Playoffs Week 2: Scouting the Upstate Eight River
No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (10-0) at No. 17 St. Charles East (8-2)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Lincoln-Way East 44, Joliet West 0; St. Charles East 24, Oswego East 14
Outlook: Lincoln-Way East is the top seed in Class 8A and ranked No. 21 in the nation by USA Today. The Griffins have become accustomed to postseason success after making the playoffs every season since their 2001 debut. They've reached nine quarterfinals, four semifinals and two championship games (2005, 2012). They won the 2005 Class 8A title. Coming off last year's quarterfinal appearance, these Griffins have proved themselves to be road warriors. They've won at tough venues like Maine South (9-1), Andrew (6-4), Lincoln-Way Central (9-1), Homewood-Flossmoor (9-1) and Bolingbrook (7-3). Lincoln-Way's defense holds opponents to 8.9 ppg, led by Northwestern-bound tackle Devin O'Rourke. However, the offense is dangerous in its own right, directed by junior quarterback Brendan Morrissey. Two weeks ago he propelled the Griffins to an 18-14 win at Bolingbrook by throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver Shane Pedersen. Sophomore receiver A.J. Henning has 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash. The Griffins run a spread offense and are comfortable throwing the ball, but their goal is to run first. "They go right after you," Saints coach Bryce Farquhar said. "Their size is something we'll have to confront, that and their physicality up front. They can form the game to what they need to do to win. They can throw to the sophomore kid, who is one of the fastest in the state, and they can run up the gut with either their running back (Ryan Scianna) or their quarterback." St. Charles East's defense limits opponents to 8.6 ppg, 119 passing yards and 78 rushing yards. That unit is led by senior linebacker Abe Swanson, who this week was named Upstate Eight River defensive player of the year. He leads the team with 125 total tackles (76 solo, 49 assists). Swanson's next closest teammate, Patrick Griffin, has 55 total tackles (33 solo, 22 assists). The Saints have recovered 9 fumbles and grabbed 14 interceptions. Pick leaders include junior Jacob Molina with 3 and seniors Nick Piaskowy and Nick Garlisch with 2 apiece.
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner between No. 8 Glenbard West (9-1) and No. 9 Oswego (9-1)
No. 13 Wheaton North (8-2) at No. 4 Batavia (9-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Stadium
Last week: Wheaton North 35, Fenwick 7; Batavia 21, Glenbard North 7
Outlook: It's another DuKane Conference preview. These two schools join with six others from the DuPage Valley and Upstate Eight Conferences to form a new league next season. Batavia's defense returned to form last week. The Bulldogs allowed more points in their regular-season finale loss at St. Charles North (35) than in their previous 8 games combined (31), but a solid performance against Glenbard North in last week's playoff opener was a confidence boost. "I thought they did a really good job against Glenbard North," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of his defenders. "They were very proud of where the were at in the season. St. Charles North is obviously a very good football team, but our kids felt they didn't show their best in that game." Batavia limits opponents to 7.3 points and 153.7 total yards per game by making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Of its 685 total tackles, 17.6 percent have come behind the line of scrimmage (120.5). The Bulldogs have not allowed a first-quarter point, largely because teams haven't been able to run against them. They yield 60 rushing yards per game, a stat sure to be tested by a polished Wheaton North offense that plays power football. Senior Sam Singleton (5-foot-7, 170) runs behind a big offensive line and gets blocking help from fullback Michael Jarosz and tight end Tyler Ferguson. Singleton has rushed for 1,460 yards and 18 touchdowns in 216 attempts (6.8 avg.). Quarterback Rhett Netzer has completed 53 of 98 attempts for 575 yards and 6 touchdowns and has been intercepted 3 times. Batavia's offense averages 30.6 points and 356 total yards per game (187 rushing/169 passing). Senior quarterback Riley Cooper has completed 110 of 156 passes for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has thrown 7 interceptions. Wide receiver Eric Peterson (6-foot-3, 183 pounds) and tight end Collin Richter (6-3, 195) have combined for 44 catches for 855 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Falcons play good defense. They limit opponents to 12.8 ppg, the lowest average of any DuPage Valley Conference team. Senior defensive backs Trenton Hegranes (6-2) and Jackson Gray (6-3) have 5 interceptions apiece, including Gray's 28-yard pick-6 last week against Fenwick. "We're really impressed with their football team in all facets," Piron said. "Their special teams are unbelievable, their offense is very good and their defense is all over the field. It's just very difficult to find any weaknesses."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner between No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (8-2) and No. 28 Alton (6-4)
No. 11 St. Rita (8-2) at No. 6 St. Charles North (9-1)
Game time: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last week: St. Rita 31, Simeon 14; St. Charles North 31, Highland Park 13
Outlook: These teams have something in common: Rockford Auburn knocked both out of the 2016 playoffs. Auburn rallied from a 21-point, second-half deficit to defeat St. Rita 22-21 in the first round. St. Charles North turned the ball over 6 times in a 27-21 loss to the Knights a week later. St. Rita averages 32.6 points and 355.5 total yards per game. Of its 3,555 total yards, 64.4 percent have come via the rush (2,292 yards), thanks to an offensive line that includes 6-foot-4, 305-pound tackle Aaron Jones. Two seniors pace the St. Rita ground game: Indiana State-bound running back Chris Childers (151 carries, 796 yards, 12 TD) and quarterback Jake Zylman (5-foot-10, 195 pounds). However, Zylman did not play last week due to injury and his backup, Hayden Ekern, was knocked out of the 31-14 win over Simeon. St. Rita coach Todd Kuska told reporters after that game he thought Ekern might be ready to play this week. In a pinch the Mustangs turned to their third-string quarterback: junior wide receiver Mick Doyle. All Doyle did was throw a 68-yard touchdown to Jake Stefanski and a 69-yard touchdown to Ray Bouye to extend what had been a 3-point, third-quarter lead. A member of the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division, St. Rita went 4-2 against the six playoff teams it faced, losing only to Providence (6-4) and Loyola Academy (9-1). North went 3-1 against playoff teams. The North Star offense is led by senior quarterback Michael Hohensee. A backup this time last year to Zach Mettetal, Hohensee has grown four inches and added 35-40 pounds to his frame since last fall, North coach Rob Pomazak said. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound quarterback has thrown for 1,729 yards and 18 touchdowns on 104-of-166 passing (63 percent). This week he was named Upstate Eight River offensive player of the year. "It's well deserved," Pomazak said. "He's come through in the big games for us. He's a hard worker and a student of the game. He does a great job preparing."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner between No. 14 Plainfield North (8-2) at No. 3 Lake Zurich (10-0)