Playoffs Week 1: Scouting the Upstate Eight River
No. 17 St. Charles East (7-2) at No. 16 Oswego East (7-2)
Game time: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Oswego East 26, Plainfield East 3; St. Charles East 56, Streamwood 0
Outlook: St. Charles East returns to the playoffs following a 2016 quarterfinal appearance. The Saints are a dangerous playoff opponent. Their 2 losses came against a pair of 8-1 teams by a total of 8 points. The triple option offense is peaking at the right time, thanks to a backfield that has gotten healthier of late. Since a 7-0 loss to Batavia in Week 5, St. Charles East has reeled off 4 wins against Bartlett, Larkin, Elgin, Streamwood by a combined score of 210-7. Led by linebacker Abe Swanson, the defense is coming off three straight shutouts. In fact, the Saints have allowed only 37 points all season to teams not named St. Charles North, which scored 35 against them. The Wolves make their third straight playoff appearance. Coach Tyson LeBlanc's team reached the second round last season before dropping a 22-3 decision to eventual runner-up Loyola Academy. Like the Saints they boast a strong defense. Led by 5-foot-11, 225-pound senior middle linebacker BJ Graves, Oswego East limits opponents to 11 ppg. Its spread offense scores 22.8 ppg compared to 38.9 for run-heavy St. Charles East. "They're a well-balanced team that plays in a good league," St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said. "They played good competition this year. They've had a few injuries and they've been through a few different quarterbacks. They have a resilient defense, which is one of their strengths." The Saints have been gearing up for the playoffs for a month since a repeat UEC River title became a long shot. Can they win this road playoff game and put a run together? "If we do our job, if our assignments are sound, we'll be fine," Farquhar said. "If we eliminate the mental errors we had against (St. Charles) North and Batavia, I like our chances. Our kids have been playing at a high level for the last few weeks and they are confident."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 32 Joliet West (5-4) and No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (9-0)
No. No. 29 Glenbard North (5-4) at No. 4 Batavia (8-1)
Game time: 6 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
Last week: Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14; St. Charles North 35, Batavia 28
Outlook: Forget the seeds. This should be a tight one between two future conference mates. Both join the new eight-team DuKane Conference next season. Batavia finished second in the Upstate Eight River, losing only to St. Charles North (8-1). The Bulldogs score 31.7 ppg and limit their opponents to 7.1 ppg. Glenbard North finished tied for fifth in the DuPage Valley Conference. They lost 37-7 to Naperville Central (7-2), 21-7 to Waubonsie Valley (4-5), 10-7 to Wheaton North (7-2) and 28-7 to Lake Park (5-4). The Panthers won their final 2 games to become playoff eligible. They score 19.7 ppg and allow 15.7. "Every single team in (the DuPage Valley) that makes the playoffs is capable of making playoff runs and is capable of beating any team in the state on a given night," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "They've had teams with multiple losses go to semifinals. This team plays smash-mouth and they're built for playoff football." The Panthers are led in rushing by junior Mark Finley (120 carries, 580 yards, 1 TD) and senior Jayleen Fitzpatrick (98-471-4). Senior quarterback Lee Rady (6-0, 185) has thrown for 710 yards and 13 touchdowns on 46-of-116 passing and has been intercepted 5 times. Rady will aim for Tyrik Henderson and Josh Flowers to prevent ace Batavia defenders like Luke Weerts and Michael Bautch from completely selling out against the run. Batavia's defense looks to adjust after St. Charles North exposed a vulnerability last week. The North Stars scored 35 points against a Batavia defense that had allowed 31 points in its previous 8 games. The Bulldogs expect another stiff challenge against Glenbard North, albeit a different style. "They have a great power offense with a tough run game behind a strong offensive line and a physical, good defense," Piron said. "That's their calling card." A low-scoring game would be to Glenbard North's benefit. Turn the ball over and it lets Bulldogs quarterback Riley Cooper command a freewheeling, multifaceted offense with no superstars but loads of talent.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 20 Fenwick (6-2) at No. 13 Wheaton North (7-2)
No. 27 Highland Park (5-4) at No. 6 St. Charles North (8-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Highland Park 62, Maine East 7; St. Charles North 35, Batavia 28
Outlook: Upstate Eight River champion St. Charles North is in the playoffs for the fourth straight season under fifth-year coach Rob Pomazak, and the North Stars hope to make more than just an appearance. Twice in four years they've reached the second round but fell short of a quarterfinal berth. They lost 27-21 in the second round last year to Rockford Auburn. The 2009 North Stars are the only team to reach a quarterfinal in the program's 11 previous appearances. This team is aiming higher, led by senior quarterback Michael Hohensee (1,729 yards, 18 TD), running back/safety Lucas Segobiano (99 carries, 715 yards, 15 TD) an opportunistic defense led by 6-foot-4, 228-pound senior defensive end Toby Adedara (team-high 5 sacks). Coach Joe Horeni's Giants score 24.9 ppg and allow 18.3. They went 1-4 against playoff teams during the regular season. The offense is coming off its best game, a 62-7 win at Maine East (1-8). The Giants dominated in the trenches, led by senior pulling guard Johnny Kaufman (5-10, 195). Highland Park finished in a three-way tie for the Central Suburban North title with Maine West and Deerfield. "I think they are a very good team," Pomazak said. "They're athletic, big and physical up front and they know how to use their athletes. They have a nice H-back who looks strong and physical and they have vertical speed that can get behind you in the secondary. Defensively, they have a lot of two-way players but those kids are just as good on defense as offense. It's a nice challenge in front of us, but we've had a nice week of practice and I think our guys are ready."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 22 Simeon (6-3) at No. 11 St. Rita (7-2)