Playoffs Week 1: Scouting the Chicago Catholic
No. 12 Montini (6-3) at No. 5 DeKalb (7-2)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Montini 49, St. Francis 7; Sterling 31, DeKalb 3.
Outlook: Montini's 49-15 2015 semifinal win at DeKalb means little now. What Barbs coach Matt Weckler said might prepare DeKalb for Montini's team speed and schemes was, ironically, last week's 31-3 loss to unbeaten Sterling. DeKalb itself runs a triple option out of a spread set that allows quarterback Noah Valin and 1,200-yard rusher Jaylen Hobson to make inside reads, bounce it outside or hit short perimeter passes to make Broncos like linebacker Jackson Bruscianelli tackle in space. Montini owns a fine plus-15 turnover ratio. Dual-threat quarterback Nick Orlando, Matt Morrissey and Brad Norgle have combined to complete 64 percent of their passes for 1,410 yards, 15 touchdowns, 1 interception.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 13 Deerfield at No. 4 Willowbrook.
No. 14 Marmion (5-4) at No. 3 Shepard (8-1)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last week: St. Rita 47, Marmion 14; Shepard 40, Argo 7
Outlook: Survive and advance? Marmion has been at it for weeks. The Cadets won their first 5 games of the season, capped by a 28-27 win over Montini (6-3), but a 4-game slide against quality Chicago Catholic League opponents followed. The most important aspect of last week's 47-14 loss to St. Rita was the Cadets coming through healthy. "Egos were crushed going 5-0 and then 0-4, but we're undefeated going into this game Friday night," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. "That's all we wanted was an opportunity to make the playoffs. Now, we'll take them one at a time." The Astros are not used to close games. Other than their lone loss -- a 27-21, Week 3 defeat vs. South Suburban Red champion Richards (7-2) -- the Astros have played one game decided by less than 18 points. That was a 21-18 win at Hillcrest (7-2) in Week 7. Shepard scores 38.6 ppg and allows 11.6. Junior quarterback Marquel Porter is a dual threat. The 50-percent passer has thrown for 1,359 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed 60 times for 334 yards and 5 TDs, according to the Daily Southtown. His top receiver is 5-10 senior Neiko Carter (18 rec., 472 yards, 7 TD). Shepard's strength is athleticism and speed. The Astros use many of their top athletes on both sides of the ball. "Finally, for the first time in six weeks we're going against a team that some players going both ways," Thorpe said. "And their biggest lineman is 260 (pounds) whereas the past six weeks some of the teams we played, their smallest lineman was 260."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 11 Hubbard (6-3) at No. 6 Sacred Heart-Griffin (7-2).
No. 16 Aurora Christian (5-4) at No. Sterling Newman Central Catholic (9-0)
Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Aurora Christian 50, St. Joseph 20; Sterling Newman Central Catholic 51, Riverdale 0
Outlook: Aurora Christian makes its second playoff appearance under fourth-year coach David Beebe, its first since 2014. Sterling Newman defeated the Eagles 44-21 in a first-round playoff game that year. The teams also met in a state semifinal in 2012. Aurora Christian won that game 41-7 en route to a state title. Both offenses tend to light up the scoreboard. Led by 2016 Chicago Catholic White unanimous MVP Drew Clippert, the Eagles score 33.2 ppg. Clippert is a 61.5-percent passer (222 of 361) with 3,198 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has been intercepted 14 times. The Comets are even more prolific. Their flex bone triple option offense averages 43.6 ppg. The big difference between the resumes of the top seed and No. 16 is defense. The Comets limit opponents to 7.8 ppg, whereas Aurora Christian allows 29.4. "It's by far the best defense they've ever had," Beebe said. "They are very aggressive and fast to the ball. It gives them a chance against anybody because that offense is so difficult to stop." Coach Mike Papoccia, in his 38th season, has directed the Comets to victories against five playoff teams, including 8-1 Rockridge (22-21) and 7-2 Orion (35-21). "We have a ton of respect for Sterling Newman," Beebe said. "Mike has been there for 35-40 years and they do what they do. They have tough-nosed kids who play good defense and rally to the ball. And they have an offense that comes right at you. We have to play downhill and have very quick reads. If we make contact at the line of scrimmage, we have to make the tackle."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 9 Orr (7-2) at No. 8 Chicago Hope Academy (7-2)