No. 20 West Aurora (7-2) at No. 13 Naperville Central (7-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last week: West Aurora 28, Geneva 24; Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21
Outlook: Former DuPage Valley Conference rivals renew acquaintances for the first time since 2013. The Blackhawks are in the playoffs for the third straight year, a new program record. They rebounded from a midseason mini-slump to win their final 3 games. West Aurora has a new look on offense since Week 8, when 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior Camron Donatlan debuted at running back after returning from injury. The reigning Class 3A state high jump champion has rushed 24 times for 352 yards and 5 touchdowns in wins over Bartlett and Geneva. Donatlan's big-play ability was demonstrated by scoring runs of 51 and 70 yards against Bartlett and 82 yards against Geneva. Naperville Central allows 20.9 ppg., though the defense limited playoff teams Glenbard North and Wheaton North to 7 points apiece. Offensively, coach Mike Stine's Redhawks average 34 points and 331 total yards per game. Junior quarterback Payton Thorne (6-foot-2, 180-pounds) has completed 60 percent of his passes (109 of 181) for 1,773 yards and 19 touchdowns and has been intercepted 5 times. Now-healthy running back A.J. Deinhart rushed for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against Lake Park to help seal the outright DuPage Valley Conference title. Up to that point the 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior had rushed for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns while playing through nagging midseason injuries. "The Thorne kid is the real deal and Deinhart is the real deal," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said, "Naperville Central is really good. Their offense is probably one of the best we'll see. Huntley and South Elgin were good and this team is right up there with the best of them. We're as confident as we can be but we respect our opponents so let's go play football." This is a different West Aurora program than the one that competed in the DuPage Valley from 1997 to 2013. The Blackhawks didn't have a winning season for 10 straight years before their current streak of three straight playoff berths.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 29 Lake Park (5-4) at No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1)
No. 24 Naperville North (6-3) at No. 9 Oswego (8-1)
Game time: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Naperville North 28, Wheaton Warrenville South 21; Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0.
Outlook: It's a classic confrontation between Naperville North's high-powered offense and Oswego's stingy defense. How stingy? The Panthers boast three shutouts, including last week's over Plainfield Central, and have allowed 54 points all season. Noah Shannon, an Iowa recruit, is the clear leader on the defensive line while Dayne Millard is a force at linebacker. The Panthers know they must slow the Huskies' passing game with quarterback Drake Davis, who's thrown for 2,491 yards. Nick Calcagno and Ryan Laurenzo have combined for 115 catches and 1,608 yards. Linebacker Ryan Marrano leads the Huskies in tackles despite missing time early in the year due to injury.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 25 Bloom at No. 8 Glenbard West.
No. 29 Lake Park (5-4) at No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21; Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14.
Outlook: The Lancers couldn't ask for a more challenging first-round matchup in their first playoff appearance since 2009. But after surviving their final season in the DuPage Valley, the Lancers couldn't be more prepared. Lake Park's the healthiest it's been all year, and the offense is humming with quarterback Jackson Behles, who has thrown for 1,700 yards. David Kirkpatrick-Hardwick has emerged in the ground game, rushing for 450 yards the last three weeks. Containing the Vikings' offense goes beyond Northern Illinois-bound running back Justin Hall, who also returns kicks, lines up in the slot and plays in the secondary. Lancers linebacker Gino Romano paces the defense with 115 tackles.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 20 West Aurora at No. 13 Naperville Central.
No. No. 29 Glenbard North (5-4) at No. 4 Batavia (8-1)
Game time: 6 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
Last week: Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14; St. Charles North 35, Batavia 28
Outlook: Forget the seeds. This should be a tight one between two future conference mates. Both join the new eight-team DuKane Conference next season. Batavia finished second in the Upstate Eight River, losing only to St. Charles North (8-1). The Bulldogs score 31.7 ppg and limit their opponents to 7.1 ppg. Glenbard North finished tied for fifth in the DuPage Valley Conference. They lost 37-7 to Naperville Central (7-2), 21-7 to Waubonsie Valley (4-5), 10-7 to Wheaton North (7-2) and 28-7 to Lake Park (5-4). The Panthers won their final 2 games to become playoff eligible. They score 19.7 ppg and allow 15.7. "Every single team in (the DuPage Valley) that makes the playoffs is capable of making playoff runs and is capable of beating any team in the state on a given night," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "They've had teams with multiple losses go to semifinals. This team plays smash-mouth and they're built for playoff football." The Panthers are led in rushing by junior Mark Finley (120 carries, 580 yards, 1 TD) and senior Jayleen Fitzpatrick (98-471-4). Senior quarterback Lee Rady (6-0, 185) has thrown for 710 yards and 13 touchdowns on 46-of-116 passing and has been intercepted 5 times. Rady will aim for Tyrik Henderson and Josh Flowers to prevent ace Batavia defenders like Luke Weerts and Michael Bautch from completely selling out against the run. Batavia's defense looks to adjust after St. Charles North exposed a vulnerability last week. The North Stars scored 35 points against a Batavia defense that had allowed 31 points in its previous 8 games. The Bulldogs expect another stiff challenge against Glenbard North, albeit a different style. "They have a great power offense with a tough run game behind a strong offensive line and a physical, good defense," Piron said. "That's their calling card." A low-scoring game would be to Glenbard North's benefit. Turn the ball over and it lets Bulldogs quarterback Riley Cooper command a freewheeling, multifaceted offense with no superstars but loads of talent.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 20 Fenwick (6-2) at No. 13 Wheaton North (7-2)
No. 20 Fenwick (6-3) at No. 13 Wheaton North (7-2)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Fenwick 31, De La Salle 28; Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10.
Outlook: Get ready for what might be the most-physical first-round game in the state. Wheaton North's offense makes no secret about its intent to pound the ball with running back Sam Singleton, who's rushed for 1,340 yards and 17 touchdowns. In addition to a strong line, the Falcons have additional punishing blockers with fullback Michael Jarosz and tight end Tyler Johnson. Fenwick's defense also must be wary of quarterback Rhett Netzer, who's thrown for 200 passing yards the last two weeks. Defensively the Falcons will focus on receiver Mike O'Laughlin and running back Jason Ivery. Trenton Hegranes had 3 of his 5 interceptions last week. Fellow Falcons safety Jackson Gray has 4 picks.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 29 Glenbard North at No. 4 Batavia.