A few playoffs odds and ends

  • IC Catholic Prep's Khalil Saunders hands off to Kyle Franklin against St. Francis earlier this season in Elmhurst.

      IC Catholic Prep's Khalil Saunders hands off to Kyle Franklin against St. Francis earlier this season in Elmhurst. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Updated 11/13/2018 4:22 PM

Three weeks ago DuPage County started with 16 playoff football teams, and now we're down to two.

Good thing we're just a win away from championship weekend.


This edition of Eyes on Five goes random with scattered thoughts as IC Catholic Prep and Montini head to the semifinals.

1. How many yards?:

At a certain point, you just start leaning on your guys.

For IC Catholic Prep, that guy is running back Kyle Franklin. Only a sophomore, Franklin was stunning while rushing for 311 yards and 6 touchdowns on 31 carries in Saturday's 49-27 quarterfinal victory over Marengo.

Make no mistake ... the unbeaten Knights are loaded. They've won 39 of their last 40 games, including the last two Class 3A titles, and they're on track to win the Class 4A championship.

While many factors and many players have been crucial this season -- no one player makes a team this dominant -- the Knights have leaned on Franklin when it matters most. He carried the ball 33 times in a 1-point win over McNamara, his highest total this season.

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It's impressive to see a sophomore make this kind of impact on a title-caliber team, and it brings back memories of a few years ago when the Knights had running back Jordan Rowell. He rushed for 6,032 yards in four varsity seasons, good for ninth in state history.

Rowell had 1,522 yards as a sophomore, while Franklin has 1,961 with at least one game to go. Add in his 927 yards as a freshman, and Franklin's already closing in on 3,000 rushing yards in two seasons.

Assuming the Knights continue to make deep playoff runs, and they're showing no signs of slowing down, Franklin should put up massive numbers over the next two years.

IC Catholic Prep vies for its third straight title game appearance at 4 p.m. Saturday at home against Richmond-Burton.

2. Backs:

Throughout this season we've raved about DuPage County's quarterbacks, and for good reason.


Glenbard East's Bret Bushka, Lisle's Jay McGrath, Naperville Central's Payton Thorne, Willowbrook's Sam Tumilty ... the list is a long one. That quartet alone helped their respective teams to a combined 38 victories, including six in the playoffs.

A wise coach once told me, though, you win in the playoffs by running the ball and stopping the run.

We've already talked about Franklin, but the same can be said for our other DuPage County semifinalist. With Illinois-bound running back Nick Fedanzo in the fold, Montini (11-1) looks like a team capable of winning its seventh state title.

Fedanzo, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, hasn't been as much of a workhorse as Franklin this season. He's rushed for over 1,100 yards, including 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns in limited action during Saturday's 54-7 quarterfinal win over Evergreen Park.

The Broncos have been successful rotating quarterbacks, but expect to see a bunch of Fedanzo when crunchtime inevitably arrives. It could be this week in a Class 5A clash at Sterling, a game slated for 2 p.m. Saturday.

Fedanzo had 11 carries for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second half of a 21-17 second-round win over Sycamore, and he was crucial in the Broncos' tight Chicago Catholic League Blue wins.

Run the ball and stop the run. We'll see if that wise coach continues to be correct the next two weeks.

3. Merge right ... or wrong:

Remember that football-only merger that's coming next season between the Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic Conference? It was referred to as a superconference when it was announced.

Considering the playoff performance by the two groups, though, it's looking more like a superhero conference. They've placed a combined eight teams in the semifinals, spread across the four biggest classes.

CCL Blue foes Brother Rice and Loyola are in opposite brackets of Class 8A, while fellow Blue member Montini is in the 5A semifinals. Mt. Carmel, now in the CCL Green, surprisingly hammered East St. Louis to reach the Final Four in Class 7A.

The ESCC, meanwhile, has a semifinal team in each class between 5A and 8A. Marist (8A), Nazareth (7A), Notre Dame (6A) and Joliet Catholic (5A) all might be headed to Champaign for Thanksgiving weekend.

If a half dozen of those teams do, in fact, reach Champaign it'll no doubt ignite the cries from the anti-private school faction in Illinois. Multiplied, success factored ... it doesn't matter. It's a debate that won't fade.

A half dozen CCL-ESCC teams and a possible IC Catholic Prep-McNamara final in Class 3A?

Yep, it's going to get awfully noisy if that ends up happening.

4. Expansion vs. Districts:

Last week, after the IHSA unveiled its annual bylaw amendment proposals, I ran a Twitter poll to see which of the two football proposals people liked better.

Just to refresh your memory, the first proposal suggests expanding the playoffs from 256 to 384 teams. That'd mean shortening the regular season to eight weeks and starting the postseason in Week 9.

The other proposal introduces districts as a way to end the conference shuffling and make it easier to schedule nonconference games. Conferences would cease to exist for football only, allowing the IHSA to create statewide districts in eight classes based on geography and enrollment.

Anyway ... that Twitter poll. Given those two less-than-ideal choices, expansion won in a landslide. With 883 votes cast, expansion got 66 percent of the support compared to 34 percent for districts.

It's obviously not scientific but the margin surprised me ... not to mention my surprise that 883 people voted and a good number of people commented on their opinion. Mess with their football season and people care.

The IHSA Legislative Commission will decide Nov. 26 which proposals advance to a membership vote that'll take place in December.

As we often like to say here, stay tuned.

5. Stat time:

Six of last season's eight state champions remain alive for a repeat.

Lena-Winslow, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, IC Catholic Prep, Rochester, Batavia and Lincoln-Way East are the surviving title defenders. Phillips and Prairie Ridge are the only 2017 champions to lose this postseason.

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