No. 6 St. Charles East (11-0) at No. 3 Palatine (11-0)When: 5 p.m. Saturday
How they got here: St. Charles East defeated No. 27 Lockport 45-0 and No. 22 New Trier 17-10; Palatine defeated Notre Dame 34-0 and Lyons 20-17 in OT.
Outlook: One of these teams becomes an undefeated semifinalist. Upstate Eight River champion St. Charles East likes to control the clock with the triple option offense directed by senior quarterback Zach Mitchell, who has rushed for almost 800 yards and thrown for over 900. The Saints were ranked No. 8 in Class 8A in the last Class 8A poll. Mid-Suburban League West champion Palatine, ranked third in 8A and No. 1 in the Daily Herald Top 20, limits opponents to 14.9 points per game. "They're a really good team and they're ranked where they are for a reason," St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said. "They are a very athletic, physical team. It's not the biggest defense, but they are quick to the ball, fundamentally sound, strong and physical." The Pirates score 37.8 points per game, but they are adjusting to new on-field leadership. All-state quarterback Zach Oles was lost to a broken collarbone in the opening-round playoff win over Notre Dame. Junior DJ Angelaccio finished that game and guided Palatine last week to a 20-17 overtime win at Lyons. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 178 yards and he rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. A St. Charles East defense that thrives on turnovers will try to give Mitchell and the offense short fields. The Saints have caused 16 more turnovers than they've committed. Last week they recovered 2 fumbles inside the 5-yard line to deny New Trier. Such rips don't happen by accident. "We preach 'Get the ball,'" Farquhar said. "It's something you try to coach but in-game that's hard. It's something players learn in time in practice, players like (senior outside linebacker) Sam Grohe who have been on varsity for three years. Players like that have seen it all and have a lot invested in this program knowing every game could be their last. They just want to survive."
Next: The winner advances to a semifinal against the winner of No. 26 Maine South (8-3) at No. 18 Lincoln-Way East (9-2)
No. 1 Loyola Academy (11-0) at No. 24 Huntley (8-3)When: 1 p.m. Saturday
How they got here: Loyola defeated No. 32 O'Fallon 42-14 and No. 16 Oswego East 22-3; Huntley defeated No. 9 Stevenson 21-20 and No. 25 Fremd 38-30.
Outlook: Huntley gets its shot to upset No. 1 after advancing to a quarterfinal for the second time in school history, the first time in Class 8A. The Ramblers finished the regular season ranked atop the 8A Associated Press poll. Huntley finished third in the Fox Valley Conference, which has four teams playing in quarterfinals (Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove and Jacobs are the others). Loyola won the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division by sweeping perennial powers Brother Rice, St. Rita, Providence and Mt. Carmel. The Ramblers also notched a 1-point win over Maine South. Loyola is led by 6-foot-5, 235-pound Duke recruit Jake Marwede. Ranked 127th on ESPN's list of the nation's top seniors, the versatile athlete lines up at tight end, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback, the slot, etc. "He's going to be a headache. He's our main focus," Zimolzak said. "He has all kinds of ability, so we need to focus a whole lot of our attention on him." Huntley's coach said his offense "will take what their defense gives us." Last week, Fremd gave Huntley quarterback Eric Mooney room to rush for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries. He also completed 9 of 15 attempts for 206 yards. Senior Jacob Rodgers grabbed 5 receptions for 89 yards and junior Ryan Antonsen caught a 42-yard touchdown pass. Loyola's defense last week stifled Iowa-bound running back Ivory Kelly-Martin of Oswego East, holding him to 33 yards rushing. Zimolzak said the inner belief his team developed over the course of its 5-game winning streak makes the Red Raiders dangerous against any opponent regardless of pedigree. "It's not so much the guys are excited about who we're playing as much as how well we're playing together," Zimolzak said. "I think the key to our success lately is being able to count on each other. That's where our team has improved in the last few games, knowing everyone is doing their jobs and playing good sound football. To us, it's really about us."
