Scouting first round of Fox Valley football playoff games
No. 18 Glenbard West (7-2) at No. 15 Bartlett (7-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday at Bartlett Activity Complex
Last week: Glenbard West 35, Proviso West 6; Bartlett 46, Streamwood 6
Outlook: Bartlett returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Hawks host a playoff game for the first time since a 31-7 second-round loss to Loyola Academy on Nov. 3, 2012. That game was played at Streamwood's Millennium Field. This will be the first IHSA playoff game hosted by Bartlett on campus. The Hawks finished 2-7 last year, but first-year coach Matt Erlenbaugh and staff have led the turnaround with youth: Sophomores start at seven positions. He said the staff stressed to the players this week that Glenbard West presents a more physical test than they have faced this season. Bartlett quarterback Jonah O'Brien comes in hot. In his last 3 games, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior has completed 44 of 78 attempts for 660 yards and 10 of his 17 touchdowns. Nick Deckard has rushed for 1,148 yards and 14 touchdowns. Glenbard West is eighth in the latest rankings of Class 8A teams, according to an Associated Press panel of sports writers. The Hilltoppers are three years removed from the third state title in program history. Glenbard West finished in a three-way tie for first place in the West suburban Silver with Hinsdale Central and Oak Park-River Forest. Senior 1,100-yard rusher Tyquan Cox has scored 17 touchdowns.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 31 St. Charles East (6-3) at No. 2 Lincoln-Way East (9-0)
No. 26 South Elgin (6-3) at No. 7 West Aurora (8-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday at Ken Zimmerman Field
Last week: West Aurora 48, South Elgin 10
Outlook: These teams traded titles in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division between 2015-17 with the Storm winning in 2015 and 2017. West Aurora makes its fourth consecutive playoff appearance, a school record. South Elgin is in the playoffs for the second straight year and the fifth time overall. South Elgin's task? Contain West Aurora's many athletic difference makers. Ball carriers Hezzy Salter, JaQuan Buchanan and Trevon Tittle are dynamic, three-sport athlete Moshe Rogers is a threat at wide receiver and junior quarterback William Tammaru is a 56-percent passer who has thrown for 1,282 yards and 11 touchdowns. South Elgin junior linebacker Vince Clinite leads a young defense that has limited opponents to 14.1 points per game. Both coaches stressed the importance of maintaining possession this week. South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic said the offense needs time-consuming drives to keep the defense rested and keep West Aurora's playmakers sidelined. For all of West Aurora's recent success, the playoffs have been unsatisfying. The Blackhawks were bounced in the first round the last three seasons by Loyola Academy, Maine South and Naperville Central, respectively. They are 1-7 in the postseason overall. The school's only playoff victory was a 21-8 win over Bogan in 1994-95. Winning the program's second playoff game is the motivation, West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 23 Edwardsville (6-3) at No. 10 Evanston (7-2)
No. 27 Huntley (6-3) at No. 6 Maine South (8-1)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Maine South Stadium
Last week: Huntley 55, Dundee-Crown 12; Maine South 48, Niles West 6
Outlook: Huntley faces a traditional state power on the road, a concept not foreign to the Red Raiders. Two years ago, they upset Stevenson on the road en route to a quarterfinal appearance. Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said his team has embraced the challenge of facing an upper-echelon opponent that has won 9 state trophies, including 6 state titles. Huntley has a quality road win to its credit this season; The Red Raiders knocked off two-time defending Class 6A champion Prairie Ridge 35-28 in Crystal Lake on Sept. 7. They make their fifth straight playoff appearance. Huntley wide receiver Michael Boland has 54 receptions for 937 yards and 8 touchdowns. Maine South enters the playoffs ranked No. 2 in the AP poll behind Lincoln-Way East, the team that ended its season last year in a semifinal. The Hawks' only blemish was a 26-23 loss to Barrington in Week 3. They opened the season with wins against playoff teams Glenbard West and Mt. Carmel.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 22 Waubonsie Valley (6-3) at No. 11 Bolingbrook (7-2)
No. 31 St. Charles East (5-4) at No. 2 Lincoln-Way East (9-0)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last week: St. Charles East 42, Lake Park 7; Lincoln-Way East 31, Bolingbrook 0
Outlook: The Saints make their third straight playoff appearance and draw their toughest first-round assignment in that span. Defending Class 8A champion Lincoln-Way East enters the playoffs ranked No. 1 in 8A by an Associated Press panel of sports writers. These teams met in a second-round playoff game last season. The Saints had the Griffins on the ropes but L-W East escaped with a 15-14 win via a field goal with 26.1 seconds left. The Griffins are led by dynamic playmaker AJ Henning. The junior with offers from Notre Dame and Ohio State is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. Saints linebacker Robert Carne leads the defense with 31 solo tackles and 77 assists. The St. Charles East triple option offense is led by linemen Justin Hull and Dylan Barrett (Wisconsin), junior quarterback BJ Crossen (753 passing yards, 487 rushing yards) and senior fullback Justin Jett (753 yards, 8 TD).
