No. 3 Crystal Lake South (9-1) at No. 11 Carmel (7-3)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Last week: Crystal Lake South def. Streamwood, 35-7; Carmel def. Addison Trail, 28-20.
Skinny: Carmel has faced Crystal Lake South twice in the playoffs and wound up on the winning side both times, in 2003 and 2007. The 2003 victory was part of Carmel's dream state championship season. The Corsairs defeated South in the second round (55-7), three weeks before taking the Class 6A crown. The Corsairs have not returned downstate since. Crystal Lake South, meanwhile, has never gotten downstate but has advanced to the semifinals three times (1986, 2005, 2008). Last year, the Gators were 11-0 when they lost to rival Prairie Ridge in the quarterfinals.
Nice numbers: Crystal Lake South is scoring nearly 30 points per game and allowing 9.9 points per game. The Gators have also pitched 2 shutouts. "We play very good defense," Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "We focus on playing as a unit, but (defensive end) Josh Beveridge has been playing well leading our team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5). We must stop the run. If we can force Carmel to throw, we will have a chance."
Run, run, run: Carmel's triple option offense is again rolling up the rushing yardage. Three backs, Brian Brennan, Mike Panico and Jordan Kos, all are at or around 1,000 rushing yards, with Kos up over 1,500 yards. "We're getting really good distribution," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "Jordan has 19 touchdowns, Mike has 16 touchdowns and Brian has 11 touchdowns. When you have three big threats like that, you're hard to defend."
Balanced attack: Crystal Lake South ran for 272 yards and passed for 101 yards last week in a win over Streamwood. Quarterback Austin Fowler connected with Coach Ahsmann's son, Will, for 2 touchdowns totaling 70 yards. Meanwhile, Reese Dziedzic gave the Gators a surprising 150 rushing yards. "He's been playing linebacker all season and getting a few carries here and there," Chuck Ahsmann said of Dziedzic. "We started him (against Streamwood in the backfield) and he rushed for 150 yards." Brad Walovitch is also a threat. He leads South in receptions (23) and receiving yards (360) as well as scoring (73 points) and all-purpose yards (800).
Tough teams: Carmel might have one of the toughest schedules in the state. The Corsairs' three losses came to perennial power Joliet Catholic, Minnesota power Wayzata and a Marist team that tied for first place in the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference. The losses for Carmel came by a total of 8 points, and certainly served as good preparation for close games against good teams. The Corsairs needed that experience in last week's close playoff win over Addison Trail. "That's why we play a hard schedule," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "We can go on the road and beat a tough team in the playoffs like we did last week. The losses are tough to take along the way, but those experiences are helping us now."
Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 5 Lakes (8-2) at No. 13 Grant (7-3)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Last week: Lakes def. Rolling Meadows, 38-35; Grant def. Antioch, 19-7.
Skinny: Here's another playoff clash between North Suburban Prairie Division powers. Grant, Lakes and Antioch all shared the division title this season. Last week, Grant faced off against Antioch and came out on top. Now, another third of the tri-fecta will be eliminated this week as Lakes and Grant get another shot at each other-Lakes defeated Grant handily in Week 3-Besides playing for division pride, both teams are hoping to add significantly to their playoff pedigree. Lakes is playing for its first quarterfinal berth, and Grant is playing for just its second. The Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals in 2008 before losing to Lemont, 35-14. That year, the Bulldogs had another Prairie Division playoff matchup. They defeated Prairie heavyweight Vernon Hills in the first round, 32-31.
Timely turnaround: After beginning the season 1-2 with losses to Grayslake Central and Lakes, Grant strung together five straight wins, including a win over previously undefeated Antioch, to earn a share of the Prairie Division title. "We didn't play very well at all the first time we played Lakes," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "The score was 38-14 but it wasn't even that close. We couldn't stop them, and our offense didn't do too much. We're playing much better now. We made some changes, especially on defense and it made a big difference."
Clark with the carry: Lakes running back Direll Clark is averaging about 100 rushing yards a game and has been the focal point of the offense all season. Last week against Rolling Meadows, he rolled up more than 280 yards on 40 carries. Against Grant in Week 3, he rushed for 109 yards on just 11 carries. "Direll is a big kid, like 220 pounds, and that helps him take all the hits and keep running strong," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "We'd like to keep him around 25 carries a game, but Rolling Meadows knew what we were doing and they couldn't stop Direll so we kept giving him the ball. It speaks a lot about how tough Direll is but it also speaks volumes about our offensive line and the holes they made out there."
Double trouble: Last week, Grant rolled up the rushing yardage on Antioch thanks in large part to Jonathon Wells. He finished with 222 yards despite not having his backfield partner-in-crime Kyle Whitman by his side to help take away some of the pressure. Whitman was sitting out because of a concussion. But Whitman should be cleared to play this week, giving the Grant offense double the firepower. "I doubt we'd keep Kyle in on every down," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "But he's been running around in practice this week and I'd like to see him play. Jonathon was unbelievable last week, but it will be nice to have Kyle back in there for another option."
Lakes lockdown: Grant is averaging 31.9 points per game, most in the North Suburban Prairie Division. But the Bulldogs managed just 14 points against Lakes in a Week 3 loss. It might have been the Eagles' best defensive effort of the season, considering the potency of the opposing offense and their own inexperience at the time. Senior Alan Gomez was one of the few defensive starters to have returned from last year. He is joined by 7 juniors and 1 sophomore. "We're still really young on defense but we've come along well," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "Last time, we did a good job of shutting down (Grant's) running game. We need to do that this time."
Patricia Babcock McGraw