No. 16 Belleville East (6-4) at No. 9 Naperville Central (8-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Belleville East 14, No. 1 Waubonsie Valley 7; Naperville Central 40, No. 8 Minooka 13.
Outlook: Belleville East rocked the 8A bracket last week. Naperville Central faces a strength-on-strength matchup as the Lancers plan to pound their ground game against the Redhawks' stout run defense. Lancers back ReShawn Bean gashed Waubonsie Valley with 248 rushing yards, while Chase Allen, a receiver and linebacker, scored the winning touchdown out of the Wildcat formation. The Lancers rolled for more than 300 rushing yards an unheard of amount for the Redhawks' defense. The goal of the unit and DuPage Valley Conference defensive player of the year Zach Borta is to slow the run and force the Lancers into uncomfortable passing situations. While Redhawks running back Matt Randolph, who has 1,433 rushing yards, still carries the mail for the offense, quarterback Ian Lewandowski gives Belleville East's defense something to think about. Last week he threw for 218 yards and 2 scores, meaning the Lancers also need to respect the pass.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner between No. 13 Lockport (7-3) and No. 12 Homewood-Flossmoor (7-3).
No. 6 Brother Rice (7-3) at No. 3 Downers Grove South (9-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Brother Rice 35, No. 11 Sandburg 14; Downers Grove South 37, No. 14 Naperville North 24.
Outlook: Is two better than one? We'll find out as Brother Rice's multifaceted Wing T ground game mirrors 2,000-yard Mustangs rusher Josh Williams. Martez and Andrew Walker have combined for more than 2,000 yards this year for the Crusaders, including more than 300 yards and 4 touchdowns last week. Martez Walker is verbally committed to Central Michigan. Downers South's defense feasted on turnovers last week four in the first half that directly led to a good chunk of points. Defensive back John Wauer, who scored Downers South's first 2 touchdowns, snared an interception and also recovered a fumble. Williams appeared to be a workhorse last week with 34 carries for 158 yards, but quarterback A.J. Simoncelli also threw for 228 yards and 2 scores. Mustangs coach John Belskis believes the Crusaders will look familiar. Not only do they run a similar offense as in previous meetings in 1999 and 2003, they also run a 5-2 defense similar to Addison Trail's.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner between No. 2 Bolingbrook (9-1) and No. 7 Mt. Carmel (7-3).
No. 3 Palatine (9-1) at No. 11 Glenbard North (7-3)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Palatine 28, No. 14 Proviso West 7; Glenbard North 27, No. 6 Barrington 21.
Outlook: Since a Week 1 loss to Montini, Palatine's ripped off nine straight wins, including the last four while allowing a total of only 21 points. Although the Pirates favor the run out of their shotgun offense, quarterback Ethan Olles has thrown for 1,400 yards and last week threw for 4 touchdowns. So while the Panthers' defense featuring linebackers Dan Fierro, Mario Rodriguez and lineman Chris Dewing will be focused on Pirates running back John Serio, Glenbard North also needs to be wary of Olles hooking up with receiver Cam Kuksa and others. The legend of Glenbard North's Jackson brothers continues to grow. Last week they combined for 247 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, and for the season they have 1,604 yards and 24 scores. Considering quarterback Brian Murphy has thrown the ball nine times the last two weeks, it's clear the Panthers have committed to the Jacksons carrying the load as Murphy continues to bounce back from lingering ankle issues.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner between No. 2 Maine South (10-0) and No. 7 Stevenson (8-2).
No. 8 Wheaton Warrenville South (7-3) at No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (10-0)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Lincoln-Way East 35, No. 16 Plainfield South 7; WW South 23, No. 9 Providence 16.
Outlook: For the second straight week WW South faces a playoff heavyweight. This week it's a Griffins team considered a favorite to unseat the Tigers as 7A champions. WW South has relied upon Northwestern-bound running back Dan Vitale the last two weeks 350 yards and 5 touchdowns worth since his return from a hip pointer. Against Lincoln-Way East's vaunted defense, including a line averaging 260 pounds a player, the Tigers also must be able to throw the ball. Look for them to rotate quarterbacks Thaddeus Armstong and Ryan Graham quite a bit. While Armstrong needs to move the chains with the pass, Graham must add a running threat to take the heat off Vitale. Lincoln-Way East's double-wing offense has been humming thanks to standout quarterback Blake Winkler, who has thrown for 2,200 yards with a bevy of fine receivers headed by University of Illinois-bound Jason Robertson. Tigers defensive back Zach Kyllonen gets that tough assignment.
Next week: Winner plays the winner between No. 4 Oswego (8-2) and No. 5 East St. Louis (8-2).
No. 8 Lake Zurich (8-2) at No. 1 Glenbard West (10-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Lake Zurich 35, No. 9 Geneva 32; Glenbard West 34, No. 16 Prospect 7.
Outlook: Glenbard West, after a season of battling one injury after another, is nearly 100 percent healthy with the return this week of inside linebacker Andrew Larkin the team's leading tackler from a knee injury. Combine that with quarterback Justice Odom's return in addition to a couple of offensive linemen, and the Hilltoppers are ready for a tough Bears team that finished second in 7A last season. Lake Zurich's known for its defense, but that unit has its hands full against running backs Avery Balogh, Kendall Johnson, Joey Zito and Odom. Combined the Hilltoppers have rushed for 2,849 yards this season. If Odom connects with 6-foot-5 receiver Nathan Marcus, Glenbard West will be tough to stop. Hilltoppers defensive linemen Tommy Schutt, Ruben Dunbar and Kendell Kimble have terrorized quarterbacks, and Lake Zurich's Zach Till is one of the best they'll face. If they face him. Till injured his foot in last week's win and his ability to play is questionable.
