St. Charles North looking for breakthrough win

 
 
Updated 11/1/2018 8:20 PM
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St. Charles North hopes to avoid the second-round blues.

The North Stars won 33 of 43 football games between 2014-2017 and reached the playoffs each season but met their Waterloo in a second-round playoff game three of the last four years.

No. 22 St. Charles North (7-3) can break through what sixth-year coach Rob Pomazak termed its "glass ceiling" with a second-round home win against No. 6 Rolling Meadows (10-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m.

A victory would advance the North Stars to their second quarterfinal appearance and first since 2009.

"For us, from a program standpoint, it's important," Pomazak said of advancing to a quarterfinal. "It doesn't make or break your season or your program, I don't think, because I feel like our program has never been stronger from top to bottom. But from a personal standpoint and from a staff standpoint and where I want to see the kids, I want them to have that success. That's kind of the name of the game.

"We've been here before and we've had opportunities. We feel like this is the right time for us to take that next step."

Coming off last week's 44-29 win at No. 11 Normal Community (8-2), St. Charles North is preparing to face the Mid-Suburban League West outright champions. The Mustangs avoided an upset last week with a 29-27 win over No. 27 Alton. Rolling Meadows quarterback Arek Kleniuk threw for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns and Jace O'Hara rushed for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"You have to game plan for a fast-paced offense and pressure-filled defense, which we've seen before," Pomazak said. "We're excited for the opportunity."

Going all out: Not often does a high school football coach term a Week 11 practice among the most physical of the season, but that is what Kaneland coach Pat Ryan called Tuesday's session.

No. 8 Kaneland (7-3) went live in an attempt to replicate the speed of the triple-option attack of No. 1 Cary-Grove (10-0), Ryan said. The Fox Valley Conference champions score 45 points per game.

The Knights faced a wing-t, veer-style offense against Rochelle in a 31-13 loss two weeks ago. Cary-Grove's triple option offense presents a unique challenge.

"Our (3-3-5 defensive) scheme fits for defending the triple option," Ryan said, "but they're just so efficient. Rochelle's offensive line was bigger, but we haven't seen an offensive line that comes off the ball the way Cary-Grove does.

"I think our kids are up to the task. They're excited about the opportunity to play a top-tier team like Cary-Grove. We've been challenged all year. I think seven of our nine regular-season opponents made the playoffs. We've been battle tested and that gives our team confidence."

Road trip: History lies four quarters and 258 miles away for the West Aurora football program.

Fresh off the second playoff victory in school history -- a 28-20 victory over South Elgin last Saturday -- No. 7 West Aurora (9-1) can reach a quarterfinal for the first time in school history with a victory at No. 23 Edwardsville (7-3) on Saturday at 5 p.m.

"This is a chance for us to do something we've never done," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. "Not too many people get that opportunity and these kids and this staff are getting it. We're going to embrace it. We're up for the challenge."

The Blackhawks are tasked with containing Edwardsville senior Kendall Abdur-Rahman, a returning all-state quarterback committed to Notre Dame.

West Aurora's defense counters with Michigan-bound junior Denver Warren (6-foot-3, 300 pounds), flanked by fellow linemen Matt Johnson (6-4, 215) and Joey Birdsong (5-11, 298). The next level is manned by senior linebackers JaQuan Buchanan, Jerritt Gutierrez, Anthony Hunt and Ian Deisher. Senior defensive back Zach Jacobson's 10 career interceptions are a school record.

Edwardsville is located 27 miles northeast of St. Louis. The Blackhawks will depart for the four-and-a-half hour bus ride on Saturday at 9 a.m. They plan to stop in Bloomington for a walk through at an area high school field and a pregame meal, according to Eimer.

West Aurora's coach said the day trip should keep his players focused on facing a 2017 Class 8A semifinalist.

"I'm sure a lot of people don't think we have much of a chance on Saturday, but I think this group is going to surprise a lot of people," Eimer said. "We're up to play really well and I think Saturday is going to be that day."

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