Playoffs Week 1: Scouting the East Suburban Catholic
No. 17 Benet (6-3) at No. 16 Maine West (7-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last week: Benet 38, Carmel 21; Deerfield 31, Maine West 30.
Outlook: Benet's top priority is matching the energy of Maine West making its first playoff appearance since 2002. Last week's loss to Deerfield cost the Warriors the outright CSL North title, but they still enter the playoffs with momentum. Benet's defense has been tremendous, and the challenge this week comes from containing running back Jake Bellizzi, quarterback George Markakis and tight end Matt Kentgen. Connor Reid is among the many ballhawks in Benet's secondary. Week by week the Redwings have expanded the playbook for sophomore quarterback Colin Gillespie. Last week Thomas Snell became the latest player to step up at running back. The excitement is back in Des Plaines. And it should reach a fever pitch when Maine West hosts its first playoff game since 1993. Maine West's opportunistic defense led by Matt Litas, Jake Bellizzi, Krystian Garbicz, Nick Horcher and Isaih Siem-Davis forced 4 turnovers last week. They will need that kind of effort to slow down Gillespie, who stepped in quite nicely when starter Matt Boyle went down with an injury. Maine West has been getting terrific quarterback play from Markakis, who has thrown for 1,238 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tight end Matt Kentgen is his favorite target, while Bellizzi has been a force running the ball.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 32 Harlem at No. 1 Hononegah.
CLASS 5A#15 St. Viator (5-4, 4-2) at #2 Sterling (9-0)When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Previous meeting: 1st meeting
Outlook: St. Viator heads to the state playoffs as one of the most dangerous 15th seeds in the state. The Lions, who qualified for the playoffs for the second year in a row, are back in 5A for the first time since 2014. They have played just two 5A teams this season -- and won both of those games. But Viator enters the game with both of their running backs injured. Jack Scislowski tore his ACL in Week 5, while Elijah Black injured his shoulder last week. Black appears to be out, but Scislowski may give it a go. That puts tons of pressure on quarterback Bryce Hellgeth, who is capable of producing a huge game for the Lions. St. Viator also may be without top defensive back Christian Dolecki, who is scheduled to take the ACT Saturday. Many consider this may be the best Sterling team in years. Sterling has averaged a gaudy 45 points this season and qualified for the playoffs the last four years, and 15 of the last 16.