Some intriguing matchups for Northwest suburbs' teams
The IHSA state football playoff field was announced Saturday night and it has nearly all of the same Northwest suburbs participants as last season.
Undefeated Rolling Meadows leads eight Northwest teams into the playoffs this year. Fremd, Maine South, Barrington, Conant, Hersey, Maine West and Prospect are all making a return appearance in the hopes of advancing to the title games, which will be held Thanksgiving weekend at Northern Illinois University.
The 256-team field will also have the lowest at-large points (29) in state history. It will also feature a pair of 4-win teams and a 3-win team that were able to qualify because they were their respective conference champions.
The Chicago Public League had all of 20 of its qualifying teams placed in the tournament despite the current strike by its teachers union. Should the strike not be settled so that those teams can conduct at least three days of practice prior to their scheduled game, they will be forced to forfeit. No other teams will placed in the tournament to replace them in the event of a forfeit.
Class 8A: Maine South (7-2) has the longest continual appearance in the state tournament. The Hawks, who are seeded 15th, will be suiting up for the 28th consecutive year. Maine South, which has won its last 7 games, will meet one of its fiercest rivals when it hosts 18th-seed Loyola (6-3).
"When Loyola lost we knew that it could work out that way," Maine South coach Dave Inserra said. "You can only control what you can control. We are healthier now than we were at the beginning at the year and that is good."
Fremd (7-2) moved up to the 13th-seed when Loyola lost. The Vikings, who have won their last six, will host their first state playoff game since 2014. They will take on 20th seed Plainfield North (6-3) of the Southwest Prairie Conference, which is making its first playoff appearance in four years.
"It has been a while," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "It is fun. Our kids are playing well and practicing well. We want to keep things rolling."
Barrington (6-3), which has won its last two, will be making its seventh consecutive appearance in the tournament. The 19th seeded Broncos will travel to Niles to play 14th seeded Notre Dame (7-2), which has lost its last two games.
"It ended up being a little different than we thought," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "But when you get to the payoffs, you are going to play somebody good. We are excited with the way we ended our season."
Conant (6-3) is back in the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Cougars are seeded 22nd and will have a tough first round battle. They will travel to Naperville to play 11th seeded Neuqua Valley (8-1), whose only loss came to East St. Louis.
"At this point everyone is tough" Conant coach Bryan Stortz said. "We are in and getting the kids prepared to play to the best of our ability. We are at school, watched some film and talked about some things."
Class 7A: Rolling Meadows (9-0) enters the playoffs undefeated in the regular season for the second consecutive year. The Mustangs have been to the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons and 16 of the last 17 years. They will host 30th seeded Lincoln Park (5-3) of the Chicago Public League.
"Our kids are really jacked up," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "They are ready to get on with the second part of the season. We will hit the ground running on Monday with preparation for this week."
Hersey (8-1), which lost to Meadows Friday, flipped seeds with the Mustangs. The Huskies are seeded fourth and will host 29th seed Rockford Auburn (5-4) of the NIC-10. Auburn has lost its last two games.
"Our kids are ready to get back to work," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "We know there is good football in Rockford and we haven't been out there, so we are excited for the new opportunity."
Maine West (8-1) has qualified for the playoffs for the third straight year and earned its highest seed in school history. The Warriors are a sixth seed and will host No. 27 Downers Grove North (5-4).
"All the kids were here watching," said Maine West coach Jason Kradman, who was hosting a watch party at the school said. "We are excited to have a home game. We saw them a little this summer."
Prospect (7-2), which has not been home for the playoffs since 2008, was awarded a 14 seed and will host 19th-seeded DeKalb (6-3), which finished third in the DuKane Conference. With a win, Prospect will most likely be looking at a rematch with Rolling Meadows.
"It is definitely great to be home," Prospect coach Dan DeBeouf said. "We are excited for the atmosphere and looking forward to making a run."
Playoff days and times will be announced Monday afternoon.