Scouting first round playoff games in the Northwest suburbs
No. 20 Plainfield North (6-3) at No. 13 Fremd (7-2)When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Fremd beat Hoffman Estates 28-0; Plainfield North lost to Yorkville 31-7.
History: This is the first meeting between Plainfield North and Fremd.
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 4 Warren vs. No. 29 Plainfield East
Outlook: Fremd is playing its best football of the season right now. The Vikings have won six consecutive games and have allowed just 37 points in their last six games. The defense, led by Will Kristo, Jason Haas, Trey Castella, Jack Hipchen, Nate Stevens and Jack Walsh have posted three shutouts in that span. "Our team is playing very well right now," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "Our kids are taking pride in tough, physical practices in the elements. It is paying off right now for us." Like many teams, Fremd will be hoping that the snow dumped on its field will be cleared enough to play. The wet field could pay dividends for Fremd, who will have to contend with a very athletic and speedy Plainfield North team. The Tigers are led by Marcellus Moore, a Purdue-recruit who is the defending state champion in the 100 and 200-meter sprints. "Our opponent is very talented and they play hard," Sponsel said. "They have a ton of speed and have a few guys that could break one at any time. Their defense is physical and they play hard. We need to play as a team. Everyone needs to give everything they have for the guy next to them. We need to play fast and physical within the framework of our system." The Tigers went 2-3 in the Southwest Prairie West. They finished second in state in 2016 under coach Tim Kane, who took over the program in 2006.
No. 22 Conant (6-3) at No. 11 Neuqua Valley (8-1)When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Last week: Conant lost to Palatine 20-13, Neuqua Valley beat Metea Valley 41-20.
History: This is the first time Conant and Neuqua Valley have met.
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 6 Homewood-Flossmoor vs. No. 27 Curie
Outlook: It has been a roller coaster year for Conant. The Cougars opened the season with six consecutive wins. They then followed with three consecutive losses. They head into the playoffs for the second consecutive year and will play in the afternoon on the road for the second year in a row. Conant will be without quarterback Giuseppe Dugo, who broke his collarbone last week in the loss to Palatine. Matt Botello has stepped in for the Cougars and operated the offense quite well. Malik Frederick, who has 1,243 yards from the fullback spot, has keyed the Conant rushing attack. Neuqua Valley's only loss came to unbeaten East. St. Louis. Neuqua won the DuPage Valley Conference and the Wildcats are averaging 35.6 points. "Our team has played very hard and needs to continue to play with intensity," Conant coach Bryan Stortz said. "Neuqua Valley is a very good football team, they're well-rounded and are coached up extremely well. We need to stop the run, minimize their big plays, and establish our ground game in order to be successful."
No. 19 Barrington (6-3) at No. 14 Notre Dame (7-2)
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Last week: Barrington beat Schaumburg 50-15; Notre Dame lost to St. Rita 7-0
History: In 2008, Barrington beat Notre Dame 10-7 in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 3 Lincoln-Way East vs. No. 30 Plainfield South
Outlook: This could be a very low-scoring affair with a pair of defenses that have been stout all season. Barrington is led by Iowa commit Lukas Van Ness, who is coming off a terrific game last week against Schaumburg. Adam Brokke, Matt Reedy and Evan Roper lead a Bronco defense that has allowed 9.8 points per game. Barrington comes into the game on a two-game win streak after losing it previous two games. "We are playing well," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "I am very happy with how we have responded since two close and tough losses to Conant and Fremd." Notre Dame has lost its last two games. The Dons, who play in the CCL/ESCC Green, are led by Mike Jekot, Julian Schurr, Anthony Sayles and Anthony Ranallo and have allowed 9.4 points per game. "They are a very good team. They remind me a lot of the teams we have played this year in Warren, Conant and Fremd," Sanchez said. "They are very good defensively and on offense they are led by a dynamic quarterback. We will need to play well in all three phases and minimize our mistakes in order for us to be successful. It will be a four-quarter game and it should be exciting."
No. 18 Loyola (6-3) at No. 15 Maine South (7-2)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Last week: Loyola lost to Marist 14-6; Maine South beat New Trier 44-7
History: Last year, Loyola beat Maine South 17-0 in a Class 8A quarterfinal.
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 2 Glenbard West vs. No. 31 Downers Grove South.
Outlook: Each time Maine South has won a state title, the Hawks had to beat Loyola along the way. This time the Hawks will get the Ramblers right out of the gate. "Loyola is well known," Maine South coach Dave Inserra said. "They will not hurt themselves. For both of us, when we have won the state we have gone through the other team in the playoffs." Health has been a key factor during Maine South's current 7-game winning streak. The Hawks, who now own the longest consecutive playoff streak at 27 years, have a healthy Luke Leongas back at quarterback. "We are almost fully healthy, if you can say that at this time," Inserra said. "Our boys are focused and understand the road ahead. We have a good mindset and are playing our best ball right now." That should free up Dan Lazic, Ryan Kilburg and Mike Sajenko to make big plays. Maine South will also look to OL/DL Mike Skoronski to anchor the line on both sides of the ball. Loyola, which has qualified for the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons and won two state titles during that span, comes into the game after dropping its final regular season game to Marist. "We have to play a near perfect game to beat Loyola," Inserra said. "Tackling will be key and protecting our quarterback is a must."
