Scouting first-round playoff games in the Fox Valley
No. 13 Dundee-Crown (6-3) at No. 4 Oak Park-River Forest (8-1)
Live Streaming video: @football.dailyherald.com, followed by postgame highlights.
Playoff history: Dundee-Crown makes its fourth playoff appearance overall, its first since 1994. The Chargers seek the first playoff victory in school history. OP-RF makes its 13th playoff appearance and second straight. The Huskies are 9-12 in postseason play.
Outlook: Dundee-Crown makes its first playoff appearance in 19 years. The Chargers face a team that employs a no-huddle spread option attack, keyed by junior quarterback Lloyd Yates (6-foot-1, 185 pounds). The second-year starter was named West Suburban Silver Offensive Player of the Year. He has thrown for 1,450 yards and 15 touchdowns on 90-of-144 passing (62.5 percent) and has been intercepted just twice. Yates has rushed for 650 yards and 8 touchdowns on 95 carries. "Those numbers are pretty astounding considering we really spread the ball around a lot," said third-year OP-RF coach John Hoerster, the son of late Loyola Academy hall-of-fame coach John Hoerster. Senior running back Jamal Baggett (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) also plays cornerback. Baggett, who has offers from Bowling Green, Miami (OH), Toledo and Western Michigan, has rushed for 609 yards and 7 touchdowns on 67 carries. Wide receiver Simmie Cobbs returned to OP-RF for his senior season. He transferred to Montini as a junior but was not allowed to play football due to transfer rules. Verbally committed to Purdue, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound wide receiver has 32 receptions for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns. Simms also plays defense, as does versatile WR/CB Xavier Rowe. The OP-RF defense is led by defensive end Andre Lee, who paces the Huskies in tackles (52), sacks (9½) and tackles for loss (8). "They're the best team we've faced all year and it's not even close," Dundee-Crown coach Vito Andriola said. "I had to defend a similar offense when Maine South ran it and we defended that as well as any team around, but I have different players here than I had (as defensive coordinator at Glenbrook South) and that makes a difference. We have to take the ball away and control the ball on offense. That's the number one thing for us: control the ball." The D-C run-oriented offense is led by junior Caleb Parson (124 carries, 674 yards, 10 touchdowns), and seniors TJ Moss (75-516-5) and Cordero Parson (49-283-3). Starting safety/running back Malik Dunner may return from an ankle sprain. If not, sophomore Pat Sprouse will again start as he did last week against Jacobs. Three-year varsity linebacker Tim Schanmier will not play for D-C due to a concussion suffered last week, but the Chargers are nevertheless dangerous, says Hoerster: "They have a few good defensive players out there that will hit you and they move around pretty good," the OP-RF coach said. "The key for us is to play fast and aggressive but under control. We have to be disciplined on both sides of the ball because they are fundamentally sound and very well coached."
Advancement: Winner plays either No. 12 Niles West (6-3) or No. 5 Maine South (7-2)
No. 11 Conant (6-3) at No. 6 Jacobs (7-2)
Live Streaming video: @football.dailyherald.com, followed by postgame highlights.
Playoff history: Jacobs makes its ninth playoff appearance overall and fourth straight. The Golden Eagles are 3-8 in postseason play. Conant makes its 21st playoff appearance and third in a row. The Cougars own a postseason record of 18-20.
Outlook: The Golden Eagles make their fourth straight playoff appearance, extending the school record set last year. Fourth-year coach Bill Mitz's first three teams at Jacobs have gone 0-3 in the playoffs, but each faced a much higher seed on the road in Round 1. The Fox Valley Conference Valley Division outright champions earned the right to open the playoffs in Algonquin, marking their first home playoff game since Nov. 3, 2006, when they lost a second-round contest to Prospect, 35-0. The program's last playoff victory came a week earlier, an 8-6 victory at Belvidere. The Golden Eagles host a Conant team that finished tied for third in the Mid-Suburban League West. The Cougars are led by quarterback Danny Modelski (5-10, 175), who last week threw for 252 yards and 3 touchdowns as Conant sealed a playoff berth by beating Fremd for the first time in a decade. Modelski has thrown for 1,983 yards (220 avg.). His top targets are seniors Michael Kos (6-1, 185), Bryson Brown (6-0, 167) and D'Angelo McBride (6-4, 190). Junior running back Elias Gardner has rushed for 565 yards. "(Modelski) is a good thrower and he has a couple of big targets," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "Gardner can get some yardage in the spread when he gets his shoulders square. They have good team speed and some good skilled players. It will be interesting to see how they try to stop us. There are some things that we do that will present problems for them. We'll have to wait to see how they try to match up with us. If they do one thing, we'll do another." Mitz credited the improving play of the young offensive line in recent weeks, a group that includes junior left tackle Jonny Cieniewicz (6-1, 250), junior left guard Jeff Sidor (5-10, 205), junior center Carson Shoemaker (6-2, 220), senior right guard Mark Mamola (5-9, 225) and senior right tackle Blake Broz (6-4, 260), the only returning lineman from last year. Mamola is Jacobs' only two-way player. He leads the team in sacks with 8½. The offensive line opened holes last week for junior Josh Walker to rush for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns, upping his season totals to 967 yards and 10 touchdowns on 133 carries (7.3 avg.). Walker is the perfect complement to senior quarterback Bret Mooney, who has completed 128 of 203 attempts (63 percent) for 1,732 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has thrown 8 interceptions. Mooney's main connection is with childhood friend Hunter Williams, who has 61 receptions for 634 yards and a touchdown. Mooney did not throw a touchdown pass last week for the first time this season, a trend unlikely to continue. "When Bret is hot, he's as good as any quarterback in the state," Mitz said. "Hopefully, we'll all be hot Friday night."