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 18 Glenbard West (7-2) at No. 15 Bartlett (7-2)
No. 29 Granite City (5-4) at No. 4 Batavia (9-0)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
Last week: Granite City 60, Galesburg 27; Batavia 24, Wheaton North 13
Outlook: Reigning Class 7A champion Batavia mounts its title defense. The DuKane Conference champions make their ninth consecutive playoff appearance and 22nd overall. Granite City, an independent without a conference, makes its fifth playoff appearance and first since 2011. The Warriors own a 1-4 postseason record. It's a classic matchup of a top running back against a strong run defense. The Warriors have gained 63 percent of their 3,593 total yards via the ground game. Junior Freddy Edwards holds an offer from Iowa State. He is Granite City's featured back with 1,361 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 134 carries (10.2 avg.). He faces a Batavia defense led by linebackers Michael Jansey, Jr. (Northwestern) and Luke Weerts (North Dakota State) that limits opponents to 65.8 rushing yards and 198 total yards per game. Batavia senior Art Taylor and junior Quinn Urwiler combined to rush for 349 yards in last week's conference-clinching victory at Wheaton North. The Bulldog offense averages 404 total yards, 253 through the air. Quarterback Jack Meyers has thrown for 1,334 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 20 Glenbrook North (7-2) at No. 13 Moline (8-1)
No. 22 St. Charles North (6-3) at No. 11 Normal Community (8-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Wheaton Warrenville South 13, St. Charles North 11; Normal 61, Peoria 14
Outlook: The North Stars plan to bus to Normal on Friday evening and stay in a hotel ahead of this Saturday matinee, sixth-year coach Rob Pomazak said. St. Charles North sealed its fifth straight postseason berth in Week 7 then lost nail-biters to Batavia (9-0) and Wheaton Warrenville South (8-1). The North Stars enter the playoffs a bit banged up. Leading rusher, senior Sam DeMarco (729 yards, 3 TD), has missed the last two weeks due to injury and is questionable for this game, Pomazak said. Younger brother Nick DeMarco has filled in of late. Another younger brother, junior Kyler Brown, has been playing quarterback since older brother Peyton Brown was lost for the season to a knee injury in Week 2. The younger Brown has completed 58 percent of his passes for 830 yards and 6 touchdowns. The offensive team leader is Tyler Nubin. The senior committed to Minnesota has rushed for 254 yards and 9 touchdowns and has 20 catches for 311 yards and 3 scores. Leading receiver Alec Kritta has 25 receptions for 450 yards and 7 touchdowns. Normal is ranked No. 9 in the final Class 7A regular-season poll. The Ironmen make their 23rd straight postseason appearance.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 27 Alton at No. 6 Rolling Meadows (9-0).
No. 16 Wauconda (5-4) at No. 1 Cary-Grove (9-0)
Game time: 6:30 p.m. Friday at Al Bohrer Field
Last week: Wauconda 21, Grant 13; Cary-Grove 55, Naperville Central 41
Outlook: Cary-Grove, the top-ranked team in Class 6A, begins its quest for the fifth state trophy in school history. The Trojans won the Class 6A state championship in 2009. They are heavy favorites to win a first-round game for the 15th straight season after capturing the program's first outright Fox Valley Conference title since 2014. Rarely has the triple-option offense been this unpredictable. Led by senior quarterback Ben McDonald, senior slot back Danny Daigle, senior split end Quinn Priester, junior fullback Blake Skol and third-year offensive lineman Addison West (Western Michigan), the Trojans average 44 points and 425 total yards per game. Wauconda's defense yields 23 ppg. The Bulldogs, a team with multiple juniors and sophomores in the starting lineup, make their second postseason appearance in three years and ninth overall. They went 0-3 against eventual playoff teams.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 9 Von Steuben (6-3) at No. 8 Kaneland (6-3)
No. 9 Von Steuben (6-3)
at No. 8 Kaneland (6-3)
Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday at Peterson Field
Last week: Von Steuben 1, Urban Prep/West 0 (forfeit); Rochelle 31, Kaneland 13 Outlook: There is a stark contrast in playoff pedigree between these first-round opponents. Von Steuben makes its first playoff appearance in the fledgling program's third season of varsity football under coach Alan Rood. He played and coached at Northern Illinois. Kaneland, which won Class 3A state titles in 1997 and 1998, makes its 21st playoff appearance since 1995 and second straight under second-year coach Pat Ryan. Kaneland's balanced spread offense has rushed for 1,671 yards and passed for 1,353. Senior running back Jonathan Alstott is a fourth-year varsity performer with 1,039 yards and 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Joe Smith has completed 89 of 163 attempts for 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns (7 interceptions). His top receivers are Colton Doll (23 rec., 444 yards, 4 TD), Luke Brost (25-410-3) and Max Gagne (28-365-3). The Knights have won the turnover battle 17-12. Kaneland has won a first-round matchup in six straight playoff appearances since 2010.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 1 Cary-Grove and No. 16 Wauconda
