Scouting Fox Valley semifinals
No. 4 Batavia (12-0) at No. 8 Nazareth Academy (11-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Road to semifinal: Batavia defeated No. 29 Granite City 49-0, No. 13 Moline 59-32 and No. 5 Willowbrook 34-27 (OT); Nazareth defeated No. 25 Andrew 42-11, No. 9 Hersey 49-14 and No. 1 Simeon 34-27.
Outlook: Playoff regulars clash with a title-game berth in the balance. Batavia makes the fifth semifinal appearance in school history. The Bulldogs won semifinals in 2006, 2013 and 2017. A win returns the defending Class 7A champs to the championship game. Nazareth Academy makes its fourth semifinal appearance in five years. The Roadrunners were the 2017 runner-up in Class 6A. They won a Class 6A title in 2014 and a Class 5A title in 2015. Senior receiver/running back/corner Michael Love heads a long list of Nazareth playmakers. Last week, he led a comeback from a 14-point deficit to Simeon with 2 receiving touchdowns and a 75-yard punt return. Another long punt return set up a touchdown. "They are very fast," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "Their secondary, their receivers, they have a bunch of game breakers. They are probably the most complete and dangerous team we've played all year. They are loaded." Batavia likewise rallied to win last week after Willowbrook took a fourth-quarter lead. Batavia has scored 142 points in three playoff wins to continue a torrid pace. The Bulldogs have scored 444 points through 12 games (37 ppg.). Their 2017 state championship team scored 386 points in 14 games (27.6). Quarterback Jack Myers has thrown for 1,844 yards and 20 touchdowns, and Art Taylor (1,125 yards, 9 TD) and Quinn Urwiler (792 yards, 18 TD) lead a ground attack that has gained 3,143 yards (262 avg.). Batavia has 13 more take-aways (19 fumble recoveries, 12 interceptions) than turnovers (10 fumbles, 8 interceptions). "We just have to play good, hard-nosed football, not have too many forced mistakes or errors and make it a full, four-quarter football game," Piron said. "Let it come down to the final minutes, play ball and do what we do best."
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A state championship game in Champaign on Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. against the winner of No. 7 Mt. Carmel (11-1) at No. 22 St. Charles North (9-3)
No. 7 Mt. Carmel (11-1) at No. 22 St. Charles North (9-3)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Road to semifinal: St. Charles North defeated No. 11 Normal Community 44-29, No. 6 Rolling Meadows 24-17 and No. 14 Wheaton Warrenville South 21-10; Mt. Carmel defeated No. 26 Thornton Fractional South 38-0, No. 23 Lake Zurich 17-14 and No. 15 East St. Louis 29-19.
Outlook: St. Charles North's first semifinal opportunity comes on home turf. The Chicago Catholic League Green champions stand between the North Stars and their first trip to a state final. Mt. Carmel has won 12 state titles, most recently in 2013. The only setback for the Caravan was a Week 2 loss to Class 8A quarterfinalist Maine South. Last week against East St. Louis, they forced two first-half fumbles and capitalized on the second to grab a 10-0 halftime lead. Senior Eddie McGee extended the lead to 17-0 when he returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. Senior quarterback Rad Premovic threw for one score and rushed for another. Mt. Carmel averages 30.3 points per game. "I think the progression that we have seen offensively throughout the playoffs has been pretty consistent," St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said. "They have a very athletic quarterback and very talented wide receivers who are physical." North has its own talented, physical wide receivers in Tyler Nubin and Alec Kritta. Nubin was named Class 7A all-state this week. Last week against Wheaton Warrenville South, the 6-foot-2 senior made 5 catches for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 77 yards. Overall, Nubin has 39 receptions for 578 yards and 8 touchdowns and has carried 73 times for 389 yards and 11 scores. Kritta has 40 receptions for 790 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 3 playoff wins, junior quarterback Kyler Brown has completed 30 of 57 passing attempts for 555 yards and 8 touchdowns and thrown 2 interceptions. They face a Mt. Carmel defense led by all-state safety Matt Lenti that limits opponents to 7.3 points per game. The North Stars don't mind being considered an underdog. "I like it. It gives us a chip on our shoulder," Pomazak said. "I'm kid of an edgy guy and I don't mind getting in a tussle. I think it puts us in a good spot."
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A state championship game in Champaign on Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. against the winner of No. 4 Batavia (12-0) at No. 8 Nazareth Academy (11-1)
No. 1 Cary-Grove (12-0) at No. 6 Notre Dame (10-2)
Game time: 3 p.m. Saturday
Road to semifinal: Cary-Grove defeated No. 16 Wauconda 49-7, No. 8 Kaneland 38-6 and No. 4 Phillips 34-24; Notre Dame defeated No 11 St. Ignatius 14-7, No. 14 Crystal Lake South 17-7 and No. 2 Antioch 17-10.
Outlook: Cary-Grove makes its seventh semifinal appearance and fourth under eighth-year coach Brad Seaburg. The Trojans seek their fifth title-game berth. This is the second semifinal appearance for Notre Dame and the first since hall-of-fame coach Mike Hennessey's inaugural season in 1989, when they were the Class 5A runner-up. This season, the Dons finished third in the powerful East Suburban Catholic Conference behind Class 8A semifinalist Marist and Class 7A semifinalist Nazareth. Its only losses were against Marist and Class 5A semifinalist Joliet Catholic. The key player is all-state running back/free safety Ty Gavin. The 1,200-yard rusher scored 2 touchdowns against Antioch last week and converted a fourth down in his own territory to run out the clock. "They really want to run the ball," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "They want to get the ball to Gavin to get that going and they have a lot of plays off that action." Cary-Grove's versatile offense attacks in many ways. Quarterback Ben McDonald has completed 81 of 113 passing attempts for 1,307 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has been intercepted once. McDonald has also rushed for 1,264 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Trojans can pound the middle with junior fullback Blake Skol (1,072 yards, 19 TDs) or ply the perimeter with Danny Daigle, who has 627 rushing yards, 560 receiving yards and 14 combined touchdowns. Two-time all-state lineman Addison West leads the way. They face a Notre Dame defense that has allowed 24 points total in playoff wins over St. Ignatius, Crystal Lake South and Antioch. "I think it's a very good team defense," Seaburg said. "They are a very disciplined defense. Much like us, they have shown that they can pretty much go toe to toe with everybody."
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 6A state championship in Champaign on Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. against the winner of No. 1 Richards (12-0) at No. 11 Crete-Monee (9-3)