Scouting this weekend's DuPage County playoff football games
By Dave Oberhelman and Kevin Schmit
Class 8A (bracket order)
No. 2 Glenbard West (10-0) at No. 18 Loyola (7-3)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Glenbard West 48, No. 31 Downers Grove South 2; Loyola 14, No. 15 Maine South 6.
Outlook: The defending Class 8A champion Ramblers create a major stumbling block in Glenbard West's playoff path. Loyola's offense scored just enough last week without running back Vaughan Pemberton, who leads the team with 685 rushing yards but missed the game due to injury. The Ramblers went to the air for both touchdowns as quarterback J.T. Thomas found Matthew Mangan and James Kyle. Glenbard West's defense played at another level last week, so linebacker Greyson Metz and crew will be ready. If quarterback Braden Spiech's play-action passing balances the ground game led by Jalen Moore, Nick Seifert, Joey Richmond and Samson Zander -- who have combined for 3,069 yards -- the Hilltoppers will advance.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 8A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 7 Huntley at No. 23 Marist.
No. 11 Neuqua Valley (9-1) at No. 6 Homewood-Flossmoor (9-1)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Neuqua Valley 44, No. 22 Conant 6; Homewood-Flossmoor 53, No. 27 Curie 6.
Outlook: The Wildcats haven't let nagging injuries derail them. Leading receiver Sean Larkin missed last week, but Patrick Hoffmann stepped up with 8 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown from do-it-all quarterback Mark Gronowski. Leading rusher Armani Moreno needed only 7 carries, allowing Nick Pastore to rush for nearly 100 yards. Given the Vikings' ability to score in bunches, expect a pile of points in this one. Running back Sean Allen is just a junior, but he's already in his second season as a starter. The combination of quarterback Dominick Jones and receiver William Pauling is also dangerous. Wildcats defensive lineman Kyle Kasche has been playing well and Joey Matusik's return from injury has bolstered the secondary.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 8A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 14 Notre Dame at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East.
Class 7A (bracket order)
No. 16 Glenbard North (7-3) at No. 1 Mt. Carmel (10-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Glenbard North 35, No. 17 Benet 8; Mt. Carmel 61, No. 32 Eisenhower 14.
Outlook: A real people pleaser. Glenbard North is on a six-game roll because backs Jordan McQuarter and Cordell Smiley have piled up rushing yardage while the offensive line protects quarterback Mike Vazquez on play-action. It doesn't need to happen a lot, like last week when out of 6 passes 2 went for touchdowns to Angelo Cusumano and fullback Josh Kliment. Precision is at a premium here because Mt. Carmel's Ben Perry has 9 interceptions and Marty O'Brien has 5. Dual-threat quarterback Justin Lynch has completed 66 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns. Panthers Shea Gaffney recovered a Benet fumble and Jaheim Edmond forced another. With the Caravan outscoring teams 119-0 in the first quarter, that'd come in handy.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 9 Normal at No. 8 Phillips.
No. 12 Yorkville (8-2) at No. 5 Willowbrook (9-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Yorkville 37, No. 21 TF South 0; Willowbrook 48, No. 28 Moline 21.
Outlook: With losses to unbeaten Minooka and one-loss Oswego, the Foxes have an interesting resume and a tough defense that last week notched its third shutout and sixth game of allowing single-digit scoring. The unit's led by South Dakota State-bound safety Cale Reeder, who contributes in all three phases. It'll take Reeder and more to slow Willowbrook's offense led by quarterback Sam Tumilty, who has thrown for 2,039 yards and rushed for 1,146. Last week running back Ta'Vion Geanes had his best game of the season with 138 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. The Warriors' defense, which last week got a big game from lineman Elijah Brockie, will try to slow the Foxes' ground game led by Tre Thomas and Toran Harris.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 4 Hersey at No. 20 Lake Zurich.
No. 27 Downers Grove North (6-4) at No. 22 Wheaton Warrenville South (7-3)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Downers Grove North 35, No. 6 Maine West 14; WW South 50, No. 11 Machesney Park Harlem 23.
