No. 17 Benet (6-3) at No. 16 Maine West (7-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Benet 38, Carmel 21; Deerfield 31, Maine West 30.
Outlook: Benet's top priority is matching the energy of Maine West making its first playoff appearance since 2002. Last week's loss to Deerfield cost the Warriors the outright CSL North title, but they still enter the playoffs with momentum. Benet's defense has been tremendous, and the challenge this week comes from containing running back Jake Bellizzi, quarterback George Markakis and tight end Matt Kentgen. Connor Reid is among the many ballhawks in Benet's secondary. Week by week the Redwings have expanded the playbook for sophomore quarterback Colin Gillespie. Last week Thomas Snell became the latest player to step up at running back. The excitement is back in Des Plaines. And it should reach a fever pitch when Maine West hosts its first playoff game since 1993. Maine West's opportunistic defense led by Matt Litas, Jake Bellizzi, Krystian Garbicz, Nick Horcher and Isaih Siem-Davis forced 4 turnovers last week. They will need that kind of effort to slow down Gillespie, who stepped in quite nicely when starter Matt Boyle went down with an injury. Maine West has been getting terrific quarterback play from Markakis, who has thrown for 1,238 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tight end Matt Kentgen is his favorite target, while Bellizzi has been a force running the ball.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 32 Harlem at No. 1 Hononegah.
No. 10 Kaneland (6-3) at No. 7 Lindblom (8-1)
Game time: 4 p.m. Friday
Last week: Kaneland 55, Ottawa 12; Lindblom 48, Chicago Perspectives/Leadership Coop 7
Outlook: First-year coach Pat Ryan and staff have Kaneland back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. The Knights, co-champions of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, have won 4 straight and look to make some noise behind now-healthy quarterback Jack Douglas, who missed 2 midseason games. Last week the senior threw for 257 yards and 5 touchdowns without an interception in a 55-12 win against Ottawa. Four of those touchdown throws went to 6-foot-2 senior Josh Marczuk, who finished with 5 receptions for 141 yards. It marked the third time this season Marczuk amassed at least 141 receiving yards. Junior running Jonathan Alstott (178 yards, TD) and senior Trevor Jones (107 yards, 2 TD) led a rushing attack against Ottawa that chewed up 343 yards. "Our offense is clicking," Ryan said. "I feel we're running the ball well and throwing it well. Jack is healthy, the offensive line is playing well and the defense has pretty much been lights out since the DeKalb game." The Knights have held four opponents to 33 combined points since a 33-13 loss at DeKalb in Week 5. Lindblom boasts speed at multiple skill positions, but Kaneland should be able to control the line of scrimmage, in Ryan's opinion. "They have some really great athletes, including two wide receivers that are really good," he said. "They have a couple of good running backs, a bruiser type and a change-of-pace guy, and their quarterback throws a decent ball and he's athletic. They have some real dangerous weapons offensively. I think where maybe we have the advantage is up front on both sides of the ball."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 15 St. Viator (5-4) at No. Sterling (9-0).