Next week: Winner plays the winner between No. 4 Elk Grove (9-1) and No. 5 Machesney Park Harlem (9-1).
No. 7 Wheaton North (8-2) at No. 2 Rockford Boylan (10-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Wheaton North 28, No. 10 Jacobs 0; Rockford Boylan 40, No. 15 Libertyville 0.
Outlook: Boylan, last year's 6A state champion, has won 33 of its last 34 games, but the lone loss came to the Falcons in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. In that game, though, the Titans ran a double-wing offense. With their current group of athletes, they've shifted to a spread to create space. Tyreis Thomas has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns while quarterback Lamont Toney has thrown for 1,200 yards. On defense, meanwhile, 6-foot-6, 230-pound lineman Dean Lowry is verbally committed to Northwestern. Wheaton North's effort last week was especially impressive considering it played without receiver Micah Penn and safety Jaylen Howze because of injury. The Falcons unveiled a batch of sophomores brought up for the playoffs, a list headed by receiver Matt Biegalski. To win this game, the Falcons need another big effort from quarterback John Peltz, who has 1,700 passing yards, and Patrick Sharp, who's rushed for 907 yards.
Next week: Winner plays the winner of No. 3 Crystal Lake South (9-1) and No. 11 Carmel (7-3).
No. 2 Prairie Ridge (9-1) at No. 10 Glenbard South (7-3)
Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Prairie Ridge 49, No. 15 Marmion 0; Glenbard South 30, No. 7 Foreman 7.
Outlook: The Week 1 meeting wasn't pretty a 55-12 Glenbard South loss. Winners of six straight, the Raiders hope for massive improvement this time around. Slowing the Wolves' triple option offense won't be easy. Jordan Getzelman, Nick Nissen and Connor Greenwald have combined for 2,200 rushing yards. The Raiders' defense, however, has seen a major jolt of improvement headed by linebackers Zach Bava and Nick Boesso, whose recent return from injury gave the unit a boost. Glenbard South can't be expected to shut down a Wolves offense that's scored at least 40 points seven times. The Raiders may need to outscore Prairie Ridge. The good news is quarterback Tyler Padera, who has thrown for 893 yards and rushed for 352, is set to return from a concussion that forced him to miss last week's game. Running back Wes Sanders enters the game with 1,101 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns. Keeping the Wolves' potent offense on the sideline is crucial.
Next week: Winner plays the winner between No. 3 Nazareth (9-1) and No. 6 Cary-Grove (8-2).
No. 8 St. Francis (8-2) at No. 1 Kaneland (10-0)
Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: St. Francis 27, No. 8 Burlington Central 10; Kaneland 51, No. 16 Belvidere 45.
Outlook: St. Francis, whose first-round game turned on cornerback Michael Hanson's interception and 70-yard touchdown return, faces a foe that hasn't lost a step since losing only to Montini in the 2010 semifinals. Sophomore quarterback Drew David has passed for 2,657 yards, 34 touchdowns, 8 interceptions out of a spread offense. The Knights most closely mirror Montini among St. Francis' opponents; the Spartans lost 33-14, but it might have been different had St. Francis maximized a couple long drives. Keeping David and Co. on the sidelines is the key for St. Francis' misdirection offense, which features Jack Petrando at 1,278 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns, plus Jeff Rutkowski and Dan Beck. Both teams can excite on special teams. Kaneland offers gamebreaker Quinn Buschbacher, who in addition to 932 yards receiving has returned kicks and punts for 681 yards. "Hopefully we can control the ball and play good defense," said St. Francis coach Greg Purnell.
Next week: Winner plays the winner between No. 13 Rochelle (7-3) and No. 12 Sycamore (7-3).
No. 6 Montini (8-2) at No. 3 Sterling (9-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Montini 49, No. 11 Woodstock North 14; Sterling 18, No. 14 Julian 14.
Outlook: Montini's 90-second eruption from a 21-14 lead to 42-14 over Woodstock North showed Sterling what it's up against. Broncos coach Chris Andriano respected Woodstock North's adherence to the run, also Sterling's plan to dethrone the two-time defending champs. Coach Greg King's Golden Warriors, in a program-record 10th straight postseason, have run for 2,938 yards and thrown for 510. Alejandro Rivera leads with 1,045 yards rushing followed by Treyvon Solis and Marcus Robinson, both of whom scored on Julian. Sterling was the class of the Northern Illinois Big 12 West, the only team to go 2-0 against the East. Andriano anticipates early emotion by the speedy Warriors, then it'll come down to how they block such Montini defensive linemen as Jaleel Johnson and Josh Rogers, who combined for 17 tackles against Woodstock North and helped linebacker Franklin Bruscianelli made 17 others. If Montini is able to force the pass, Sterling may likewise face a rough road.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner between No. 2 Marian Central (10-0) and No. 7 Tinley Park (8-2).