Outlook: These teams meet for the fourth time in the playoffs. Between linebackers Michael Rogers, who last week had 14 of his team-high 120 tackles, Will Cassin and Tommy Barnett, the Tigers have plenty of talent to slow Downers North's power run game headed by third-year quarterback Drew Cassens. He continues to lead DuPage County with 1,423 rushing yards while Josh Lumpkin has 901 yards. Likewise, Trojans linebackers Drew Bielawski and Jon Werthman need to limit WW South running backs Jake Arthurs and Prince Lankah, who have combined for 1,256 yards. The difference, in addition to Michigan State-bound Tigers kicker Jack Olsen, might be quarterback Parker Brown and big-play receiver Kaleb Clousing.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 7A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 14 Prospect at No. 3 Rolling Meadows.
No. 6 Montini (8-2) at No. 3 Sycamore (9-1)
Game time: 2 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Montini 56, No. 11 Elmwood Park 6; Sycamore 59, No. 14 Evergreen Park 7.
Outlook: Nos. 4-5, respectively, in final Class 5A polling. Montini is 6-0 over Sycamore in the playoffs, including last season's 21-17 second-round victory, the Broncos rallying three times. Quarterbacks are again at the center of this one, with the Broncos' Deontay Bell just 70 rushing yards away from 1,000 on the season and accounting for 28 touchdowns overall. Miami (Ohio)-bound receiver Nate Muersch has caught 36 passes for 691 yards, 10 touchdowns. Sycamore quarterback Grant McConkey ran for 2 touchdowns and threw for another against Evergreen Park. A key to Montini's success will be containment on McConkey by linebackers C.J. Bufkin, DiAndre Harris, Brandon Liston and Trevor Swier, the latter with a team-high 69 stops.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 5A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 2 Rockford Boylan at No. 10 Marmion.
Class 4A (bracket order)
No. 5 Genoa-Kingston (9-1) vs. No. 4 St. Francis (9-1)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday at Naperville North.
Last week: Genoa-Kingston 44, No. 12 North Chicago 0; St. Francis 45, No. 13 Clark 0.
Outlook: St. Francis starting quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse remains out injured, so Jackson Gerard and Mike Baffa again are the guys. Receivers Ryan French, Jake Tangorra and Tyler Bishop have at least 23 receptions. Add back Ben Radel's 31 catches plus 614 yards rushing and that's a lot to contain. Yet the Cogs are 9-1 for a reason. A big part of it is an 80 percent run offense -- trap, counter, sweep, wishbone -- with quarterback Justin Peters and backs Sam Rice and Will Franson. St. Francis can't sleep on the pass; the Rockford Register Star has Peters with 11 touchdown passes on 23 completions. To get off the field St. Francis looks to force G-K wide and have Michael Bumpus, Dom Imbrogno and Enzo Rendina run them down.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 4A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 8 Kewanee at No. 1 Coal City.
No. 6 Stillman Valley (9-1) at No. 3 IC Catholic (9-1)
Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday.
Last week: Stillman Valley 32, No. 11 Dixon 6; IC Catholic 28, No. 14 Sullivan 0.
Outlook: The Knights blanked Stillman Valley 31-0 last season in a Class 4A second-round win. ICCP quickly swamped Sullivan on two Kyle Franklin touchdown runs, Danny Cronin touchdown passes to Franklin and Rashad Sbeih, then sat its starters just as quickly. Now Knights defensive linemen Kevin Akins, A.J. Howard, Anthony Niecikowski and Antonio Richardson brace themselves for a downhill ground game. Guard Trae Varney, 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, leads the Cardinals' masterful line in front of fullback Logan Jennings, halfback Devin Willis and quarterback Chad Gerig. ICCP can't dis the pass because the R.R. Star has Gerig with 13 touchdown passes, 8 to receiver Joe Kuthe.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 4A quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 7 Marengo at No. 2 Richmond-Burton.
-- Kevin Schmit and Dave Oberhelman