Answers to all your questions about football playoffs
After 9 regular-season games filled with ups and downs, the time has finally come for high school football teams.
Win or go home.
Last Saturday, a total of 256 schools learned of their playoff destinations for this weekend's first-round contests.
Eight classes -- ranging from the biggest schools (8A) to the smallest (1A) -- filled with 32 teams per class all hoping to land a spot in the 8 respective state championship games scheduled for November 29-30 at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
In a variation of an old TV game show called, "Twenty Questions," which ran from 1949-1955 (no, I wasn't around to watch it live), I'd like to present a slimmed-down version of questions awaiting the 12 Fox Valley area football teams.
Q: Is Edwardsville in Illinois?
A: Barely. It is located about 20 miles northeast of St. Louis.
St. Charles East heads to Edwardsville Friday for a Class 8A battle between a pair of 7-2 teams. Coach Bryce Farquhar's Saints will prepare to take on a Tigers team that features QB Ryan Hampton, RB Justin Johnson Jr and WR Mason Ahlers.
Q: How good is Edwardsville?
A: In Week 6, the Tigers trailed 27-21 early in the fourth quarter of their game against arguably the state's best team -- East St. Louis -- before dropping a 43-21 decision.
A Saints' defense that features LBs Nick Schumann, Cody Cotteleer and DBs Gino Cerrone, Clay Conn and B.J. Crossen will be tested against a Tigers team that averages 31 points per game.
Q: Are records deceiving?
A: They definitely can be. Take Bartlett's (8-1) first-round opponent, Brother Rice (5-4), for example.
The Crusaders, last year's 8A state runner-up, played 7 teams that qualified for postseason play. And they have a familiar name on their roster -- 6-3, 300-pound defensive tackle Denver Warren, who played the last 2 seasons at West Aurora before transferring to Brother Rice for his senior campaign.
Q: Does momentum mean anything?
A: While it's a "new" season, Elgin recovered from an 0-4 start to win its final regular-season games and reach the postseason for the first time since 2010. Versatile Xavier Bonds & Co. will face a formidable Oswego (8-1) team that suffered its lone loss last weekend against unbeaten Minooka (28-21).
Q: Will some matchups be closer than they appear?
A: You better believe it. Take Saturday afternoon's Oswego East (5-4) vs. South Elgin (8-1) 8A clash.
While the Wolves suffered 3 more losses than South Elgin and averaged 26 fewer points per game, they faced 6 playoff-bound squads and held their own against Southwest Prairie West champion Minooka.
Averaging nearly 50 points per game while allowing a minuscule 4.1 points per contest, the Storm received their wake-up call during a 17-14 Week 8 loss to Bartlett.
This could be one of the weekend's more entertaining games, along with the 6A matchup between Crystal Lake Central (6-3) and Kaneland (7-2).
Q: Will all of the games be played as scheduled?
A: That question will not be answered until Wednesday for Huntley (8-1), Marmion (6-3) and St. Edward (6-3). Their respective opponents -- Taft, Amundsen and Orr -- are all Chicago Public League schools that haven't played since Oct. 16 due to the ongoing Chicago Public Schools teachers' strike.
According to the IHSA, all CPS schools must practice by Wednesday to meet the standard number of 3 practices required to resume games.
If the strike continues throughout the week, Huntley, Marmion and St. Edward will all record wins by forfeit and get in a little extra practice work prior to their second-round contests.
Q: What would be classified as an opening-round upset?
A: Aurora Christian (5-4) hopes its stiff schedule that included games against much bigger playoff-bound schools -- R-B (6A), St. Francis (4A), IC Catholic Prep (4A) and Bishop McNamara (4A) -- pays dividends Saturday afternoon against MaxPreps.com nationally-ranked small school Lena-Winslow (9-0).
Earlier this season, Lena-Winslow defeated defending 1A champion Forreston, 46-14.
Meanwhile, perennial powers Batavia (7-2) and Cary-Grove (7-2) face a pair of 5-4 teams in Thornwood and St. Ignatius Saturday afternoon in 7A and 6A, respectively.
If the IHSA can seed 256 football playoff teams in 8 classes in less than 24 hours, then I say why not wait a little longer before announcing the regional soccer pairings.
Take the case of St. Charles North, for example.
Last Friday, the 13th-seeded North Stars (11-4-3) edged No. 12 Schaumburg (9-10-1) 2-1 to capture its third 3A regional title in 4 years.
"It doesn't take long to figure out where you're going and who you're playing so why not wait for the last minute," said North Stars coach Eric Willson. "I think most coaches if not all say the seeding happens too early in the process.
"But it is what it is and that's the seed we earned. We're willing to deal with that and go play soccer."
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org