Scouting Playoff Week 1, Northwest
No. 29 Fremd (5-4) at No. Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: After three weeks of this season, Fremd appeared it would just play out the remainder of the season and go away quietly. The Vikings had other ideas though. They turned things around with a Week 4 win and have never looked back, capturing 5 of their last 6 to vault into the playoffs. A solid offensive line and an energized Nicky Rattin, who has rushed for 540 yards and 7 touchdowns the last 2 weeks, have changed those fortunes. Fremd has also been the program to spring an upset in the playoffs. H-F has racked up 315 points this season and has played well after their a 48-6 drubbing in Week 5 by Lincoln-Way East.
Advancement: The winner will play either Barrington or Oswego East in the second round.
No. 24 Conant (6-3) at No. 9 Hinsdale Central (7-2)
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Outlook: The Cougars are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015. They lost a bit of momentum though with their defeat last week to Hoffman Estates. They do still enter the playoffs as the official representative of the Mid-Suburban West. The Cougars have been finding a way to win all season. It all starts on defense where they have allowed just two opponents to score 21 points or more. Offensively, it is still ground and pound with plethora of rushers. Malik Fredrick, Bradley Spates, Davon Holmes, Joseph Perez, Anthony Wachal and Kevin Polanski have combined for nearly 1,700 yards. Hinsdale Central qualified for the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year and 17th in the last 18 seasons. The Red Devils shared the West Suburban Silver title.
Advancement: The winner will play either Neuqua Valley or Warren in the second round.
No. 20 Barrington (6-3) at No. 13 Oswego East (7-2) When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Outlook: Barrington enters the playoffs one of the most battle-tested teams with seven opponents that have qualified for the state tournament. The Broncos are also playing their best football of the season right now, riding high on a 3-game winning streak. The offense, which struggled through a midseason 3-game losing span, has found itself. Running back Michael Curran, quarterback Tommy Fitzpatrick and wide receiver DJ Darlington have been solid the past few weeks along with a retooled offensive line. Barrington is making its sixth consecutive playoff trip, but the first time the Broncos have been on the road during that span. Oswego East has lost 2 of its last 3 games and has beaten just one team with a record over .500. The Wolves have 6 shutouts this season, but allowed 56 points in those losses.
Advancement: The winner will play either Fremd or Homewood-Flossmoor in the second round.
No. 21 Benet (6-3) at No. 12 Maine West (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last year's result: Benet 35, Maine West 13
Outlook: Maine West is feeling the glow from its outright conference title and first 8-1 season both of which go back decades. Now the Warriors will look to bask in the feeling of making the playoffs for the second consecutive year for the first time. Unfortunately, their reward for all of this is the same team that knocked off the Warriors last season. But this is a more talented and deeper Maine West team from a year ago. Jake Bellizzi will look to continue on his pace where he has rushed for over 1,400 yards against a Benet team that struggled last week in its 24-7 loss to Marist. Maine West will need to avoid penalties that cost the Warriors 3 touchdowns last week and 129 yards in penalties.
Advancement: The winner will play either Lincoln Park or Willowbrook in the second round.
No. 24 Lincoln-Way West (7-2) at No. 9 Hersey (8-1) When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last year's result: Lincoln-Way West 21, Hersey 7
Outlook: This is a rematch of a second round game from a year ago that knocked Hersey out of the playoffs. It is also a game between a pair of teams that have been going in opposite directions. A year ago, Hersey was more of a one-man band, with Owen Goldsberry. Now the Huskies have a full orchestra. They are led by Ryan Justice, the area's leading passer, Kacper "Ghost" Rutkiewicz, one of the area's top receivers, Ryan Hansen, who has rushed for 500 yards, and Nick Steger, one of the area's top defensive players. Central likes to run the ball but just has one win over a team with a .500 record or better.
Advancement: The winner will play either Andrew or Nazareth in the second round.
No. 31 Prospect (5-4) at No. 2 Glenbard East (9-0)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Prospect is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Knights had to fight their way in, winning their final two games to get there. Now they look to keep the season going. Dan DeBeouf's hurry-up offense will look to take advantage of a running game that has Luke Zardzin, Michael Shafis and Jimmy Martin gaining nearly 1,500 yards, while Martin has thrown for another 1,200. Glenbard East, which has not allowed more than 2 touchdowns in a game this year, is one of the surprise stories of the season. The Rams, Upstate Eight champs, had qualified just once in their history for the playoffs and have never been unbeaten during the regular season.
Advancement: The winner will play either Hoffman Estates or East St. Louis in the second round.
No. 27 Alton (5-4) at No. 6 Rolling Meadows (9-0)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Rolling Meadows continues to be playoff bound under Matt Mishler, who has now guided his Mustangs into the postseason in all eight seasons as head coach. This could be his most talented group, averaging nearly 48 points per game and moving the ball up and down the field at will. Tim Szylak and Jace O'Hara have combined for nearly 2,000 yards rushing while Arek Kleniuk has thrown for another 1,200 yards. Nate Pedraza, Dylan Wagner and Jose Aleman are tough up front for a Mustang defense that has allowed just under 14 points per game. Alton decided to make the trip up from Southern Illinois for a Friday game. The Redbirds gave up 71 points last week in a loss to East St. Louis.
Advancement: The winner will play either St. Charles North or Normal Community in the second round.
No. 30 Buffalo Grove (5-4) at No. 3 Rockton Hononegah (9-0)When: Friday, 7:15 p.m.
Outlook: Buffalo Grove qualified for the playoffs for the second year in a row for the first time since 2002-2003. The Bison could have easily rolled over when they lost Tom Trieb in Week 2 to a season-ending injury. But the Bison rallied behind Connor Adams, who has stepped up his play to throw for 954 yards and 6 TDs. The biggest surprise has been the pay of Vinnie Hoffman, who has taken over the running back duties and has responded with 566 yards. The defense is still keyed by Sean Jacobs. Hononegah won the NIC-10, but there are questions on how good the Indians are because they play in a closed conference. Despite that, they still have racked up 343 points this season.
Advancement: The winner will play either Belleville West or Wheaton Warrenville South in the second round.
No. 18 Hoffman Estates (7-2) at No. 15 East St. Louis (7-2)When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Outlook: Hoffman Estates qualified for the playoffs for the third season in a row, a feat not accomplished since the early 1990s. The Hawks head into the postseason with lots of momentum after ending a 2-game losing streak with a win over crosstown-rival Conant. Kyle Krogstad has done a terrific job of running the offense for Hoffman, throwing for 1,888 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has completed 98 passes with more than half (57) going to Malik Whitehead. Now the Hawks face a team that can match them with speed in East St. Louis, who have qualified for the playoffs in 18 of the last 19 years. Expect a high-scoring affair with ESL averaging 53 points per game and allowing nearly 26 points per game while Hoffman averages 31.6 points per game while giving up 21.2.
Advancement: The winner will play either Prospect or Glenbard East in the second round.