Scouting the first round of the football playoffs in Lake County
No. 28 Barrington (5-4) at No. 5 Warren (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Warren 5; Barrington 1
Winner gets: Glenbard North (21) or Bolingbrook (12)
Outlook: Warren shut out Barrington in the first game of the season 19-0. "We will need to play with discipline this week more than any other week," Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. "Barrington is as well-coached as anybody we play all year. That program never beats itself. They stress you with formations and motions on offense and play harder than most defenses in the state. We will have our hands full this week." Warren's Jeremy Walton is having a very strong year at defensive end for the Blue Devils, as is Cohen Pye on the offensive line. "Jeremy has been really solid for us all year," McNulty said. "He plays extremely hard and has a great knowledge of our defense. Cohen has been our most consistent offensive linemen all season." Seniors Harley Thompson (QB), Evan Panesis (RB), Danny Sheedy (DB) and Andrew Kraus (DL) lead the way for Barrington. "We have to play well in all three phases," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "Warren is an excellent team and in order to be successful against them you have to play complimentary football, minimalize mistakes and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves."
No. 32 Lake Zurich (5-4) at No. 1 Batavia (9-0)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Lake Zurich 0; Batavia 6
Winner gets: Mt. Carmel (17) or Thornwood (16)
Outlook: Lake Zurich, winners of four of its last five, has a tough assignment against the state's No. 2-ranked Class 7A team. "In order for us to be successful we need to be ourselves," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "We need to make sure we are fundamentally sound, stay patient and make sure we don't hurt ourselves with penalties or a lot of mistakes. I am excited to watch our guys play this week." Lake Zurich averaged 96 passing yards per game through the first six weeks and has increased that to 141 over the last three. The Bears average more than 160 yards rushing per game. "We have been able to balance our offense better," Planz said. Planz said his team is in the postseason because "we stayed the course and kept attacking the process," he said. "Adversity is a part of the game and life. Our guys did a great job shutting out all the negative noise and focusing on what they control. Because of that, we get to keep playing." Batavia is led by running back Jalen Buckley (1,152 yards, 15 rushing TDs), plus Anthony Roberts (22 solos, 1 interception) has been key on defense.
No. 18 Libertyville (6-3) at No. 15 Pekin (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Libertyville 2; Pekin 3
Winner gets: Plainfield East (31) or Hononegah (2)
Outlook: The Wildcats will make the 3-plus-hour drive southwest to Pekin to face the Dragons. "Pekin is a power run team that will run play-action passes off it," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. "We must slow down their run game and put them in predictable situations. Our offensive line must be physical and we cannot turn the ball over." Charlie True has been a positive out of the backfield for the Wildcats, as has Tommy Latka. "Charlie is Mr. Versatile," Jones said. "He can run, catch and block. He is doing a nice job. Tommy is getting healthy and it is showing in his production. He is one of the best athletes in the conference." Pekin's losses were to Downstate Morton (7-2) by a touchdown and to Washington (7-2) by a point. Morton and Washington tied for the Mid-Illini Conference title.
No. 15 Lakes (5-4) at No. 2 Wauconda (9-0)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Wauconda 4; Lakes 0
Winner gets: Vernon Hills (10) or Prairie Ridge (7)
Outlook: These two teams met on Oct. 1 in Lake Villa with Wauconda winning 29-13. "We have film on all nine games as do they," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "Both teams like to run the ball, which I think is the key to the game. Whoever can establish the run and take care of the football will have the advantage." Wauconda has 38 rushing TDs and has given up 3. Colin Husko has powered the Bulldogs' running attack with 1,071 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has 40 tackles and 5 interceptions on defense and is a special teams standout. Lineman Ryan Stephan and Collin Cheshier are also two difference-makers for Mills. Cheshier leads the team in solo tackles and leads the linebacking crew in interceptions. Wauconda has a 26-8 turnovers advantage (plus-2 a game). Mark Hunter continues to lead the Lakes rushing attack, bolstered by the play of lineman JP Sullivan, who coach Jordan Eder noted has been a stalwart on both sides of the line. Anthony Grande is an equally important asset on defense. "Wauconda is a very good team and 9-0 for a reason," Eder said. "We are excited to have another opportunity at playing them this season and look forward to the challenge. Our team continues to improve each week in practice and games. We need to play well on both sides of the ball to win against a very good Wauconda team."
No. 11 Antioch (6-3) at No. 6 Lake Forest (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Antioch 2; Lake Forest 3
Winner gets: Crystal Lake South (14) or Harlem (3)
Outlook: Antioch's three losses have come against undefeated teams (Waukesha Catholic Memorial, Morris and Wauconda). Lake Forest lost to Carmel in Week 2 by 12 points and then by four to Warren last week in the North Suburban title game. Sequoits coach Brian Glashagel said controlling Lake Forest's Jahari Scott (RB) and Leo Scheidler (QB) is essential. "They are big-time players on offense," he said. "We need to control the ball on offense and keep them off the field." Junior Joey Neumann has been a major asset at tight end and outside backer for Antioch. "Joey has become one of the more dominant two-way players in the county," Glashagel said. Junior Jordan DeVaughn, Glashagel noted, is a playmaker at wide receiver and outside backer, while sophomore Nick Day has run for more than 700 yards, including 177 against Lakes last week. QB Quade Moll has thrown for 952 yards and 7 touchdowns, while 5-foot-7, 140-pound Caleb Nobiling leads the Antioch defense with 64 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. "We have a tough group of kids that have continued to get better every week," Glashagel said.
No. 9 Grayslake Central (7-2) at No. 8 Belvidere North (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Grayslake Central 1; Belvidere North 2
Winner gets: Rockford East (16) or Cary-Grove (1)
Outlook: Based on seeds this one could go either way and be close. Central is on a two-game winning streak and has won four of its last five. "Belvidere North will be a significant challenge for us in all three phases," Rams coach Mike Maloney said. "They are a disciplined, well-coached team. They pride themselves on the ground-and-pound triple option. We need to be focused and efficient on offense. Ball security and the turnover margin will be critical this week. Defensively, we need to be gap-sound and aggressive. The more physical we play, the better opportunities we create for ourselves." Quarterback Darryl Overstreet has been a constant for Central behind a congruent offensive line unit, Maloney noted. Matty Jens (RB-LB), Matthew Ziemke and Kurt Heerdegen are three more Ram difference-makers. Central has 1,855 passing yards and 1,637 rushing yards and has scored a touchdown on 43 of its 76 possessions this year, while allowing only 4 QB sacks. Belvidere North finished third in the NIC-10 with losses to Hononegah (9-0) and Harlem (8-1).
No. 10 Vernon Hills (7-2) at No. 7 Prairie Ridge (7-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Wins against playoff teams: Vernon Hills 0; Prairie Ridge 3
Winner gets: Lakes (15) or Wauconda (2)
Outlook: Vernon Hills opens against a perennial playoff participant in Prairie Ridge. "Prairie Ridge is one of the premiere programs in Illinois," Cougars coach Bill Bellecomo said. "They run their offense well. They will be the best offensive line we have seen all year. They stay very low coming off the ball. We need to be disciplined on defense and do our assignments. It is difficult to prepare for an offense you don't see much. It will be a challenge for our team this week, but that's what the playoffs are all about." Prairie Ridge lost to Fox Valley Conference champion Cary-Grove and by a point to playoff qualifier Hampshire (also in the FVC).