Playoffs Week 1: Scouting the Upstate Eight Valley
#23 Palatine (6-3) vs. #10 South Elgin (8-1) at Millennium Field, StreamwoodWhen: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Previous result: 1st meeting
Outlook: Palatine is playing its best football at just the right time. The Pirates are firing on all cylinders both offensively and defensively. DJ Angelaccio is coming off another great effort where he threw for 232 yards while rushing for 4 touchdowns. Johnny O'Shea, Jack Orlando and Marcus Stoudemire have been factors in the offense as well. But it has been the Palatine defense that has really come on in the past few weeks, thanks to the return of NIU-bound Cortez Hogans. Jake Moertl, O'Shea, Bryant Smith and Josh Danielson have been getting after their opponents all year. They will look to slow down elusive South Elgin quarterback Nate Gomez. The Storm is back in the playoffs after a one-year absence.
Upstate Eight Valley champion South Elgin draws a tough first-round opponent. Palatine advanced to a Class 8A semifinal last season before losing 28-14 to eventual champion Maine South. The Pirates' 3 setbacks this season were against three of the state's top 8A programs. They lost the season opener 14-7 to Stevenson (6-3), dropped a 17-14 decision to Maine South (8-1) and lost 26-24 to undefeated Barrington. These teams run similar offenses. Both like to spread the field, run from power formations and utilize counters. Palatine senior quarterback Angelaccio has completed 108 of 176 passes for 1,321 yards and 10 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. His big-play receiver is the 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior O'Shea. His 43 catches translate to 561 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Angelaccio is also Palatine's leader in carries (78), rushing yards (359) and rushing touchdowns (8), followed by seniors Stoudemire (52-329-3), Moertl (59-322-7) and Jack Orlando (51-308-1). South Elgin counters with a defense that limits opponents to 13.4 ppg, led by linebackers senior Kyle Viverito and Colt Doherty and senior nose guard Dalton Doherty (6-0, 202). Viverito returned an interception for a touchdown last week against East Aurora. Palatine's defense holds teams to 15 ppg. "They have a very aggressive defense," South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. "Their defensive coaches have done a great job to this point of finding ways to play quarters coverage and they really stay true to that. They have a lot of length. In some ways they remind us of Batavia in how aggressive their safeties are and how aggressive they are up front. But we feel like we've put in the time to this point to prepare our kids properly so we understand what they are trying to do with their scheme."
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 26 Edwardsville (6-3) at No. 7 Huntley (8-1).
No. 20 West Aurora (7-2) at No. 13 Naperville Central (7-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last week: West Aurora 28, Geneva 24; Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21
Outlook: Former DuPage Valley Conference rivals renew acquaintances for the first time since 2013. The Blackhawks are in the playoffs for the third straight year, a new program record. They rebounded from a midseason mini-slump to win their final 3 games. West Aurora has a new look on offense since Week 8, when 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior Camron Donatlan debuted at running back after returning from injury. The reigning Class 3A state high jump champion has rushed 24 times for 352 yards and 5 touchdowns in wins over Bartlett and Geneva. Donatlan's big-play ability was demonstrated by scoring runs of 51 and 70 yards against Bartlett and 82 yards against Geneva. Naperville Central allows 20.9 ppg., though the defense limited playoff teams Glenbard North and Wheaton North to 7 points apiece. Offensively, coach Mike Stine's Redhawks average 34 points and 331 total yards per game. Junior quarterback Payton Thorne (6-foot-2, 180-pounds) has completed 60 percent of his passes (109 of 181) for 1,773 yards and 19 touchdowns and has been intercepted 5 times. Now-healthy running back A.J. Deinhart rushed for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against Lake Park to help seal the outright DuPage Valley Conference title. Up to that point the 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior had rushed for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns while playing through nagging midseason injuries. "The Thorne kid is the real deal and Deinhart is the real deal," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said, "Naperville Central is really good. Their offense is probably one of the best we'll see. Huntley and South Elgin were good and this team is right up there with the best of them. We're as confident as we can be but we respect our opponents so let's go play football." This is a different West Aurora program than the one that competed in the DuPage Valley from 1997 to 2013. The Blackhawks didn't have a winning season for 10 straight years before their current streak of three straight playoff berths.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 29 Lake Park (5-4) at No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1)