by three-year starter Tyler Pennington, Cary-Grove rushed for 365 yards last week against Wheeling. The Trojans passes for only 15 yards … Grayslake North is aiming to be more balanced offensively. Running backs Dami Oladunmoye and Griffin Gawenda combined for 388 rushing yards last week while quarterback Austin Martineau completed 8-of-15 passes for 2 touchdowns. Elliott Hochstein and Cole West are both dangerous receivers for the Knights. "We need to be aggressive offensively and we need to look to score and capitalize on opportunities," Wood said. "I think we need to put up at least 28 points to win this game."
Next: Winner advances to the quarterfinals and will face the winner of No. 2 Antioch vs. No. 7 DeKalb.
CLASS 5ANo. 7 Vernon Hills Cougars (7-3) at No. 15 Nazareth Academy Roadrunners (6-4) When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Last week: Vernon Hills def. Chicago Urban Prep/Bronzeville, 56-6; Nazareth def. Chicago Goode, 46-6.
Playoff history: Vernon Hills is making its 11th playoff appearance and its second straight. Nazareth is a two-time defending state champion, winning the Class 6A title in 2014 and the Class 5A title in 2015. This is the Roadrunners' 16th playoff appearance overall.
Skinny: Nazareth Academy is one of those "don't judge a book by its cover" teams. With its 5-4 regular season record, Nazareth didn't steamroll into the playoffs, but it certainly didn't limp in either. And Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo is making sure his players understand that. "Nazareth plays in a very touch conference, it's not a cupcake league at all," said Bellecomo, referring to the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which sent seven of its 10 teams to the playoffs. "That 5-4 record is deceiving. Their losses were close, and all of them were to playoff teams. And this is a team that is a two-time defending state champion." … Nazareth runs a Wing-T offense and loves to run the ball right at the defense. But the Roadrunners will be running up against the best defense in the entire Central Suburban League. Vernon Hills allows just 13.4 points per game, and had a shutout going for nearly the entire Urban Prep game last week … Quarterback Kyle Hull, who missed time early in the season, seems to be in a good groove now for Vernon Hills. He completed all 10 of his passes last week for 164 yards. Drew Winegardner and Quinn Geren are big targets for the Cougars.
Next: Winner advances to the quarterfinals and will face the winner of No. 14 Marian Central vs. No. 6 Hillcrest.