No. 14 Crystal Lake South (5-4)
at No. 3 Chicago Kenwood (8-1)
Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday at Gately Stadium
Last week: Prairie Ridge 28, Crystal Lake South 21; Payton 43, Kenwood 42
Outlook: Each team returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Gators make their 20th playoff appearance, the Broncos their third. Crystal Lake South is not an ordinary 5-4 team. Among its four losses, three came against ranked teams Cary-Grove, DeKalb and Prairie Ridge, each by 7 points or less. Led by an offensive line that includes top Illinois prospect Trevor Keegan, the Gators have rushed for 1,875 yards and 22 touchdowns. Senior running back Zach Borgert leads the way with 1,346 yards and 15 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Ian Gorken has rushed for 529 yards and 7 touchdowns and thrown for 1,231 yards and 13 scores (3 Ints.) on 71-of-104 passing (68.2 percent). Defensive leaders include senior linebackers Ben Hausch (58.5 tackles) and Jake Kocemba (55.5 tackles), senior cornerback Michael Helm (3 ints.) and 225-pound junior nose guard Jason Burburija (7 sacks). Kenwood senior cornerback Mark Aitken (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) is committed to Northern Illinois. Kenwood attacks with two quarterbacks. Mobile senior Denzel Stephens is a 64-percent passer who has thrown for 759 yards and 12 touchdowns (3 Ints.) and rushed for 524 yards and 9 scores. Sophomore Kaleb Garner has thrown for 458 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sophomore Dante Reynolds leads the Broncos with 17 receptions for 293 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 6 Notre Dame (7-2) and No. 11 St. Ignatius (6-3)
No. 13 St. Edward (5-4) at No. 4 Chicago Urban Prep/Bronzeville (8-1)
Game time: 10 a.m. Saturday at Gately Stadium
Last week: St. Edward 28, Ridgewood 21; UP Bronzeville 38, North Lawndale 0
Outlook: St. Edward seeks its first playoff victory since 2014 in its first postseason appearance since 2015. The Green Wave managed to win the Metro Suburban Red with a roster that lists only six seniors, led by two-way standout Nick Wright. He leads the offense with 1,134 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 223 attempts. Wright has registered 99 tackles from his linebacker spot, 41 more than his closest teammate. He has 3 defensive touchdowns. St. Edward is in the playoffs for the sixth time since 2009. The Lions make their second straight playoff appearance and third overall. They seek the program's first postseason victory. UP-Bronzeville played two games outside of the Chicago Public League. They defeated Proviso West (1-8) in the season opener, 48-28, and dropped a 34-14 decision at Aurora Christian (6-3) on Aug. 31. UP/Bronzeville won its division of the Chicago Public League for the second straight year. Last season, the Lions went undefeated in division play only to lose 21-6 to visiting Richmond-Burton in a first-round playoff game.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 12 Sullivan (6-3) at No. 5 Marengo (7-2)
No. 9 Aurora Christian (6-3) at No. 8 Annawan-Wethersfield Coop (6-3)
Game time: 5 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Aurora Christian 34, Wheaton Academy 33; Annawan-Wethersfield Coop 45, Stark County 14
Outlook: Aurora Christian is in the playoffs for the second straight season and the 15th time overall. The Eagles compete in Class 1A for the first time since 2005, not due to an enrollment drop but because they haven't won a playoff game since 2013, when they reached a Class 3A semifinal. Coach David Beebe said it hasn't been easy to get a handle on A-W's offensive threats because the Titans have played multiple games on wet fields. Their offense is triggered by sophomore quarterback Colton Quagliano. The 64-percent passer (84 of 131) has thrown for 1,142 yards and 8 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. His top targets are junior Julian Samuels (29 rec., 486 yards, 2 TD) and senior Isaac Frank (26 rec., 325 yards, 2 TD). Senior running back Bryce Ponce has rushed for 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in 134 attempts. Aurora Christian's spread attack counters with quarterback Ethan Hampton. The sophomore has thrown for 1,741 yards and 27 touchdowns and has been intercepted 8 times. His favorite receivers are seniors Caleb Beebe (58 rec., 739 yards, 13 TD) and Trey Madsen (40 rec., 765 yards, 9 TD). Aurora Christian sophomore outside linebacker Noe Marrero leads the defense with 6.5 tackles for loss.
Advancement: The winner advances to the second round against the winner of No. 16 Polo (5-4) at No. 1 Princeville (9-0)
Prep Bowl Playoffs
Leo (3-6) at Marmion (3-6)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday at Fichtel Field
Last week: St. Ignatius 34, Leo 0; Marmion 44, St. Joseph 14
Outlook: The Cadets snapped a 6-game losing streak last week. They can make it two straight wins with a victory in the Prep Bowl playoff opener in Aurora. The Lions have dropped three straight against playoff-caliber competition.