No. 7 Stevenson (9-2) at No. 11 Glenbard North (8-3)
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Stevenson def. Maine South, 24-22; Glenbard North def. Palatine, 35-21.
Winner gets: A spot in the Class 8A semifinals against the winner of No. 13 Lyons (7-4) at No. 1 Loyola (11-0)
Coaches: Bill McNamara, Stevenson; Ryan Wilkens, Glenbard North
Stevenson playoff history: Stevenson is very familiar with the quarterfinals, having advanced at least this far six times since 2001 (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011). However, the only year the Patriots moved beyond the quarterfinals was in 2002, when they finished as the state runner-up to Lockport in a 35-14 loss in the Class 8A title game. Each of Stevenson's four quarterfinal losses since 2001, including last year's, came at the hands of Maine South. Stevenson happily eliminated Maine South for the first time ever last week in the second round.
Glenbard North playoff history: Over the last six years under head coach Ryan Wilkens, Glenbard North has advanced to at least the Class 8A semifinals twice (2007, 2009). In 2009, the Panthers lost in the semifinals to Marist, 17-14 and in 2007, they lost in the state title game to Naperville North, 46-19. Last year, Glenbard North was eliminated in the first round by Palatine, 28-14.
Skinny on Stevenson: The Patriots are brimming with confidence after dumping the three-time defending Class 8A state champion Maine South Hawks last week in the second round. Stevenson has won five games in a row and averages 22.2 points per game while allowing 15.5 points per game. "This team is very talented and well-coached," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said of Stevenson. "They run a pro-style offense with some spread characteristics and have an athletic quarterback in Matt Micucci (20-for-33, 248 passing yards, 2 touchdowns against Maine South) who will throw the ball all over on you. He's got some really nice targets to throw to (Matt Morrissey, Troy Radtke, Cameron Green). On defense, they are aggressive and disciplined. Bottom line is that this is the team that beat the three-time defending state champion in Maine South. We need to execute in all phases in order to beat a team like Stevenson."
Skinny on Glenbard North: The Panthers limped into the playoffs, losing three straight games starting in Week 6 before finally closing with a win in their regular season finale. However, those losses were to no slouches. DuPage Valley heavyweights Naperville Central, Wheaton Warrenville South and Wheaton North are all perennial heavyweights. Glenbard North averages 30.5 points per game, is allowing 13 points per game and has recorded 3 shutouts. "Their offense is a smash-mouth running offense with some really athletic kids at running back," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said of Glenbard North. "They've got two brothers, Phil and Justin Jackson who are both in the backfield and are both really nice runners. Phil (27 carries for 227 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns last week) is more of a power inside runner and Justin is smaller but a finesse runner. Defensively, they've got a good mix of power with speed at the skill positions. We're going to have to be precise offensively in order to make plays."
Riding the wave: There might not be a team in the state on a bigger high right now than Stevenson. Last week's win over three-time defending Class 8A state champion Maine South meant a lot on so many fronts. Not only are the Patriots still alive in the playoffs, they have also shed a huge mental monkey. Stevenson was 0-6 all time against Maine South and had been eliminated by Maine South in the quarterfinals four times since 2001. "I'm hoping last week's big win gives us a boost because emotion always plays a huge part in the game," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "But at the same time, you don't want it to play the other way either and be too emotional. We just teach our players to have a quiet confidence no matter what the circumstances are." McNamara says his players have much bigger fish to fry than Maine South. "It was a huge win and we're in the quarterfinals, but we still haven't reached our goals," McNamara said. "We want to go downstate this year, and we don't want to just get there, we want to win it all."
Hanging tough: Stevenson withstood some tough circumstances to defeat Maine South. Not only did quarterback Matt Micucci get hurt (hit to the elbow) on the Patriots' first offensive play and miss two series before returning, Maine South was relentless at cutting into its deficit in the second half. "I was really impressed with our overall demeanor against Maine South," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "We believed in ourselves and we knew that we can win games when the going gets tough. I thought (backup quarterback) Willie Bourban did a great job of stepping in for Matt. He got an opportunity and he played with a lot of confidence. Our entire team did. We played with confidence throughout the entire game."
Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 4 Elk Grove (10-1) at No. 8 Lake Zurich (9-2)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Elk Grove def. Machesney Park Harlem, 39-22; Lake Zurich def. Glenbard West, 10-3.
Winner gets: A spot in the Class 7A semifinals against the winner of No. 2 Rockford Boylan (11-0) at No. 3 Crystal Lake South (10-1)
Coaches: Brian Doll, Elk Grove; Bryan Stortz, Lake Zurich
Elk Grove playoff history: Since 1976, Elk Grove has made six quarterfinal appearances (1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, 2004 and 2011), and advanced to the semifinals in 1981 when it took only two wins to advance that far. Last year, the Grens were eliminated in the first round by Schaumburg, 38-21.
Lake Zurich playoff history: In recent years, Lake Zurich has been the most successful playoff team in Lake County. Since 2002, the Bears have advanced to at least the state semifinals five times, including three appearances in the Class 7A state championship game (2006, 2007, 2010). In 2007, Lake Zurich won the state title by defeating Wheaton Warrenville South in Champaign, 7-3. Last year, the Bears lost to Wheaton Warrenville South in the title game, 29-17.
Skinny on Elk Grove: The Grens are riding a nine-game winning streak, with their only loss of the season coming in Week 2 to Barrington, 17-10. Elk Grove won the Mid-Suburban League East and is scoring 26.5 points per game. On defense, they are allowing 13.5 points per game. "It's field position, creating turnovers and taking caring of the ball. That's what they do," Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said of Elk Grove. "They have a lot of big plays offensively but yet they haven't turned the ball over much at all. They're more of a power, control, blue-collar run football team with (Stefan Skoneczka) as their main back. They'd rather run the ball first and throw second. But they will take shots downfield and they rotate in two quarterbacks (Dejan Basara and Adam O'Malley). (Fernando Lozano) is also a big playmaker for them." Basara has returned from a broken collarbone and is a dangerous running quarterback. He has 7 touchdowns in the last two games. "Defensively, they created a lot of turnovers," Stortz added. Elk Grove forced five last week.
Skinny on Lake Zurich: Despite playing without starting quarterback Zach Till (broken foot) last week, the Bears posted one of the biggest upsets in the second round by taking out Glenbard West, one of the top-rated teams in Class 7A. Lake Zurich has won four games in a row and is scoring 26.7 points per game. The defense, which gave up only 3 points last week, has been stellar all season. The Bears are allowing a measly 9.8 points per game. "This is a very good team all around with a very fast defense," Elk Grove coach Brian Doll said. "I'm impressed with (linebacker Jack Lynn and lineman William Hussey) on defense. (Hussey) is the quickest lineman I've seen this year. We have to find ways to move the ball against a great defense and be patient doing it as they limit your big plays. On defense, we have to figure out first who is playing quarterback for them and then adjust the game plan. (Injured Lake Zurich quarterback Zach Till) is very special with how he can run the ball." Till, the Bears' starter, did not play at all last week. He has a slight fracture on the non-weight-bearing side of his left foot and could be cleared to play this week, but is more likely to be ready for the semifinals if Lake Zurich advances. Backup Steven Kuhn, who got the start last week, will likely get the nod again and will rely heavily on running backs Mike Shield and Connor Schrader to help him direct the Bears' run-oriented attack.
Special game: While holding a potent team like Glenbard West to 3 points last week was huge, Lake Zurich may have gotten its biggest contributions from the special teams. Punter Mark Weber helped the Bears win the field position war. He averaged 38.6 yards on his 8 punts and pinned Glenbard West inside its own 20-yard line four times. "We created outstanding field position for ourselves with our special teams," Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. "That, along with our defense, was a big factor for us in that win."
