No. 12 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-3) at No. 9 Naperville Central (8-3)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Homewood-Flossmoor 48, No. 13 Lockport 7; Naperville Central 43, No. 16 Belleville East 3.
Outlook: For all the tests passed by Naperville Central's defense this season, the Vikings present the biggest challenge yet. Six-foot-seven quarterback Tim Williams is a threat to run or move the chains with a short passing game. The Vikings, who averaged 43 points in the regular season, scored 48 points in each of their playoff games. Can the Redhawks' stingy defense rise to the occasion? Defensive linemen Zach Borta, Cody Campbell, Rob Girgis and Gannon Davis need to pressure Williams and keep him out of a comfort zone. Athletes fill the field for H-F's defense as well, but that unit faces its own issues trying to slow Redhawks running back Matt Randolph. Of his 1,633 rushing yards this season, 350 have come in the playoffs. Now that quarterback Ian Lewandowski has distanced himself from an early-season ankle injury, he's pitching in with just enough passing receiver Clayton Scott has been a consistent playoff target to make the offense dangerous.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner between No. 2 Bolingbrook (10-1) and No. 3 Downers Grove South (10-1).
No. 3 Downers Grove South (10-1) at No. 2 Bolingbrook (10-1) Class 8A
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Bolingbrook 21, No. 7 Mt. Carmel 7; Downers Grove 41, No. 6 Brother Rice 14.
Outlook: In the five games they've played since 2007, the total margin of victory has been 15 points with a 3-2 victory advantage for the Raiders. Once again, this one looks extremely close. Bolingbrook is led by standout quarterback Aaron Bailey, who shredded Neuqua Valley for 300 rushing yards in the first round. The Raiders make a bunch of hay running the ball behind lineman Robbie Bain. The defense also boasts a superstar in linebacker Anthony Morrison, who is verbally committed to Florida. Downers South coach John Belskis has said all season that his team doesn't have big-time college talent but instead thrives on a strong 11 on each side of the ball. The Mustangs, though, have a great one on offense in running back Josh Williams, whose 110 rushing yards last week pushed him over 2,200 yards for the season. The Mustangs must be at their most fierce defensively, starting up front with Jeremy Ulrich and continue in the secondary with Danny Leach.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner between No. 9 Naperville Central (8-3) and No. 12 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-3).
No. 7 Stevenson (9-2) at No. 11 Glenbard North (8-3)
Game time: 3 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Stevenson 24, No. 2 Maine South 22; Glenbard North 35, No. 3 Palatine 21.
Outlook: After being eliminated by Maine South in six of the previous 10 seasons, Stevenson ended the Hawks' reign of three straight state titles. The Patriots aim for their first semifinal berth since advancing to the 8A final in 2002. Stevenson boasts offensive balance in its one-back set, starting with Kevin Foley's 935 rushing yards on the season. Quarterback Matt Micucci came alive in last week's win with 248 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, giving him 1,514 yards this season. Considering Micucci threw the ball 33 times against Maine South, expect to see Panthers running back Phil Jackson at defensive end bringing pressure. No one's had luck in the postseason stopping Phil or Justin Jackson from effectively running the ball. With 331 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns last week, they've now combined for 1,935 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Brian Murphy also ran the ball well a handful of times, showing he's recovering nicely from ankle issues.
Next week: Winner plays the winner between No. 1 Loyola (11-0) and No. 13 Lyons Twp. (7-4).
No. 8 Wheaton Warrenville South (8-3) at No. 5 East St. Louis (9-2)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: WW South 7, No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 0; East St. Louis 41, No. 4 Oswego 0.
Outlook: Think WW South's defense was impressive in blanking top-seeded Lincoln-Way East for the first time since Week 1 of the 2004 season? The Tigers may need to be even better this week against East St. Louis. With Jack Lipinsky notching 3 of 6 sacks last week, WW South showed how its defensive speed can trump size on opponents' offensive line. The Flyers average about 280 pounds on theirs. They've done a great job protecting quarterback Lamontiez Ivy, who's thrown for 1,800 yards. They've also plowed holes for running backs Natereace Strong and Jeremy Nicholson, who have combined for 1,200 rushing yards. Tigers linebackers Adam Dansdill, Brandon Peterson and Dan Roadman must be on top of their game. WW South quarterbacks Thaddeus Armstrong and Ryan Graham both were hurt last week, but they hope to be ready to play. After struggling to score against the Griffins, the Tigers need to get the offense going with running back Dan Vitale.
Next week: Winner plays the winner between No. 2 O'Fallon (10-1) and No. 3 St. Rita (9-2).
No. 2 Marian Central (11-0) at No. 6 Montini (9-2)
Game time: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Marian Central 55, No. 7 Tinley Park 39; Montini 35, No. 3 Sterling 10.
Outlook: Montini is 3-4 in the playoffs against this Suburban Christian Conference rival, with playoff victories in each of the past two seasons. Marian's Hurricanes beat Montini 21-20 in Week 4, but the Broncos were still without quarterback John Rhode. "It definitely changes our offense," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. Since the senior has returned from a broken thumb he has passed for 1,763 yards and 28 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions in essentially 5.5 games. Against Sterling he hit Jordan Westerkamp twice for scores and Anthony Taylor once. Marian, which has scored 42 and 55 points in its playoff wins, features quarterback Chris Streveler, unlike Rhode perhaps more dangerous outside the pocket than in it. Streveler has 854 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in addition to passing for 2,251 yards, 25 touchdowns, 6 interceptions. Andriano has said the Broncos must eventually grind out long offensive possessions this may be the game to do it.
Next week: The winner plays the winner between No. 1 Kaneland (11-0) and No. 13 Rochelle (8-3).