Scouting Week 1 of the playoffs, Northwest
No. 9 Notre Dame (6-3) at No. 8 Fremd (6-3)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Playoff History: Notre Dame 15th appearance, 8th consecutive. Fremd 23rd appearance, 2nd consecutive.
Outlook: Fremd will need to stop Notre Dame running back Chris James, who rushed for 243 yards last week against Carmel. Fremd may opt to look at Notre Dame's game against St. Viator for a formula for success in containing the 5-foot-10, 210-pound, three-year starter. In that game, Viator bottled up James; who has 13 Division 1 offers, to rush for 105 yards on 27 carries. Meanwhile, Fremd, which held Schaumburg's Stacey Smith to 5 rushing yards in the second half two weeks ago, will also need to get its offense in gear. The Vikings have been getting tremendous production of out Garrett Groot, who has rushed for 484 yards and scored 10 touchdowns over the past 3 weeks. Groot will also welcome the return of backfield mate Jeff McGlade, who sat out last week's game with an ankle injury. "They like to get the ball to No. 3 (James)," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "He is a load."
No. 15 Evanston (5-4) at No. 2 Barrington (8-1)
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Playoff history: Evanston 20th appearance, 4th in a row. Barrington 19th appearance, 1st in 2 years.
Outlook:This is game with two teams going in opposite directions. Barrington has improved each week and the Broncos are riding a 4-game winning streak, averaging nearly 34 points per game during it. The play of quarterback Daniel Kubiuk has been a key factor in that achievement. Kubiuk has managed the offense well, throwing for 1,740 yards while being intercepted only 3 times. Dylan Abel has taken over most of the running load since the game with Fremd in Week 5 and has rushed for 427 yards. The Broncos face an Evanston team that backed into the playoffs. The Wildkits lost their last two games, were shut out in both and are averaging just under 20 points. "We need to keep up the intensity," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "This team likes to play hard."
No. 16 Elk Grove (6-3) at No. 1 Lake Zurich (8-1)
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Playoff history: Elk Grove 13th appearance, fifth consecutive. Lake Zurich 17th appearance, 12th consecutive.
Outlook: Elk Grove will have its hands full after drawing one of the favorites to win the Class 7A title. The Grens are coming off of one their most disappointing offensive performances, scoring just 3 points in their win over Prospect. Now the Grens face a defense that has allowed an average of 8.7 points per game. "With the things we do well, we can exploit some of the things that they do," Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. "We just need to play our best game offensively." Adam O'Malley has had another great year for Elk Grove, passing for 2,145 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for 6 more scores. Mike Bishoff has 53 receptions for 574 yards while Matt Wary has hauled down 41 passes for 425 yards. Lake Zurich, which is averaging 32.9 points per game; look to turn things around after losing the Stevenson last week. The Bears feature quarterback Noah Allgood. He, along with running backs Sean Lynch, Dylan Schassler, Joey Holtz and sophomore sensation Ben Klett, will look to keep Elk Grove busy on defense.
No. 13 Hersey (6-3) vs. No. 4 Fenwick (8-1) at Elmhurst College
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Playoff history: Hersey 11th appearance, 1st since 2004. Fenwick 15th, 2nd consecutive.
Outlook: Although the game is at a neutral site, Hersey may have a feeling of a home playoff game since the Huskies spent a week at Elmhurst College with their summer camp. "How ironic and how cool is that?" Hersey coach Dragan Teonic asked. "It was a tough week of practice there for our kids. But every time we have had some adversity, we have pointed to Camp Elmhurst." Hersey will look to keep their offense running at full throttle. The Huskies have average 34 points per game in their last three outings thanks to the play of quarterback Jack Warner, who has thrown for 1,922 yards and 19 touchdowns. Eddie Miklasz has been outstanding again this year catching 12 touchdown passes and gaining 945 yards. Defensively, the Huskies will need to contain Western Michigan recruit Robert Spillane, who plays both running back and linebacker for the Friars. Tight End Ryan Smith, who is 6-foot-5, and WR Richard Schoen are quarterback Gino Cavalieri's favorite targets.
No. 15 Schurz (6-3) at No. 2 Schaumburg (8-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Playoff history: Schurz 4th appearance, 1st since 1992. Schaumburg 15th appearance, 2nd consecutive.
Outlook: Schaumburg bounced back quite nicely last week after its Week 8 loss. The Saxons continued their ground assault, rushing for 3,143 yards on the season while averaging 36.2 points. Stacey Smith continues to be the key to the Saxon offense, rushing for 1,490 yards. He has begun to connect with his receivers more in the past couple of games, which will make the Saxons even more dangerous on offense. Schurz finished second in the Public League's Big Shoulders conference. The Bulldogs won 3 of their last 4 games to qualify for the playoffs but did have an opening-season loss to Maine East 38-22. "They are athletic and have got better," Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. "They play a different brand of football that we are used to. They have the ability to be explosive and we have to work to contain them."
No. 11 Conant (6-3) at No. 6 Jacobs (7-2)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Playoff history: 21st playoff appearance, 3rd consecutive. Jacobs 9th playoff appearance, 4th consecutive.
Outlook: This game may be like looking in the mirror for both teams. Both Conant and Jacobs count on strong play from their quarterback. Conant features Danny Modelski, who has thrown for 2,036 yards and 24 touchdowns while only being picked off 3 times this year. Jacobs counters with Bret Mooney, who is committed to Colgate and has thrown for 1,652 yards and 17 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. Meanwhile, Jacobs has had success with its running game all season with Josh Walker coming off a 251-yard performance to up his season total to 873 yards. Conant recently moved Elias Gardener to running back. With Gardener, who has rushed for 565 yards, the Cougars have become more balanced on offense. "I think offensively they present some challenges to you," Conant coach Bill Modelski said. "Defensively they fly to the ball very well."
No. 10 Rolling Meadows (6-3) at No. 7 Grayslake North (7-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Playoff history: Rolling Meadows 14th appearance, 3rd consecutive. Grayslake North 2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive.
Outlook: Expect a huge offensive show with two teams that can get up and down the field. Rolling Meadows, which is averaging 33.8 points, has piled up 3,586 yards of total offense and has exceeded 400 yards in each of its last 4 games. Bobby Suchecki has been masterful taking over the Mustangs offense this season, throwing for 1,952 yards and 20 touchdowns. Kevin Montero has rushed for 789 yards, with most of it coming in the last 6 games. Grayslake North, which is averaging 35.3 points per game, has a two-pronged attack offensively. Quarterback Merrick Gentile has thrown for 1,223 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 948 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Knights this season. Running back Titus Booker has gained 1,027 yards on 158 carries while scoring 12 touchdowns. "These are very similar teams," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "It comes down to whose defense plays better. I have a lot of faith in our defense. They have got better every week."