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Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 10/25/2017 9:24 PM

Huntley's Zion doesn't punt much, but he sure can score

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  • St. Charles East's Clayton Isbell celebrates a touchdown against St. Charles North earlier this season. Isbell and the Saints open the Class 8A playoffs at Oswego East Saturday night.

      St. Charles East's Clayton Isbell celebrates a touchdown against St. Charles North earlier this season. Isbell and the Saints open the Class 8A playoffs at Oswego East Saturday night.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

Chase Zion is Huntley's punter but you'd never know it based on recent results.

The Red Raiders have not punted since Week 4.

"He keeps practicing just in case," Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said.

Zion rarely punts because Huntley averages 466 total yards and 46 points per game, led by quarterback Eric Mooney, running back Melvin Aninagyei-Bonsu, wide receiver Ryan Antonsen and a strong offensive line.

All that scoring means Zion sees the field plenty as Huntley's place-kicker. Through Week 9 he was the top scoring kicker in Illinois with 59 points, according to Maxpreps.com. The 5-foot-11, 148-pound senior has drilled 50 of 50 extra points and 3 of 3 field goal attempts.

Class 8A dark horse: St. Charles East ultimately finished third in the Upstate Eight River behind champion St. Charles North and second-place Batavia, but little separated the division's top three.

St. Charles North defeated Batavia 35-28 in the regular-season finale and knocked off the Saints 35-34 in overtime in Week 4.

Batavia blanked St. Charles East 7-0 in Week 5, but that result might have been different had East quarterback Clayton Isbell been at full strength. He hobbled through the game while battling an ankle sprain.

Isbell should be more mobile when No. 17 St. Charles East (7-2) visits No. 16 Oswego East (7-2) in a Class 8A playoff opener Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

"He'll be ready to go," East coach Bryce Farquhar said Wednesday. "He's improved quite a bit."

The Saints face a steeper playoff road than a year ago, when they finished the regular season 9-0 and advanced to a Class 8A quarterfinal. If they get past Oswego East, they would likely host No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (9-0) in the second round. Spring that upset and No. 8 Glenbard West (8-1) could be waiting in a quarterfinal.

"That's just the way it is in 8A," Farquhar said. "You're not going to catch a break anywhere."

No hit zone: Less has meant more in the case of the Marmion Cadets this season.

Specifically, less hitting in practice.

Coach Dan Thorne has talent on the roster but little depth with a total of 33 varsity players. The Cadets play multiple starters both ways so injury prevention has been a team priority.

To that end, Marmion stopped hitting in practice in the second week of the regular season. The Cadets have practiced in helmets and shoulder pads since. They lost their final 4 games of the season against full-platoon Chicago Catholic League opponents, but the roster remains mostly intact as the playoffs begin.

No. 14 Marmion travels to Palos Heights to face No. 3 Shepard (8-1) in a Class 6A first-round game Friday at 7:30 p.m.

"The key for us was to get to this point healthy," Thorpe said. "The kids didn't really like it but we were getting banged up in practice so we had to go just helmets and shoulder pads. We had to change. I don't think our tackling or anything was impacted in the games on Friday night by doing that."

This isn't the first time Thorpe has halted hitting in practice.

"I've actually been doing that for many years," he said. "I learned a long time ago that we have to be physical on Friday night. We don't have to be physical on Tuesday going against the sophomores."

Give us a minute, coach: Aurora Christian (5-4) is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, propelled in part by a players-only meeting at halftime of a Week 6 game at Bishop McNamara, fourth-year coach David Beebe said.

Trailing the Fightin' Irish 28-15 at halftime, the players asked Beebe and staff to step out of the locker room so they could discuss the state of affairs among themselves. The meeting had the desired effect. The Eagles scored 40 unanswered second-half points to win 55-28.

"That game is the difference in our season and that's why we're in the playoffs," Beebe said. "Now, every time they say that, of course, I get out of the way."

No. 16 Aurora Christian visits No. 1 Sterling Newman Catholic (9-0) in a Class 2A first-round game on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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