The next five days could be torture.
It will be all that Antioch coach Brian Glashagel can do to contain his excitement for his team's first round Class 6A playoff game against Grant on Friday.
"This next week can't go fast enough," Glashagel said. "When we found out the pairings, I started joking that I wanted to call up (Grant coach Kurt) Rous and say, 'How about we play tomorrow (Sunday) night.'
"We just want to get on the field and play this game."
On Saturday night, the best Glashagel could do was contemplate it as the IHSA unveiled the pairings for the 256 teams that will compete in the state playoff series. In five weeks, over Thanksgiving weekend, eight state champions will be crowned at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
Emotions are always high for every team as the journey begins, but for Antioch and Grant, those emotions may reach overload levels.
Fourth-seeded Antioch (8-1) and No. 13 Grant (6-3), which share a boundary, are natural rivals anyway.
Add in the fact that, just last week, Grant dealt Antioch its only loss of the season, and you've got the makings of an explosive rematch.
"I think this is what anyone would want, a chance to play the one team you lost to during the regular season," Glashagel said. "A game like this, it's the kind of game you work the whole season for. It's going to be a crazy night in Antioch on Friday."
Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, and expectations are for a standing room only crowd.
"It will be a battle of epic proportions," Rous said. "It will be highly charged, and they'll be playing for redemption. We'll be battling them, their crowd, and their emotions. This will be a huge challenge for us.
"But we did a lot of good things against them last time. We flew around and forced turnovers and we feel good about that."
The Bulldogs also feel good about the totality of their season.
They began losing two of their first three games, but rallied to win five in a row, including the game against Antioch. They also knocked off two-time defending North Suburban Prairie Division champion Vernon Hills during that stretch.
"I don't know what the magic thing was that we did to turn things around, I'm just glad we did it," Rous said. "What it showed me is that even when we're down, we keep fighting."
The winner of the Grant-Antioch game could have another Prairie Division fight on its hands. Fifth-seeded Lakes, which shared the division title with both Grant and Antioch would be next in line if it is able to knock off No. 12 Rolling Meadows, which is 6-3 and averaged 29.6 points per game this season.
The 7-2 Eagles will host Rolling Meadows, drawing a home game for just the second time in school history. Two years ago, they hosted Woodstock in the first round.
"To get a home game is such an advantage," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "We've wanted to make getting to the playoffs a tradition and now we want to make getting home games a tradition."
Mertens also has another tradition going. Each year, he hosts a playoff party at his house. And the entire team is invited.
"We had 52 kids, 12 coaches and all the wives of the coaches," Mertens said. "It was a god time. We had a lot of food, a lot of sweets. And it was fun to see my players playing with my own kids."
In Class 7A, Libertyville, Carmel and Lake Zurich made the field.
No. 15 Libertyville, which easily qualified at 5-4 with a whopping 50 points, will take on second-seeded and undefeated Rockford Boylan. Boylan will host and the Wildcats will be lobbying for a Saturday game because of the extensive travel.
"We went out there two years ago, and it is a haul," said Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski, who is in his final season and happy to get the Wildcats back into the playoffs. They missed the cut three of the last four years, including the last two. "We'd have to leave school at 2 p.m. in order to play a Friday game, so we'd like to play Saturday. It would also give our fans a chance to get there."
The last time they trekked to Boylan, Libertyville fans saw a good game.
"We were winning in the fourth quarter but we had some mistakes and kind of gave the game to them," Kuceyeski said. "But we played them tough. We felt we matched up well with them and we're going in this time with the goal of upsetting a No. 2 seed."
No. 11 Carmel, which may be the most dangerous 6-3 team in the state, will be at No. 6 Addison Trail, which finished 8-1.
The Corsairs lost their three games by a combined 8 points.
"And all three of our losses came to teams (Joliet Catholic, Wayzata, Minn., Marist) that have a great chance of winning state," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "We're definitely battle-tested. Now, we just have to find a way to win those close games against good teams, and you're going to have games like that in the playoffs."
No. 8 Lake Zurich (7-2), which shared the North Suburban Conference Lake Division championship with Stevenson and Lake Forest, will host No. 9 Geneva, which is also 7-2.
In Class 8A, No. 7 Stevenson (7-2) will host No. 10 York (6-3). A win in the first round could set up the Patriots for yet another playoff battle with perennial power Maine South, which is undefeated and seeded No. 2.
"The road to the (Class 8A) championship usually goes through Maine South," said Stevenson coach Bill McNamara, whose team has not beaten Maine South in the playoffs in six tries. In fact, the Patriots were eliminated last year in the quarterfinals by Maine South.
"You have to play them at some point, so the second round would be just fine with us," McNamara said. "But we've got to get through the first round first. We don't take any team lightly."
In Class 5A, No. 10 Grayslake Central (7-2) hits the road to take on No. 7 Tinley Park, which is 7-2.
The Rams are making their second straight playoff appearance and just their fifth in school history. Last year, they advanced to the second round where they were eliminated by Marian Central.
Vernon Hills, which became playoff eligible by defeating Wauconda on Friday night, did not make the playoff field at 5-4. The Cougars, who had made the playoffs nine of the previous 10 years, finished with 38 points and the cut-off was 40 points, the highest in IHSA history.
A total of 25 teams with 5-4 records failed to earn a playoff berth, also the highest in IHSA history.