Scouting the Class 6A semifinal: Prairie Ridge at Hoffman Estates

By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/17/2017 8:27 PM
  • Hoffman Estates quarterback Austin Coalson celebrates the Hawks' win against Belvidere North last Saturday in the state quarterfinal game in Belvidere.

      Hoffman Estates quarterback Austin Coalson celebrates the Hawks' win against Belvidere North last Saturday in the state quarterfinal game in Belvidere. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Class 6A

No. 1 Prairie Ridge (12-0) at No. 7 Hoffman Estates (10-2)

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

How they got here: Prairie Ridge beat Crystal Lake Central 61-24, beat Cary-Grove 17-13, beat Willowbrook 42-7. Hoffman Estates beat De La Salle 34-0, beat Lake Forest 48-28, Belvidere North 35-10.

Outlook: Hoffman Estates will be hosting the biggest game in school history as the Hawks find themselves just one win away from playing in the state title game. Standing in Hoffman's way is Prairie Ridge, the defending state 6A champion and winner of its last 26 games in a row and 37 of its last 38.

"They are a monster," Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse said. "They are just missiles. And they definitely have the tough quarterback."

Prairie Ridge has been machine-like on how it operates its double-wing, option offense that has racked up 535 points.

Hoffman does have some experience with option offense. The Hawks slowed down Belvidere North, which runs option offense, last week. But Prairie Ridge is much more skilled and much quicker.

"It will help that we have played a team with an option offense," Heyse said. "And we haven't shown everything we got defensively."

Hoffman will need everything it has and maybe even more to stop Wolves QB and player of the year candidate Samson Evans. The Iowa recruit masterfully runs the offense and has rushed for 1,619 yards on 199 carries for 31 touchdowns. Evans has thrown the ball only 49 times this season, completing 23 of those with 7 going for touchdowns.

Prairie Ridge is not a one-man wrecking crew. Wolves' running back Zach Gulbransen has run for 1,062 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jackson Willis has 654 yards and 10 touchdowns and Connor Lydon 251 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Hoffman can put some points on the board as well.

The Hawks like to fly high with quarterback Austin Coalson, who has thrown for 2,489 yards on 183-of-288 with 28 touchdown passes.

Hoffman has a pair of 6-foot-4 wide receivers that could cause matchup problems for Prairie Ridge. Jaylin Alexander, who is committed to Purdue, has 66 catches for 1,047 yards and 7 touchdowns while Jayvon Blissett has 56 catches for 1,237 yards and 13 touchdowns. Will Nune also has been a key contributor with 25 catches for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Hoffman also has been able to run the ball quite well as well. Jaylin Johnson has rushed for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns. Watch for Alexander to run at times out of the Wildcats formation. He torched De La Salle for 110 yards.

It could come down to the line play.

Hoffman's line doesn't have great size after the Hawks lost Angel Fernandez earlier this year. But they have been cohesive as a unit on both sides of the ball.

Prairie Ridge's line is led by Iowa-commit Jeff Jenkins, who is 6-foot- 4 and 275 pounds. Jenkins, who is a 4-year starter, also plays defensive end.

The Hawks need a little Delilah in them if they are going to get to Northern Illinois and the state title game next week.

"Our guys know what is at stake here," Heyse said. And they aren't satisfied yet."

Advancement: Winner plays the winner of Providence-Nazareth for the state championship Saturday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. at Northern Illinois University.

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