Scouting second round Fox Valley football playoff games
No. 7 West Aurora (9-1) at No. 23 Edwardsville (7-3)Game time: 5 p.m. Saturday
Last week: West Aurora 28, South Elgin 20; Edwardsville 44, Evanston 27
Outlook: West Aurora is on the brink of history. The Blackhawks have never advanced to a state quarterfinal in football. They can match a single-season record with a 10th victory, accomplished previously in 1922 and 1946, according to incomplete IHSA records. "We're pretty excited about it," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said of the opportunity. "This is a really special group of kids." The Tigers have won 6 straight since a 1-3 start, which included setbacks against East St. Louis (34-21) and Waubonsie Valley (21-7). It's a familiar pattern. Edwardsville opened the 2017 season 0-3 yet advanced to a Class 8A semifinal. The Tigers are led by Notre Dame-bound quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman, a returning all-state selection. "He's electric. He can really go," Eimer said. "Anyone who commits to Notre Dame is obviously on another level. Defensively, they're solid. They're one of the better defenses we've seen all year. It will be a huge challenge but we're pretty excited about it."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 2 Lincoln-Way East (10-0) at No. 18 Glenbard West (8-2)
No. 13 Moline (9-1) at No. 4 Batavia (10-0)Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Stadium
Last week: Moline 46, Glenbrook North 20; Batavia 49, Granite City 0
Outlook: The competition level increases in the second round for defending Class 7A champion Batavia. The DuKane Conference champs take on Western Big 6 Conference champion Moline. The Maroons typically outscore their opponents 43-13, led by the running back tandem of Boubacar Barry and Thornton transfer Harrison Bey-Buie. They were among the six Maroons to score on Moline's first six possessions against Rich South on a muddy field last week. "They have put up a lot of offensive numbers, a lot of explosive plays," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "They represent a really tough football program in the way they play defense, the way they fly around the field. They're a very formidable team. It's going to be a heck of a game." Moline's only blemish was a turnover-plagued, Week 2 loss to Benet. Batavia breezed by Granite City last week as Artavion Taylor (107 yards, TD) and Quinn Urwiler (118 yards, TD) set the tone for a ground game that gained 337 yards. There was a lot to like. "I think the offensive line is playing exceptional football," Piron said. "I like where our top kids are at health-wise this time of year, and I like the depth we've developed on our defense the last several weeks. A lot of good things have happened. The way our team is trending right now is really good."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 12 Maine West (9-1) at No. 5 Willowbrook (10-0)
No. 6 Rolling Meadows (10-0) at No. 22 St. Charles North (7-3)Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Rolling Meadows 29, Alton 27; St. Charles North 44, Normal Community 29
Outlook: St. Charles North seeks the second quarterfinal appearance in program history and the first since 2009. The North Stars were buoyed last week by sophomore running back Nick DeMarco's breakout performance. Filling in for injured but recovering older brother Sam DeMarco, Nick rushed for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Sam, who leads North with 729 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns in 7 games, is "day to day," according to coach Rob Pomazak. "He is progressing but it's just one of those situations where you take a step forward, you take a step back. He's definitely getting more reps than last week. We're hopeful." Rolling Meadows is the MSL East champ for the sixth time in seven seasons. The Mustangs narrowly avoided the upset against Alton last week. Running backs Jace O'Hara and Timmy Szylak have rushed for over 2,000 yards. Szylak is a state qualifier in the hurdles. Quarterback Arek Kleniuk is a 1,300-yard passer. "Offensively, they are really talented," Pomazak said. "They have two really talented backs, both very similar in running style. That inside zone hits quick downhill, the quarterback does a nice job of distributing the ball in the run-pass option and they have kids who can catch it on the other end. And they tempo you so there's a lot to prepare for."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 14 Wheaton Warrenville South (9-1) at No. 3 Hononegah (10-0)
No. 8 Kaneland (7-3) at No. 1 Cary-Grove (10-0)Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday at Al Bohrer Field
Last week: Kaneland 63, Von Steuben 7; Cary-Grove 49, Wauconda 7
