Meaningful moments from the first round of the playoffs

 
 
Updated 10/30/2018 9:57 PM
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Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs.

For high school football fans it's all we think about this time of year.

But before we look ahead to the second round for DuPage County's 11 remaining teams, it's important to take a quick look back.

This week's Eyes on Five reflects on a stirring moment from the first round.

1. Sahid Strong:

When Sahid Rosas Torres wasn't working out with teammates, he was working out with his father.

And if he wasn't working out, he was looking out for his friends ... especially his best friend, his sister Carolina.

Sadly, Sahid, a junior football player at Wheaton Warrenville South, passed away on Oct. 21 after a battle with cancer that began with a March diagnosis.

Before WW South's first-round home game against Belleville West, there was an amazing tribute to Sahid's life. The crowd was decked out in purple T-shirts with "TEAM SAHID" on the front. A purple banner on the front side of the bleachers read "SAHID STRONG."

Sahid's family gathered on the field for a moment of silence and to participate in the pregame coin toss. Belleville West coach Cameron Pettus hugged each family member at midfield as the silence endured.

It was as stunning as it was emotional. The silence kept going through the entire coin flip ceremony, finally broken by a voice from the crowd yelling "Let's go Tigers!"

The inspired Tigers beat Belleville West 20-12 to advance to a second-round Class 7A matchup at Hononegah. They'll take Sahid's strength with them.

I never met Sahid, but I'll never forget him. Not after witnessing last week's scene at WW South.

2. Loaded:

Lincoln-Way East, Maine South, Marist ... each Class 8A powerhouse is gearing up to eliminate DuPage County teams this weekend.

It's not unusual for that trio to be roadblocks to a deep playoff run, but I can't remember another season where all of them popped up in the second round. Now three of our best teams need to stage upsets just to get to the quarterfinals.

Glenbard West (8-2), which routed Bartlett 49-20 last week, has the toughest task against defending 8A champion Lincoln-Way East (10-0). The deepest and most talented team in the state will be a handful for the Hilltoppers, who beat the Griffins in the 2012 7A final and in the second round of the 2010 playoffs.

Likewise, Naperville Central (7-3) takes on a familiar postseason foe in Marist (9-1), a team that's flown under the radar since a 4-point season-opening loss to unbeaten top seed Brother Rice. A dominant Week 7 victory over Nazareth opened a lot of eyes.

Naperville Central's faced one of the state's toughest schedules against Lincoln-Way East, Hinsdale Central and Cary-Grove ... and this is just another step in the process. A very big step, but nothing new for the Redhawks.

Finally, Waubonsie Valley (7-3) -- fresh off an upset win over Bolingbrook as a 22nd seed -- plays six-time state champion Maine South (9-1). The Warriors are accustomed to underdog status, and this is another chance to shock the state.

Best of luck to Glenbard West, Naperville Central and Waubonsie Valley. They'll need it much earlier than they hoped in the 8A bracket.

3. By the way:

There have been many recent seasons where Class 7A was stronger than 8A. Maybe not this season, but 7A is still pretty tough.

Which leads us to Glenbard East.

The unbeaten Rams, who have won 10 games for the first time in program history, just won their first playoff game since 1999 -- their only other postseason appearance. They dominated Prospect in a 40-14 victory, extending a streak of six straight games of scoring at least 35 points and winning by at least 4 touchdowns.

Everything changes this weekend when East St. Louis comes to Lombard for a 7A second-rounder.

Technically Glenbard East is a No. 2 seed playing 15th-seeded East St. Louis (8-2), but make no mistake. This is a challenge that's up there with the Rams' 1999 semifinal loss to Naperville Central, a game won 49-7 by the eventual state champion.

The Flyers lost to a pair of Midwest powers. The first came to Detroit's King High School in the opener and the second to Washington from Masillon, Ohio.

And East St. Louis is no stranger to coming up to these parts and winning. The storied program, which petitioned the IHSA to move up to 7A, has won eight state titles, including in 2016 when the Flyers burst past Glenbard North, Willowbrook and Benet in consecutive weeks.

From Glenbard East's point of view, this is the perfect opportunity to prove it's for real this season.

If the Rams beat East St. Louis, anything is possible for them.

4. Case closed:

Last week we discussed the intriguing playoff prospects of teams from closed conferences, leagues with 10 teams that only play each other. That means no nonconference games and no clue how good any of the teams are until they hit the playoffs. Well, now we know a little bit more about each of the closed conferences.

As we mentioned before, there are nine closed conferences in the state that qualified 43 teams into the playoffs. It was a mixed bag of results last week.

Overall the teams went 25-18. The Sangamo, which features Maroa-Forsyth and Williamsville, went 4-0 while the Big Northern and Central State Eight went 4-1. At the other side of the spectrum, the Southwest Prairie went 1-3 with Oswego claiming the only victory.

The two closed conferences of local interest are the NIC-10 and the Upstate Eight. Both went 2-3.

From the NIC-10, unbeaten Hononegah plays host to Wheaton Warrenville South in Class 7A while St. Francis travels to Boylan in 5A. Glenbard East and West Aurora, which beat fellow UEC member South Elgin in the first round, were the only teams from that league to advance.

It'll be interesting to see if the NIC-10 and UEC send anyone to the quarterfinals.

5. Stat time:

Time to see how all of DuPage County's conferences fared in the first round of the playoffs ...

Chicago Catholic League Blue: 3-1

DuKane: 3-1

DuPage Valley: 2-1

East Suburban Catholic: 4-1

Interstate Eight Small: 2-1

Metro Suburban Blue: 4-1

Metro Suburban Red: 2-1

Upstate Eight: 2-3

West Suburban Gold: 1-1

West Suburban Silver: 3-0

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