No. 19 DeKalb (6-3) at No. 14 Prospect (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last week: Prospect beat Wheeling 49-14; DeKalb beat Alton 48-20
History: This is the first meeting between the Knights and Barbs.
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 3 Rolling Meadows vs. No. 30 Lincoln Park.
Outlook: There is no place like home and Prospect is happy to click its heels and say that. The Knights will be hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2008. Prospect is back in the playoffs for the second consecutive year. "Really happy with where our team is at right now mentally," Prospect coach Dan DeBeouf said. "I think the sign of a great team is a sense of refreshness when the playoffs start. We look forward to building on what we have done the last couple weeks." The Knights, who are averaging 39.6 points, have been potent offensively all season behind Luke Zardzin, who has rushed for 1,274 yards and Gary Moeller, who has thrown for 1,893 yards and 23 touchdowns. DeKalb is making its seventh consecutive playoff appearance. The Barbs finished third in the DuKane conference and are averaging 29.2 points behind quarterback Trenton Kyler and running back Jalon Redmond. "They have seen some good competition this year and we know we will have to be at our best to compete with them," DeBeouf said. "Turnovers and special teams always seems to play huge roles in playoff games, especially when the weather looks the way it does for Friday."
No. 29 Rockford Auburn (5-4) at No. 4 Hersey (8-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Auburn lost to Harlem 55-12; Hersey lost to Rolling Meadows, 38-35
History: This is the first meeting between Auburn and Hersey.
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 13 Andrew vs. No. 20 Lake Zurich
Outlook: Hersey's hopes for a perfect season were dashed last week in the final moments against Rolling Meadows. Hersey now looks to build off that loss as the Huskies have their eyes on a bigger prize. "Although we suffered our first loss of the season, I see us improving every day," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "I am glad we were tested in a great game and environment last week. It will help us learn our weaknesses and improve." The Hersey offense has been difficult to stop all season and is averaging 47.9 points, the highest of any team in 7A. The Huskies have been led all season by Jordan Hansen, who has 1,583 yards and 31 touchdowns while throwing for 1,726 yards and 21 touchdowns. Auburn, which plays in the NIC-10, has lost its last two games. The Knights are making their first appearance since 2017 and are averaging 23.7 points while allowing 24.3 points. "They are a very fast and athletic football team," Pardun said. "Their program that has shown improvement and has players that play hard. We've talked about taking care of the football better. In playoffs (or any game) turnovers are king."
No. 30 Lincoln Park (5-3) at No. 3 Rolling Meadows (9-0)
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Last week: Lincoln Park did not play; Rolling Meadows beat Hersey 38-35
History: In 2012, Rolling Meadows 46, Lincoln Park 22
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 14 Prospect vs. No. 19 DeKalb
Outlook: The last two times these schools met, there was almost a forfeit. The game was supposed to be played on a Friday night, but inclement weather canceled it. Lincoln Park was not going to return, because it had used it transportation budget for the weekend. Meadows stepped in and paid for a bus and the game was played on Sunday. Because of the Chicago Teachers Union strike, Lincoln Park has not played a game since October 16. "I know if they have a chance to play they are going to come out fired up," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "Those kids deserve a chance to play." Lincoln Park will see a Mustangs team looking to build off their success from last week. Carson Schiller was sensational with his play on Friday. Despite throwing for 1,847 yards and 20 touchdowns, Schiller has gone relatively unheralded throughout most of the season. "He was awesome," Mishler said." He is a winner and a great competitor who hates to lose. He has a lot of grit and determination and a positive attitude the whole game." Rolling Meadows has improved from week to week which makes Mishler proud. "It speaks to their resilience and will to win," Mishler said. "These kids want to be good and they want to get better."
No. 27 Downers Grove North (5-4) at No. 6 Maine West (8-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last week: Downers Grove North beat Downers Grove South 14-7; Maine West beat Highland Park 49-13
History: In 1959, Maine West 21, Downers Grove 13
Advancement: Winner meets the winner of No. 11 Harlem vs. No. 22 Wheaton Warrenville South
Outlook: Maine West continues to roll on. The Warriors have won seven straight and really haven't been challenged since their 14-7 loss in Week 2 to Hoffman Estates. "We're playing with a lot of confidence and have been strong in all three phases for several weeks now," Maine West coach Jason Kradman said. "We're creating a bunch of game-changing plays and our offense is as explosive as ever." Quarterback Danny Kentgen has been the fuse that has lit up the Warrior offense that is producing 40.3 points per game. Kentgen has thrown for 2,260 yards and 31 touchdowns. Jaden Dolphin, who had 4 touchdown receptions last week, has 37 catches for 824 yards. Downers North knocked off crosstown rival Downers South to qualify for the playoffs. The Trojans are averaging 25.7 points and are led by quarterback Drew Cassens. "Downers North is a battle-tested team from a very good conference," Kradman said. "They are well-coached and big up front. We need to be technically sound on defense to stop the run, create opportunities on special teams and play with great tempo on offense."