No. 18 Mt. Carmel Caravan (9-3) at No. 3 Lake Zurich Bears (12-0)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Playoff run: Mt. Carmel def. Moline in the first round, 52-7, Normal in the second round, 14-13, East St. Louis in the quarterfinals, 21-18; Lake Zurich def. Schaumburg in the first round, 42-6, Plainfield North in the second round, 27-9 and St. Rita in the quarterfinals, 49-17.
Playoff history: Mt. Carmel missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1986. The Caravan had made 29 straight playoff appearances before that. Mt. Carmel has been one of the storied football programs in state history, having won 12 state championships since 1980. The Caravan has also been state runners-up five times since 1986. Mt. Carmel's last state championship came in 2013. Ironically, the Caravan defeated Lake Zurich in the state championship game, 30-0. That was the second of back-to-back championships for Mt. Carmel; Lake Zurich is making its 20th playoff appearance and its 15th in 16 years. The Bears won the Class 7A state championship in 2007, defeating Wheaton Warrenville South 7-3 in the title game. The Bears have also placed second three times (2006, 2010, 2013). Last year, Lake Zurich lost in the Class 7A second round to Fenwick, 20-14.
Head coaches: Frank Lenti, Mt. Carmel; Luke Mertens, Lake Zurich
Conference call: Mt. Carmel tied for second behind champion Loyola Academy in the rugged Catholic Blue Conference; Lake Zurich won the always tough North Suburban Conference.
By the numbers, I: No. 3 and undefeated Lake Zurich is the highest seed left in Class 7A. No. 4 Batavia is facing Benet in the other Class 7A state semifinal. No. 18 Mt. Carmel is the lowest seed left in Class 7A. The Caravan lost three games this season, including a Week 5 defeat to St. Rita (38-21). Lake Zurich rolled St. Rita last week in the quarterfinals.
By the numbers, II: Mt. Carmel is averaging 29 points per game in the playoffs, and 33.8 points per game over the season. In the playoffs, the Mt. Carmel defense is allowing 12.7 points per game, and 16.2 points per game on the season. The Caravan has posted three shutouts this season but none in the playoffs. The average margin of victory for the Caravan throughout the playoffs is 16.3 points per game ... Lake Zurich is averaging 39.3 points per game over the playoffs and 35.4 points per game over the season. In the playoffs, the Lake Zurich defense is allowing 10.7 points per game, and 9.3 points per game on the season. The Bears have posted three shutouts this season, but none in the playoffs. The average margin of victory for the Bears throughout the playoffs is 28.6 points per game.
Skinny: This game marks just the second time ever that Lake Zurich and Mt. Carmel have met up in the IHSA playoffs. For Lake Zurich fans, and the current players, the first time was memorable and forgettable all at the same time. In 2013, when the current seniors were eighth graders and likely very dialed into Lake Zurich football, Mt. Carmel shut out the Bears in the Class 7A state championship game, 30-0. Lake Zurich, which has played in the state title game four times in the last 11 years, hasn't been downstate since, and in fact, missed the playoffs altogether in 2015 ... The Mt. Carmel offense, led by quarterback Radomir Premovic, was significantly outgained last week by East St. Louis (278 yards to 166 yards), but the Mt. Carmel defense was opportunistic and forced East St. Louis into multiple turnovers and mistakes. And the Caravan was able to take advantage of just enough of them in the close win. Premovic completed 6-of-9 passes against East St. Louis for 84 yards. His top targets were Patrick Szczesniak and Aristotle Nakos ... Lake Zurich rolled up 392 yards of offense last week against St. Rita, including 242 yards through the air via senior quarterback Evan Lewandowski. He completed 13-of-23 passes, including 3 for touchdowns. All of the touchdown passes came in the first half as the Bears built a huge 35-10 halftime lead. Lewandowski spread the wealth between six receivers, led by Payton Powell, who caught 4 passes for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. Running back Joey Stutzman took care of the ground game, gaining 95 yards on 18 rushes. He also ran in 3 touchdowns ... The Lake Zurich defense forced St. Rita into 3 interceptions, 2 made by junior cornerback Austin LePage. LePage has now tied the single-season interception record at Lake Zurich with 10 interceptions on the season.
Advancement: A berth in the Class 7A state championship game next weekend at Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb against the winner of No. 17 Benet (9-3) vs. No. 4 Batavia (11-1).