Comeback kids: Lake Zurich junior offensive lineman Jerry Bauer (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) could get cleared in time to play in his first playoff game. He's been out of commission lately while battling mononucleosis. "He's been practicing this week but without contact and we've been waiting to see if he'll get clearance for contact and games," Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. "If he does, we will try to get him some reps in the game this weekend." Between Till, Bauer and others, the Bears have been battling injuries all season. "Because of the injuries that we've had this year, it's definitely gotten our team ready for the adversity of playing without a guy like Zach," Stortz said. "I like the way our team rallies around each other and I like the way guys step up. Like Steven (Kuhn) going in for Zach last week. He did exactly what we knew he could do. He managed the offense and he made plays."
Patricia Babcock McGraw
No. 1 Batavia (11-0) at No. 5 Lakes (9-2)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Batavia def. Lake Forest, 31-17; Lakes def. Grant, 38-7.
Winner gets: A spot in the Class 6A semifinals against the winner of No. 3 Nazareth (10-1) at No. 2 Prairie Ridge (10-1).
Coaches: Dennis Piron, Batavia; Luke Mertens, Lakes
Batavia playoff history: Since 1996, Batavia has advanced to the quarterfinals twice. In 1996, the Bulldogs were eliminated in the quarterfinals, but ten years later in 2006, they moved all the way to the Class 6A state title game, where they fell to Normal Community, 30-20. The Bulldogs have been fairly quiet since. Batavia has earned three playoff berths in the last four years but has been eliminated in the first round each time, including last year's loss to Lemont, 23-14.
Lakes playoff history: In just its sixth year of competition with seniors, Lakes, which opened its doors in 2005, is making its fourth playoff appearance. This, however, is the Eagles' very first quarterfinals berth. Their furthest previous advancement was to the second round in 2009 where they lost to Woodstock, 42-17. Last year, Lakes lost in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs to Sycamore, 36-3.
Skinny on Batavia: After a 5-5 campaign in 2010, Batavia has made a dramatic turnaround in 2011, winning the Upstate 8 River Division while averaging 42.2 points per game. Defensively, the Bulldogs are allowing 11.3 points per game and have posted 2 shutouts. "They are very balanced-they have a nice power run game and a good vertical passing game, a nice combination of both," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said of Batavia. "They're also very, very big everywhere: on the line, in the backfield, and their tight end (Cole Gardner) is this 6-foot-6, 250-pound kid who is the biggest high school tight end I have ever seen, and he can catch the ball. I would say their bread and butter is to rely on their size. Many times this season, they have just been bigger and stronger and have imposed their will over other teams." In a first round win over Notre Dame two weeks ago, Gardner and quarterback Noel Gaspari hooked up for 3 touchdown passes.
Skinny on Lakes: Lakes is riding a five-game winning streak and took its only losses of the season to Lake Zurich, which is in the Class 7A quarterfinals and Antioch, which tied Lakes and Grant for the North Suburban Prairie Division championship. The Eagles are averaging 27.6 points per game and are allowing 15.3 points per game. Last week in a 38-7 win over Grant, Lakes posted its fifth victory in which it gave up 8 or fewer points. "I think we've done a great job defensively all year," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "With the exception of one game (Antioch, 30 points allowed), we've played consistent team defense and we've done well against the run. We've done a good job of getting teams in second-and-longs and third-and-longs." Offensively, Lakes fullback Direll Clark continues to be a workhorse. He rushed for 211 yards on 17 carries against Grant a week after rolling up more than 40 carries and 280 yards in a first-round win over Rolling Meadows. "Direll is just good and we have to run the football with him," Mertens said. "But we'll also have to get some passes in (with quarterback Chris Hoffman) in certain spots." Last week, Hoffman completed 6-of-8 passes for 106 yards.
Size matters: Despite having some nice size of its own in linemen Dillon Falotico (6-foot-6, 291 pounds), Dan Pawlak (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) and Mike Forney (6-foot-2, 270 pounds), Lakes might still be undersized compared to Batavia. "Size-wise, this is probably a matchup that Batavia is really excited about," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "But we can't get too concerned or caught up in Batavia's size. We're just going to have to counter that by being very physical."
First-timers: This is Lakes' first-ever appearance in the state quarterfinals and the community is excited. "There is definitely a good buzz around here about the team," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "This is a unique experience for us."
Patricia Babcock McGraw