Building up to a fantastic final weekend of football games
Now that's what I call a semifinal Saturday.
We saw the expected (see IC Catholic Prep) and the unexpected (see item No. 3). Now we gear up for what should be a fantastic championship weekend of football in Champaign.
With IC Catholic Prep and Montini ready to carry the DuPage County flag to central Illinois, Eyes on Five takes one last look at the 2018 football season.
1. Rematch I:
When Montini (12-1) entered the Class 5A playoffs a few weeks ago, there were any number of teams in the opposite half of the bracket the Broncos could have envisioned as a title-game opponent.
Joliet Catholic probably wasn't one of them.
The Hilltoppers (9-4) had to beat Notre Dame in the regular-season finale just to reach the postseason, and they've since beaten Metamora, Marion, Highland and Hillcrest to set up a showdown with the Broncos.
Wish we had more time to soak this one in.
The playoff history between these powers is remarkable, and decidedly one-sided in Montini's favor. The Broncos beat Joliet Catholic in the 2009 and 2011 Class 5A finals and also eliminated the Hilltoppers in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 playoffs.
In 2009 the Broncos won 29-28 on a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 32 seconds left. In 2011 it was a 70-45 victory when John Rhode threw for 587 yards and 7 touchdowns, including 12 catches for 353 yards and 5 scores by Jordan Westerkamp ... enough to overcome Ty Isaac's 515 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers.
The games in 2012 and 2013 were decided by a total of 4 points so, yeah, this rivalry has some interesting history behind it.
We'll see what they have in store for us at 10 a.m. Saturday.
2. Rematch II:
IC Catholic Prep (13-0) won 12 of its 13 games by an average margin of 37 points. Then there's that other game.
The one outlier is Week 4 against McNamara, a 21-20 Knights victory requiring a 14-point rally. The Knights capped the comeback with a 50-yard touchdown strike from Khalil Saunders to Jake Lytton with 16.2 seconds left.
Unlike Montini-Joliet Catholic, this was the matchup many expected to see in the Class 4A final. McNamara (12-1) clearly wanted it badly -- it took last week's win over seven-time 4A champion Rochester, the two-time defending champion, to get here.
Ever since that Week 4 nailbiter, we've all waited for the Knights' next challenge. Sure, they had to rally from last week's 9-0 deficit to Richmond-Burton, but it still turned into a 28-9 semifinal win to set up a chance at the program's third straight state title.
This is the first season for McNamara in the Metro Suburban Conference, but the Irish still have a history with the Knights. They're 3-3 against each other since 2014 including a 42-14 Irish victory in the 2015 3A semifinals.
It should be a terrific 4A final at 7 p.m. Friday. And it should be that challenge for IC Catholic Prep we've awaited.
3. Surprise Saturday:
For all the favorites that won, there were plenty of surprises on Saturday.
Loyola did the unthinkable by breaking Lincoln-Way East's 26-game winning streak in the Class 8A semifinals. The same Griffins team that pounded their previous three opponents by a combined margin of 144-14, beaten by a banged-up Ramblers (10-3) team that stood at 3-3 midseason.
Now Loyola heads to the 8A final for the fourth straight year to face top-seeded Chicago Catholic League Blue rival Brother Rice (13-0), who beat the Ramblers 35-3 in the regular season.
Speaking of banged up, in the Class 7A title game you'll see a St. Charles North team that lost its quarterback to a Week 1 injury and its running back midseason. The North Stars (10-3) then overcame a two-game losing streak at the end of the regular season to win four straight heading into Saturday's showdown against Nazareth (12-1).
St. Charles North is what makes championship weekend so marvelous.
A great story.
4. Back in court:
It seems like only yesterday we saw a football game head to a courtroom.
Unfortunately, we're back.
In the wake of Nazareth's quarterfinal victory over Simeon, alumni of Simeon and parents of the players filed a lawsuit against the IHSA trying to prevent the Roadrunners from appearing in the Class 7A title game.
The details of the lawsuit are bizarre, alleging that a Nazareth parent dressed in an official's uniform and stood on the sideline consulting with the game officials on calls being made. After the game, on social media, he allegedly made comments admitting to trying to affect the outcome of the game.
The folks behind the lawsuit contend the actions were in violation of IHSA rules and want the result of the quarterfinal game nullified. That'd put Batavia, the semifinal loser to Nazareth, in Saturday's title game against St. Charles North.
But don't expect that to happen.
There's judicial precedent for not reversing game decisions by officials. In 2016 Fenwick failed in its legal attempt to reverse a semifinal loss to Plainfield North.
Expect to see Nazareth playing for a state title on Saturday.
5. Stat time:
Fifteen columns later, and that'll do it for the football edition of Eyes on Five.
I'll be back in January to bring you the latest news from the boys basketball beat. And Orrin Schwarz is back as well to talk about girls basketball.
See you then ... and thanks for reading!
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