Outlook: Cary-Grove seeks the program's 12th quarterfinal berth and 10th since 2004. The Trojans blew out Wauconda last week to reach the second round for the 15th straight season. Cary-Grove linebacker Jake Johnson blocked and recovered a punt to set up the game's first touchdown, the defense recorded 5 first-half sacks and Dymitri Kanllakis grabbed 2 interceptions as the top seed in the northern bracket of Class 6A cruised. Kaneland practiced at full speed Tuesday to prepare for a Cary-Grove triple option that generates 45 ppg, but the best defense might be a good offense. "I think we have to try to play keep away and keep the ball away from their offense because they are so efficient," Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. "We can't have costly mistakes. We can't turn the ball over. In the games we've lost, penalties and turnovers in big situations have really hurt us. Their lines on both sides really come off the ball and are physical. We have to match that." Kaneland seeks its fifth quarterfinal berth and first since 2011. The Knights blew out Von Steuben as quarterback Joe Smith threw touchdown passes of 47, 64, 30 and 45 yards. Senior running back Jonathan Alstott rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown in 16 attempts to up his season totals to 1,173 yards and 13 touchdowns. "I think they're a real solid team overall from top to bottom," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "They run the ball well on offense. Alstott is a real good player who stands out. Then they throw the ball vertically very well. They killed Von Steuben, but when you watch film they seem to do that game after game so you have to prepare real well to stop it."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 5 Prairie Ridge (8-2) vs. No. 4 Phillips (8-2) at Gately Stadium
No. 6 Notre Dame (8-2) at No. 14 Crystal Lake South (6-4)Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday at Ken Bruhn Field
Last week: Notre Dame 14, St. Ignatius 7; Crystal Lake South 49, Kenwood 0
Outlook: Notre Dame advanced past the first round for the first time since 2013, thanks to a couple of big plays on offense in support of a defense that held St. Ignatius to 7 points. Notre Dame rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit. Running back Ty Gavin broke free for a 90-yard touchdown run with over five minutes remaining to give the Dons their first lead. Quarterback Anthony Sayles' 66-yard run set up the tying score after the defense held in the red zone in the third quarter. "They seem like an extremely confident group that is littered with athletes," CL South coach Rob Fontana said. "Their offensive line plays fast and plays aggressive, their d-line stays low and explosive and they have some big boys on both sides of the ball. (Gavin) is electric and dynamic and they have a change-of-pace back who looks a little smaller by is explosive and has top-end speed. They have a lot." Crystal Lake South will try to run the ball as it has all season behind college prospects Trevor Keegan (6-foot-6, 295 pounds) and Dominic Collado (6-4, 300). Jacob Rana filled in for starting running back Zach Borgert last week and ran roughshod over Kenwood for 122 yards and 4 touchdowns. Borgert, who has rushed for 1,346 yards and 15 touchdowns, was held back while recovering from an illness but has practiced all week, his coach said. The Gators face a Notre Dame defense stocked with large young men. "Their front four looks enormous," Fontana said. "Usually, on a high school line you find one guy who is 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, but these guys are all 6-3, 6-4 and have the same build. They must not live at home; They must live under a squat rack because their legs are enormous."
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 7 Lakes (8-2) at No. 2 Antioch (10-0)
No. 1 Princeville (10-0) at No. 9 Aurora Christian (7-3)Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Princeville 35, Polo 7; Aurora Christian 26, Annawan-Wethersfield Coop 20
Outlook: Any concern as to how Aurora Christian sophomore quarterback Ethan Hampton would handle the rigors of his first playoff game evaporated quickly in last week's victory. The 6-foot-2, 160-pound signal caller demonstrated a veteran's poise in completing 20 of 37 attempts for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns without an interception. The Eagles built a 26-12 lead and held on when the offense ran out the clock. For the season, Hampton has completed 153 of 254 attempts (60.2 percent) for 1,898 yards and 27 touchdowns and has thrown only 8 picks. "He played with poise and really showed what he could do," Aurora Christian coach David Beebe. "He's a smart player and he is someone who is grounded by his spirituality. He's just a great kid. We're fortunate to have him in our program." Princeville runs the ball behind returning Illinois High School Football Coaches Association all-state pick Adam Snedden. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior ran for 179 yards and 4 touchdowns last week and senior Jack Arnett rushed for 142 yards and a score, according to the Peoria Journal-Star.
Advancement: The winner advances to a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 5 Orr (9-1) at No. 4 Lena-Winslow (9-1)
Prep Bowl Playoffs
Marmion (4-6) at St. Rita (3-6)Game time: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Marmion 40, Leo 14; St. Rita 40, DePaul 0 (Oct. 20)
Outlook: The Cadets have won 2 straight since they snapped a 6-game slide. The Mustangs have won 2 of their last 3 games since a 1-5 start.