Next: The winner advances to a semifinal against the winner of No. 20 Glenbard West (9-2) at No. 12 Edwardsville (10-1)
No. 4 Fenwick (10-1) at No. 28 Jacobs (7-4)When: 3 p.m. Saturday
How they got here: Fenwick defeated No. 29 Hononegah 31-10 and No. 13 Lake Zurich 20-14; Jacobs defeated No. 5 Lincoln Park 51-8 and No. 12 Batavia 28-14
Outlook: Jacobs attempts to secure the first semifinal berth in school history. The Friars, champions of the Chicago Catholic League's Green Division, make their second quarterfinal appearance in three seasons. Fenwick made a 20-14 halftime lead stand up last week against Lake Zurich when linebacker Brett Moorman intercepted a pass in the final minutes to seal the victory. Last week's offensive output of 20 points was Fenwick's lowest of the season. The Friars average 37.3 points per game. The attack is led by senior quarterback Jacob Keller, a 6-foot-4, 195 pound multisport athlete. Also a point guard with a couple of offers from mid-major Division-I basketball programs, the mobile QB has drawn football offers from Eastern Michigan, Missouri State and Northern Iowa, according to his Twitter page. His top receivers are Sherman Martin III (6-2, 190) and Mike O'Laughlin (6-5, 207). Keller has thrown 23 touchdowns. Against Lake Zurich, he completed 10 of 19 attempts, including a 36-yard touchdown pass to Sherman Martin III. He also ran for a 1-yard touchdown. "They've got two wide receivers who are very good athletes who go to the ball very well," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "The quarterback is a good player, but we've seen a lot of good quarterbacks this year in our league. We have to contain him. He has a good arm and can throw the ball a long way. But so can our guy." Jacobs' "guy" is Chris Katrenick, committed to Bowling Green. The third-year varsity starting quarterback has completed 136 of 266 passes for 2,092 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has thrown 7 interceptions. Keller has thrown 4. A key factor for Jacobs has been the emergence of junior running back Loren Strickland, who in 2 playoff wins has rushed 18 times for 206 yards and 5 touchdowns, caught 2 touchdown passes for 82 yards and returned a kickoff 75 yards for another score. Meanwhile, the defense is peaking. That unit held high-scoring Batavia 22 points below its season average. "With each game we play we get a lot more confident, there's no doubt," Mitz said. "That game last Saturday was a big boost for our confidence beating a team of that caliber. I think we made some heads turn. We've got another opportunity this week."
Next: The winner advances to a semifinal against the winner of No. 8 Rockford Auburn (10-1) at No. 16 Plainfield North (9-2)
No. 3 Cary-Grove (10-1) at No. 7 DeKalb (9-2)When: 1 p.m. Saturday
How they got here: Cary-Grove defeated No. 14 Wheeling 34-8 and No. 6 Grayslake North 56-7; DeKalb defeated No. 10 Marmion 35-20 and No. 2 Antioch 36-3.
Outlook: A win would send Cary-Grove to its third straight semifinal and fourth in five seasons. To make that happen, the Trojans must contain 6-foot-1, 180-pound DeKalb quarterback Derek Kyler, who has 4.68 speed. He has thrown for 1,620 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 692 yards and 6 scores, mostly out of the pistol formation. "He's very elusive and very good at throwing to the spot they need him to throw the ball to," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "He distributes the ball, but he'll run the ball, too. Not to take anything away from their nice corps of receivers and a real nice running back, but (Kyler) is really the key to their offense." Getting pressure on Kyler is the job of Cary-Grove defensive linemen Jordan Laktas, Jake Kuhl and DJ Gajewski. Tyler Pennington, playing full time at linebacker, will try to keep Kyler from scrambling for running room. Offensively, the Trojans last week rushed for 403 of their 487 yards, paced by Pennington's 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. Quarterback Bobby Collins ran for 2 short touchdowns. A Cary-Grove triple-option offense that scores 43.4 points per game takes on a DeKalb defense that limits opponents to 18.2 ppg. "They are right up there with Huntley as far as size," Seaburg said of DeKalb's defensive front. They have some big guys up front and they're physical and athletic. Their edge defenders are athletic as well. They are just a good, solid team."
Next: The winner advances to a semifinal against the winner of No. 12 Lake Forest (8-3) at No. 1 Prairie Ridge (11-0)