Playoffs Week 1: Scouting the Fox Valley Conference
No. 26 Edwardsville (6-3) at No. 7 Huntley (8-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last week: Huntley 45, McHenry 7; Edwardsville 70, Collinsville 0
Outlook: The scoreboard operator should be busy as the two highest-scoring teams in the Class 8A playoffs clash in the opening round. The Tigers average 43.7 ppg, second only to the Red Raiders' 45.9 ppg. Senior quarterback Eric Mooney is the driving force behind the Huntley offense. Unlike many mobile quarterbacks, Mooney possesses a higher gear with 4.43 speed in the 40-yard dash. He has rushed for 923 yards and 15 touchdowns on 108 carries in the run-pass option offense. A 67-percent passer, Mooney has completed 117 of 175 attempts for 1,897 yards and 19 touchdowns and has thrown only 4 interceptions. His speed is nearly matched by running back Melvin Aninagyei-Bonsu. The senior has 1,027 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns in 128 attempts (8.0 avg.). Mooney's top receivers include seniors Ryan Antonsen (40 receptions, 600 yards, 7 TD) and Brian O'Mara (28-589-4) and junior Michael Boland (24-452-7). The Tigers have their share of speedy athletes, led by junior quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman, who has carried 112 times for 1,045 yards, according to the Belleville News-Democrat. Like Mooney, Abdur-Rahman has rushed for 19 touchdowns. He has thrown 64 times for 436 yards and 6 scores. His top target is junior Lavontas Hairston (10 rec., 129 yards, 4 TD). "They have some athletes that can just play," Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said. "Their quarterback is a guy who can scramble and run. Even if you think it's a pass, he can tuck the ball and take off and run so we have to make sure we contain him with our (defensive) line and linebackers. We know the difficulty of containing an athletic quarterback like that. Our defense practices against one every day."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 23 Palatine (6-3) at No. 10 South Elgin (8-1).
No. 21 Jacobs (6-3) at No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (7-2)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Jacobs 42, Hampshire 7; Lincoln-Way West 18, Bolingbrook 14
Outlook: Jacobs is hoping for a repeat of last year's playoff magic, when it advanced to a Class 7A quarterfinal before succumbing to Fenwick 28-21. The Golden Eagles are back for another crack, led by fourth-year offensive tackle Jimmy Wormsley (Southern Illinois), third-year center Dylan DeMuth, senior defensive end Eric Schutt and third-year running back Loren Strickland, who has rushed for 800-plus yards and 17 touchdowns. Jacobs enters the playoffs with 4 wins in its last 5 games. The only setback was a 30-16 loss at defending Class 6A champion Prairie Ridge two weeks ago. "I think we're ready. I sure hope so," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "I see that leadership out of Jimmy Wormsley being a four-year starter. We've got some guys who have been around." Lincoln-Way West makes its eighth straight playoff appearance. The Warriors average 31 ppg, led by running back Caleb Marconi. The sophomore has rushed for 892 yards and 9 touchdowns and averages 6 yards per carry, according to the Joliet Herald-News. Senior quarterback Anthony Senerchia has completed 48 percent of his attempts for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Alex Croft (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) leads L-W West with 29 catches for 448 yards and 9 scores. "The running back reminds me a lot of Kyle Leva from Crystal Lake South," Mitz said of Marconi. "On film they look like twins. They seem to want to run the ball between the tackles. Defense is what they pride themselves on. They have two good linebackers. They're a good team but we've faced some good teams. The kids are excited and they're ready."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 28 Alton (5-4) at No. 5 Lincoln Park (8-1)
No. 9 Cary-Grove (6-3) at No. 8 St. Ignatius (7-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last week: Cary-Grove 36, Crystal Lake Central 35; St. Ignatius 28, St. Laurence 13
Outlook: Cary-Grove finally has the 'ol gang back together. For the first time since early September, the Trojans had their starting backfield of Max Skol, Danny Daigle and Adam DeAlba healthy behind quarterback Quinn Priester in last week's 36-35 comeback win at Crystal Lake Central. Skol, who missed a few weeks with a knee injury, rushed 17 times for 70 yards and a 1-yard touchdown leap with no time left on the clock. The Trojans won the game when Ben Ferrell caught a 2-point conversion pass from Priester. The starting backfield enjoyed a full week of practice this week, necessary to mesh timing ahead of Friday's clash with the Wolfpack. "We're about as healthy as we've been and I use that word loosely because a lot of guys are still fighting injuries," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "Even though they're still playing, they're hurting." Having the backfield back together has a domino effect. It allows junior linebacker Max Buss, who filled in for Skol at fullback when he was injured, to return to defense full time, fortifying that unit. Likewise, Daigle resumes regular shifts at cornerback. And sophomore Blake Skol, who played offense when Max Skol and Buss were both injured, can remain at safety. That should stiffen a Cary-Grove defense that allowed 56 points combined in its last 2 games. This contest could be over quickly. The clock will wind almost continuously since neither triple-option offense throws the ball much. In a Week 7 win at Aurora Christian, St. Ignatius quarterback Quinn Donath attempted one pass but ran for 3 touchdowns. The Trojans hope to separate the Wolfpack offense from the ball. "Defensively, we have to be physical, we have to get off blockers, get off the football and generate turnovers," Seaburg said. "We got one turnover against Crystal Lake Central and it was a big one. We've got to make more plays."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 16 Crystal Lake Central (5-4) at No. 1 Prairie Ridge (9-0)