Some new faces in state playoff places
It is many of the the usual suspects -- joined by a pair of teams that had been in long postseason droughts -- in the Illinois High School Association football playoff pairings, which were announced Saturday.
Barrington, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates and St. Viator, all of which qualified last year, earned berths again this year.
Also in are Maine West, which has not qualified since 2002 and Buffalo Grove, which has not qualified since 2003.
Hersey returns after a two-year absence on the heels of winning the Mid-Suburban East race, and Schaumburg has a spot after narrowly missing last year.
That means nine Northwest suburban teams qualified, one more than last season. It could easily have been 10, as Leyden was playoff eligible with 5 wins. But the Eagles fell short with 36 playoff points, with the cutoff being 39 this season for 5-4 teams.
Barrington (9-0) earned the second seed in the Class 8A playoffs thanks to its unblemished record and 37 playoff points. The Broncos, who won the MSL West, will host No. 31 seed Glenbrook South (5-4) in a rematch of a Week 4 game. Barrington beat the Titans 45-24 in that one.
"It is certainly a nice seeding to get at this time of the year," said Barrington coach Joe Sanchez, whose team qualified for a fifth straight year and the seventh time in the last eight years. "Like any of the other 31 teams, you look for a win in your first game and a good path from there."
Sanchez says his team looks forward to its matchup with Glenbrook South, which is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
"They know us and we know them," Sanchez said. "We are excited to get this journey going."
Palatine (6-3) earned a 23rd seed. The Pirates, who made it to the 8A semifinals the last two seasons, could be a dangerous contender this season. They have lost 3 games by a total of just 12 points to 8A playoff qualifiers Barrington, No. 5 seed Maine South and No. 22 seed Stevenson.
Palatine will play at No. 10 seed South Elgin (8-1).
"We were hoping to get a 7-2 team," Palatine coach Corey Olson said. "But you get what you get. We have to have a good week of preparation again. They are a good football team."
The most intriguing area matchup comes in 7A, where Hersey (8-1) will host MSL East rival Rolling Meadows (6-3). The teams met just two weeks ago, with Hersey wining 21-20.
"There won't be any travel issues," quipped Hersey coach Joe Pardun, whose Huskies won the East title outright for the first time since 1991. "It seems like the great playoff games are between teams from the same conference."
Rolling Meadows qualified for the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year and the 14th time in the last 15 years.
"The prep time won't be what it normally is for a first-round game, that is for sure," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "That first game was such a battle, but I know that both teams will make some adjustments."
The game is tentatively scheduled to be played Friday at Hersey at 7 p.m.
Buffalo Grove will join its fellow MSL East teams in 7A. The Bison (8-1), who are seeded 10th, will be hosting their first playoff game since 2002 when they meet No. 23 seed Bellville East (6-3).
"It is so fun for us because this is all so new," Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk said. "We have only one coach here who ever coached in the playoffs."
Vlk and his staff also gained some geographical knowledge from the pairing.
"I didn't even know where Belleville is," Vlk said. "We had to look them up online to find out."
Maine West (7-2) is also in 7A. The Warriors also were rewarded with a home playoff game, the first time that's happened since 1993. Seeded 16th, Maine West will play 17th-seeded Benet (6-3) of the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
"That is crazy that we have not had a home game in all those years," Maine West coach Jason Kradman said. "Everyone is excited here. I passed out the shirts to the kids and we are ready to go."
Schaumburg (5-4) qualified thanks to its 42 playoff points. The Saxons, who are seeded 30th, will play at third-seeded Lake Zurich (9-0).
"The kids are excited," Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. "It is good to be playing in Week 10. We are very excited for the challenge."
The game is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
Hoffman Estates (7-2) qualified for the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Hawks also will be hosting their first playoff game since 1993. Hoffman, which was placed in the North bracket of 6A, is seeded seventh. The Hawks will host 10th-seeded De La Salle (6-3) of the Chicago Catholic League.
"It is time to work," said Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse, who was actually on the playing field for that last game at Hoffman Estates, when Heyse played at Conant. "This is the fun part. The kids are so excited to be playing at to be at home."
Hoffman's playoff game against De La Salle is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
St. Viator earned its second consecutive trip to the state playoffs. The Lions (5-4) were pushed down to Class 5A this year and placed in the North bracket. They were seeded 15th and will play at second-seeded Sterling (9-0), which won the Northern Illinois Big 12 West conference.
"We are excited to keep playing and keep growing the program," said St. Viator coach Dave Archibald, whose Lions have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 10 years. "It is always a goal of ours to continue playing in the postseason. The guys are seeing that a good culture and a good work ethic can make you successful, even in a tough conference."
All the dates and times for the first round of the postseason will be officially announced by the IHSA on Monday.
Games will be played either next Friday or Saturday; starting times for the entire field will be released by the IHSA on Monday.
Class 8ANo. 31 Glenbrook South (5-4) at No. 2 Barrington (9-0)
No. 23 Palatine (6-3) at No. 10 South Elgin (8-1)
Class 7ANo. 17 Benet Academy (6-3) at No. 16 Maine West (7-2)
No. 25 Rolling Meadows (6-3) at No. 8 Hersey (8-1)
No. 23 Belleville West (6-3) at No. 10 Buffalo Grove (8-1)
No. 30 Schaumburg (5-4) at No. 3 Lake Zurich (9-0)
Class 6ANo. 10 De La Salle (6-3) at No. 7 Hoffman Estates (7-2)
Class 5ANo. 15 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 2 Sterling (9-0)