Advancement: Winner plays either No. 14 Machesney Park Harlem (6-3) or No. 3 Glenbard West (8-1)
No 9 Cary-Grove (6-3) at No. 8 Rockford Guilford (7-2)
Playoff history: Cary-Grove makes its 20th playoff appearance overall and 10th in a row. The Trojans own a 34-18 postseason record, highlighted by a Class 6A state title in 2009 and runner-up finishes sin 2012 and 2004. Guilford makes its 15th playoff appearance, its first since 2010. The Vikings are 7-13 all-time in postseason play.
Outlook: The Trojans survived a tough regular-season schedule that included losses to Class 7A powers Wheaton North (7-2), Lake Zurich (8-1) and Jacobs (7-2). The triple-option offense rounded into form at midseason with the addition of freshman fullback Tyler Pennington (127 carries, 792 yards, 7 touchdowns) and the return from injury of versatile running back Zach McQuade, who last week caught a 50-yard touchdown pass. The Cary-Grove offense will face a Guilford defense anchored by senior Mike Reitsch (5-10, 160), a two-time all NIC-10 safety being recruited by Dartmouth and Penn. The Vikings are a senior-laden team, led by their defense, which held six of nine conference opponents to 7 points or less. End Delano Clanton (6-2, 190) is the most athletic member of a lunch-pail defense. "We don't have a bunch of giant kids, but we have 10 seniors who get to the ball in a hurry," Guilford coach Mel Gilfillan said. "We see the option twice a year. Once we did OK, once not so great (a 42-14 loss to Hononegah)." A Cary-Grove offense triggered by junior Jason Gregoire (102 carries, 424 yards, 10 TD) will try to find holes in the Guilford defense. Gregoire has also thrown for 636 yards and 4 touchdowns. "Their defense returned nine starters from the previous year, so they have a lot of experience on that side of the ball," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said of the Vikings. "They have some athletes that the Fox Valley Conference doesn't really have a lot of, which is the first thing that jumps out on film. The second thing is that they have an offense that can score really anytime because they have so many athletic playmakers. We have to play extremely disciplined on defense." Clanton lines up at wide receiver and running back. He has rushed for 600-plus yards and 9 touchdowns. According the Rockford Register-Star, quarterback Nino Musso has completed 83 of 151 attempts for 1,185 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His top targets are 5-11 senior Sedrick Jones (35 rec., 594 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Reitsch (18-331-3). The offensive line is anchored by junior center Marion Frye (5-10, 220), junior guard Tyler Wilke (6-3, 295) and senior guard Skyler Craig (6-3, 325). The Trojans counter with interior lineman Michael Gomez (6-0, 249). "He's about the size of one leg of those guys, but he's the biggest we've got," Seaburg said of Gomez. "Other guys will have to use their speed and technique. They understand the urgency. The end is near one way or the other. We've tried to get into our kids' heads that we've played a tough schedule and the teams we lost to were some of the best in 7A, including Jacobs, which ended on the last play of the game. Even though we've lost more regular-season games than we're accustomed to, we certainly feel like we have a chance to make a run."
Advancement: Winner plays either No. 16 Belvidere North (5-4) or No. 1 Boylan Catholic (9-0)
No. 17 Hampshire (6-3) at No. 5 Kaneland (8-1)
Playoff history: Hampshire makes its 15th playoff appearance and first since 2008. The Whip-Purs are 21-11 all-time in the postseason, including state titles in 1976 (1A), 1979 (1A) and 1995 (2A). Kaneland has reached the playoffs 18 times, including the last six seasons. The Knights are 23-15 in postseason play, including state titles in 1997 (3A) and 1998 (3A).
