William Pavilos of Loyola Academy carries the ball for a touchdown against Glenbard North in a Class 8A semifinal last Saturday. The Ramblers are after their first state title in 18 years and will meet Bolingbrook for the championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.
JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer
The two-year record is respectable but not very inspiring when it comes to predicting the IHSA state football champions.
A promising 5-3 start followed by a 4-4 mark makes this a crucial year. If things continue to slip, it might be time to re-evaluate everything we're doing and make some major changes.
So, with the pressure on, here we go with this year's picks for the eight state title games at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign. As always, these are strictly for fun and the obvious laughter as well.
8A Loyola (13-0) vs. Bolingbrook (12-1), 7 p.m.
Getting over the hump of consecutive semifinal losses was not easy for Loyola as its 13-point halftime deficit was its biggest of the year against Glenbard North.
But then the vaunted Ramblers' defense led by all-state linebacker and Barrington resident Eric Hauser took control. The offense led by dual-threat QB Malcolm Weaver (2,266 yards passing, 26 TDs), two-year starting center and Palatine resident Robert Delaney, running back Willy Palivos (936 yards) and a deep crew of receivers led by Charlie Dowdle (57 catches, 812 yards, 12 TDs) finally got rolling and the big scare was averted.
Bolingbrook also survived a scare with its fourth-quarter comeback to beat Naperville Central in the semis. Junior Aaron Bailey is a dynamic threat (1,834 yard rushing, 28 TDs; 899 passing, 10 TDs) behind recent Illinois O-lineman recruit Robbie Bain (6-foot-3, 296 pounds).
Both teams also have taken hits on defense Bolingbrook's Florida-bound LB Antonio Morrison (broken foot) was out last week and Loyola CB Scott Suhey broke his wrist after he intercepted 2 passes Saturday.
The pick: Last week was exactly the postseason test/scare Loyola needed. The Ramblers win their first title in 18 years 28-14.
7A Wheaton Warrenville South (10-3) vs. Rockford Boylan (13-0), 4 p.m.
Not often do you get a title matchup of defending champs. Not that many figured WW South would be here for a shot at a third straight 7A title after a 1-3 start.
But the Tigers are here and so is Boylan, which moved up in class after winning the 6A crown last year. WWS had a rugged playoff road with three wins by 7 points and the other by a field goal at East St. Louis while also dealing with injuries to its top two QBs, Thaddeus Armstrong and Ryan Graham.
The Tigers will try to keep riding Northwestern-bound RB Dan Vitale (1,219 yards, 16 TDs) and a defense led by LB Adam Dansdill. Sophomore QB Jordan Davis played the second half of the semifinal win at St. Rita.
Boylan brings a 27-game winning streak to Champaign after winning the school's first title a year ago. The explosive offense is led by QB Lamont Toney (1,408 yards passing, 22 TDs; 558 rushing, 9 TDs) and RB Tyreis Thomas (1,471 yards, 24 TDs). Northwestern-bound DT-TE Dean Lowry (6-6, 230) fuels a defense with 5 shutouts.
The pick: Boylan has certainly brought respect to Rockford, but WW South seems to be the team of destiny and wins another close one 14-13.
6A Prairie Ridge (12-1) vs. Peoria Richwoods (10-3), 1 p.m.
Prairie Ridge also finally cleared the semifinal hurdle of the last two seasons and a Week 9 stumble in OT to Cary-Grove to make its first title-game trip.
And yes, they do play a little football in Peoria, too, although Richwoods wasn't a likely candidate to get here after losing its first three games including 63-34 to Joliet Catholic.
Richwoods junior Kendrick Foster has rushed for 2,362 yards and 30 TDs but the Knights have allowed 349 points. Prairie Ridge has allowed only 123 and has three big threats in its triple option with Jordan Getzelman (1,219 yards, 19 TDs), Connor Greenwald (1,128 yards, 15 TDs) and QB Nick Nissen (1,962 total yards, 34 TDs).
The pick: Prairie Ridge slows Foster enough but can't be stopped on offense in a 35-21 win.
5A Montini (11-2) vs. Joliet Catholic (11-2), 10 a.m.
You'll want to get to Champaign or turn on the TV early to see if this can match or exceed the drama of their classic 5A title matchup two years ago. A 2-point conversion in the final minute gave Montini a 29-28 win and the first of consecutive titles.
This one has the potential for even more fireworks with some of the most explosive talent that will be seen this weekend. And Joliet Catholic is going for its 14th title with Montini after its fourth.
Joliet Catholic does its damage on the ground with dynamic junior Ty Isaac (2,114 yards, 36 TDs) and Northwestern-bound Malin Jones (1,494 yards, 25 TDs).
Montini's fireworks come through the air with junior QB John Rhode (2,447 yards, 35 TDs), who missed the first five weeks with a broken thumb, Nebraska-bound receiver Jordan Westerkamp (78 catches, 1,342 yards, 24 TDs), Joe Borsellino (62 for 869, 9 TDs) and Anthony Taylor (52 for 844, 7 TDs).
The pick: It will be hard for the rest of Saturday's games to top this one. Montini 49-42.
4A Rochester (11-2) vs. Richmond-Burton (12-1), 7 p.m.
Another pass vs. run battle as Oklahoma State-bound QB Wes Lunt (3,145 yards, 28 TDs) and WR Zach Grant (118 catches, 2,051 yards, 22 TDs) of Rochester take on R-B's multifaceted ground game led by Jack Dechow (1,078 yards, 13 TDs).
The pick: Lunt's numbers are amazing considering he missed half the year with a busted foot. Rochester rolls 42-15.
3A Aurora Christian (12-1) vs. Mt. Carmel (12-1), 4 p.m.
Western Michigan-bound QB Anthony Maddie (3,706 yards passing, 50 TDs; 925 rushing, 14 TDs) has put up maddening numbers for Aurora Christian. The downstate version of Mt. Carmel is led by RB Dallas Cook (1,410 years, 24 TDs) and has six wins over Indiana schools.
The pick: The first football title returns to an Aurora school 47-20.
2A Casey-Westfield (12-1) vs. Morrison (12-1), 1 p.m.
Casey-Westfield has a lot of size and has allowed only 61 points with 7 shutouts. Morrison will try to run it with Andy Schaver and Mark McDonnell.
The pick: Casey-Westfield's big-school size is too much in a 21-7 victory.
1A Tuscola (11-2) vs. Dakota (11-2), 10 a.m.
Tuscola is back with QB Phil Meyer (3,000 totals yards, 35 TDs) after winning the 2009 title and taking second last year. Junior RB-LB Jake Apple (2,201 yards, 31 TDs) helped Dakota in the playoffs avenge losses to Forreston and Freeport Aquin in a 1-2 start.
The pick: The multidimensional Meyer leads a 28-14 win.