Benet has its choice of QBs
Benet football coach Pat New believes his team has three starting quarterbacks in Colin Gillespie, Michael O'Connor and Nick Bafia.
The Redwings were down to two in last week's loss to Nazareth because of an injury to Gillespie, their third-year starter, but they stayed close with O'Connor behind center.
New, however, knows Benet needs all hands on deck heading into the postseason. The No. 17 Redwings (6-3) open the playoffs in Class 7A with Friday's trip to No. 16 Glenbard North (6-3).
"We're going to really rely on our horses this week," New said. "Colin will be back. That makes it easier for us to do everything we want to do offensively."
The main thing Gillespie offers is a run threat. In addition to 1,042 passing yards, he's rushed for 266 yards and 8 scores.
"It gives defenses more to defend," New said. "With Colin out there we're able to attack all sides of the field."
All four District 87 schools -- Glenbard East, Glenbard North, Glenbard South and Glenbard West -- reached the playoffs this season for the first time in history.
Two of them were rewarded with exceedingly difficult first-round opponents.
Earning a No. 10 seed in Class 8A, Glenbard East (8-1) got about as tough a No. 23 seed as it could have wanted. Marist (5-4) won its last two games, including a 14-6 win over Loyola on Saturday, to make the playoffs. Even at 5-4 the RedHawks earned votes in this week's Associated Press 8A polling. The 56-24 record of Marist's opponents tops all 8A teams.
Rams coach John Walters, whose team was in the Class 7A playoffs last season, called 8A a "meat grinder." But he found positives to this draw.
"We're 8 and 1. We're the home team, we're the higher seed and our guys, they believe in what we've done all year long," he said.
Class 5A No. 9 seed Glenbard South (6-3) believes, too, even facing No. 8 St. Rita (6-3). Ranked eighth in 5A after playing eight playoff teams, the Mustangs are on a five-game winning streak and are 5-0 at home.
"Clearly they're the heavily favored team," said Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey.
The Raiders will try to use that to their advantage. Play free and easy, no intimidation, execute and let the chips fall where they may.
Crissey noted this won't be Glenbard South's first playoff game against a former Chicago Catholic League power. In 2003 the Raiders beat Mt. Carmel 33-0. (St. Rita beat them 41-17 in the second round.)
"Hey, let's pull something out of that hat here, let's do something crazy," Crissey said. "That's what I told the kids. Let's get after it and do something that no one thinks can be done."
When No. 22 Wheaton Warrenville South (6-3) heads to Machesney Park to play No. 11 Harlem (7-2) in Class 7A action on Friday, the Tigers will face the most potent passing game they've seen this season.
The Huskies average more than 30 passes a game with junior quarterback James Cooper, who's thrown for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
It'll be a challenge for WW South's young secondary.
"We'll be tested back there," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch.
Junior Max Wilson, tied for the team lead with 4 interceptions, and sophomore Danny Healy are the cornerbacks while senior Jimmy Muff and junior Ryan Frank are the safeties. With Frank injured last week, senior running back Jake Arthurs did a nice job filling in at safety.
"The main thing is we can't give up the big play," Muhitch said.
Downers Grove South (5-4) last reached the playoffs in 2014, but coach Mark Molinari challenged this group of seniors to get it done.
"We've had a lot of senior classes that tried to do it and couldn't," he said. "This group did it."
The Mustangs face a tough first-rounder in Class 8A against No. 2 Glenbard West on Saturday. But with senior leaders like Kyle Vogt, Jack Meyer, Nick Mears, Jayden Lambert, Sharrod Molex, Anthony Becht and Alex Rapinchuk, Downers South welcomes the opportunity.
"We're glad to be back and we're excited to play them," Molinari said.