Outlook: Hampshire begins its ninth and final playoff run under retiring 25th-year coach Dan Cavanaugh, who directed the Whip-Purs to the Class 2A state title in 1995. Kaneland has been knocking on the state title door in recent years. The Knights lost semifinals to Montini in 2010 and 2011 before bowing out in the second round last year to Lincoln-Way West. Cavanaugh said he hasn't spoken to his players this week in terms of seeding or which team might be favored. Instead, he tried to impress upon them the urgency of the moment. "It's playoff time now. You have to bring your best effort right away or it's one and done," he said. "They know Kaneland is very good and they have a lot of offensive weapons. They seem to get better every time I look at them on film. We need to eat up some clock as we've been able to do at times to help take some pressure off our defense." The Whip-Purs will attempt to control the clock with a strong offensive line, led by senior Mike Gibas (6-2, 240). That unit makes room for senior running back Nick Kielbasa (5-9, 180), who has rushed for 1,199 yards and 20 touchdowns in 199 attempts (6.0 avg.). Senior Chris Calvin has rushed for 414 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hampshire gains 2 yards on the ground for every yard it gains via the pass. Junior quarterback Nick Mohlman has completed 58 of 92 attempts (63 percent) for 1,005 yards. His high completion rate coupled with his disparity between touchdown passes (12) and interceptions (3) results in a remarkable 126.1 quarterback rating. Mohlman's No. 1 receiver is speedy senior Tim Jansen, who has 39 receptions for 755 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Hampshire offense will face a Kaneland defense led by middle linebacker Gary Koehring, his team's leading tackler by a wide margin. The Kaneland offense is still mostly a spread attack, though the Knights sometimes vary formations, including an inverted power-I. Kaneland likes to throw the ball. Senior quarterback Drew David (6-0, 175) is a 61-percent passer. He has thrown for 2,033 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. David also leads the Knights with 507 rushing yards. "The quarterback is very good," Cavanaugh said. "And they can run it down your throat or spread you out and run." The Hampshire defense is led by leading tacklers Damon Mull (75) and Mason Fleury (70). Fleury, Trey Schramm and Calvin each have 3 interceptions. The Whips have forced 12 more turnovers than they've committed.
Advancement: Winner plays either No. 13 Urban Prep Englewood (6-3) or No. 4 Joliet Catholic (8-1)
No. 15 St. Edward (5-4) at No. 2 Harvard (9-0)
Playoff history: St. Edward makes its fifth playoff appearance overall and third in five seasons. The Green Wave postseason record is 1-4. Harvard makes its fourth straight appearance and 18th overall. The Hittin' Hornets are 11-17 in postseason play.
Outlook: All six members of the Suburban Christian Blue made the playoffs this season. Which forces the question: is the sixth-best team in the powerful SCC Blue good enough to go on the road and defeat the unbeaten champion of the Big Northern East in a first-round playoff game? "If we were in a lot of other conferences and played teams our size all season, this team might have been a 9-0 team," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said of the third squad he has led to the playoffs in nine seasons. "We're treating this like a 9-0 team against a 9-0 team and only one moves on. We have to play with a swagger and a chip." One key factor is how the Green Wave react to the loss of senior running back/corner Mikey Castoro, who tore an ACL last week against St. Francis. Defensively, he finished his senior season with 38 tackles and 7 passes defended. Offensively, he rushed for 485 yards and 4 touchdowns in 39 attempts (12.4 avg.) and was St. Edward's leader in receptions (19), receiving yards (357) and touchdown catches (4). Expect St. Edward to pound the ball as usual behind power back DaVontae Elam. Already the school's career rushing leader, last week he broke the single-season rushing record with 112 yards, giving him 1,382. He has scored 17 touchdowns in 196 attempts, or a touchdown every 11.5 touches. "He's obviously an explosive runner," said Harvard coach Tim Haak, who is retiring as the school's football and wrestling coach. "We'll have to play solid defense and get off the field." The Hornets counter with a two-back, prostyle offense. Their key player is wide receiver Justin Nolen, who has over 500 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. The senior also plays safety, punts and returns kicks and punts for the first Harvard team to finish the regular season undefeated since 1988. Junior Christian Kramer (5-6, 150) has rushed for nearly 900 yards and 9 scores, Haak said. "They have a couple of backs who can move the ball well behind some real big, good linemen up front," Rolando said. "They move the ball and come downhill very well. They're not as big as some of the teams we've played, but they are tough."
Advancement: Winner plays either No. 10 Aurora Central Catholic (6-3) or No. 7 King (7-2)