No. 13 Naperville Central (8-2) at No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor (9-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Naperville Central 35, No. 20 West Aurora 14; Homewood-Flossmoor 28, No. 29 Lake Park 7.
Outlook: Naperville Central's found success against 3-5-3 defenses, and this is another crack at it. Even with receivers Tommy Coyne and Jared Suchevits out with injuries, Redhawks quarterback Payton Thorne, who's thrown for 1,924 yards, found Jayden Reed in space last week. A.J. Deinhart continues to run for tough yardage behind lineman Luke Hallstrom. Everyone knows Northern Illinois-bound Justin Hall is the player to stop for the Vikings, but good luck doing it. Last week he rushed for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns. He's also dangerous on special teams. Lavar Archibald and the Redhawks' defensive line will try slowing him while the offense, which ran only 44 plays last week, will try to keep him off the field.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 8A quarterfinals against the winner between No. 5 Maine South and No. 21 Warren.
No. 13 Wheaton North (8-2) at No. 4 Batavia (9-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Wheaton North 35, No. 20 Fenwick 7; Batavia 21, No. 29 Glenbard North 7.
Outlook: Batavia has the strange opportunity to eliminate future DuKane Conference rivals, and current DuPage Valley Conference members, in consecutive weeks. The challenge is similar for the Bulldogs' defense and linebacker Luke Weerts, who must slow the Falcons' punishing ground game of Sam Singleton, who's rushed for 1,460 yards. Aside from allowing 35 points to St. Charles North, the Bulldogs have allowed only 38 points in nine games. Batavia's offense is headed by quarterback Riley Cooper, who last week threw 3 touchdown passes, but the Bulldogs line up in a number of different formations and personnel packages. De'Quan Ramsey anchors the Falcons up front and safety Jackson Gray in the back.
Batavia's defense returned to form last week. The Bulldogs gave up more points in their regular-season finale loss to St. Charles North (35) than they had in their previous 8 games (31), but a solid performance against Glenbard North in the playoff opener was a confidence boost. "I thought they did a really good job against Glenbard North," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of his defenders. "They were very proud of where the were at in the season. St. Charles North is obviously a very good football team, but our kids felt they didn't show their best." Batavia limits opposing teams to 7.3 points and 153.7 total yards per game by making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Of its 685 total tackles, 120.5 have been made behind the line of scrimmage (17.6 percent). The Bulldogs have not allowed a first-quarter point, largely because teams haven't been able to run against them. They yield 60 rushing yards per game. That average will be tested by a polished Wheaton North offense that plays power football. Singleton runs behind a big offensive line and gets blocking help from fullback Michael Jarosz and tight end Tyler Ferguson. Singleton (5-foot-7, 170) has rushed for 1,460 yards and 18 touchdowns in 216 attempts (6.8 avg.). Quarterback Rhett Netzer has completed 53 of 98 attempts for 575 yards and 6 touchdowns and has been intercepted 3 times. Batavia's offense averages 30.6 points and 356 total yards per game (187 rushing/169 passing). Cooper has completed 110 of 156 passes for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has thrown 7 interceptions. Wide receiver Eric Peterson (6-foot-3, 183 pounds) and tight end Collin Richter (6-3, 195) have combined for 44 catches for 855 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Falcons play good defense. They limit opponents to 12.8 ppg, the lowest average of any team in the DuPage Valley Conference. Senior defensive backs Trenton Hegranes (6-2) and Gray (6-3) have 5 interceptions apiece, including Gray's 28-yard pick-6 last week against Fenwick. "We're really impressed with their football team in all facets," Piron said. "Their special teams are unbelievable, their offense is very good and their defense is all over the field. It's just very difficult to find any weaknesses with that football team."
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A quarterfinals against the winner between No. 28 Alton and No. 12 Lincoln-Way West.