Where's the advantage in playing on the road?

  • IC Catholic Prep's Kyle Franklin (20) sprints toward the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against St. Francis Friday, Oct. 18 in Wheaton. The teams could meet again next week in the Class 4A semifinals.

      IC Catholic Prep's Kyle Franklin (20) sprints toward the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against St. Francis Friday, Oct. 18 in Wheaton. The teams could meet again next week in the Class 4A semifinals. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/12/2019 6:18 PM

Ouch.

Five of DuPage County's nine playoff football teams lost last week, leaving IC Catholic Prep, St. Francis, Wheaton Warrenville South and Willowbrook as the last teams standing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Two in Class 7A, two in Class 4A.

This week's Eyes on Five looks back and ahead.

1. Yes, ouch:

It's always heartbreaking when a season ends in the playoffs but, man, Saturday was rough for Glenbard West and Montini.

We knew the Hilltoppers faced a tough draw in Class 8A, but they seemed in good shape at Loyola. The defending Class 8A champion Ramblers pulled it out 28-27 to hand Glenbard West its lone loss.

It's a shame because that group was state-title caliber.

I liked Montini's draw in Class 5A and believed it was good enough to get the Broncos back to the title game. After six straight playoff wins over Sycamore, however, the Broncos lost to the Spartans.

Adding an extra crack to the heartbreak, Montini's loss came in overtime.

It proves once again that seeding in the IHSA playoffs has little connection to projected success. All that matters is matchups.

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2. Serious advantage:

Of the 64 second-round games, 50 were won by the home team. And of the 24 games in the three biggest classes, only East St. Louis won on the road.

That's stunning home-field advantage, and it should open a conversation with the IHSA.

Instead of rewarding the top seeds with home games throughout the playoffs, like the NFL, the IHSA after the first round awards home games to the teams that have been at home the least. So even though Glenbard West was the No. 2 seed in Class 8A, the Hilltoppers had to play in Wilmette last weekend because No. 18 Loyola was on the road for its playoff opener.

For many people, that doesn't make sense.

That's not to say Glenbard West beats Loyola at home. With their speed, in fact, the Hilltoppers probably played better on an artificial surface than on Duchon Field's grass.

But it isn't about that. There's a comfort level at home that can't be matched.

There's a set routine. There's tradition. There are creature comforts of a home locker room.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The list of advantages goes on and on.

Top seeds earned the right to play at home as long as they're alive in the playoffs, but I don't envision the IHSA sharing that opinion any time soon.

3. Are we there yet?:

Don't look ahead...but...

I can't help but imagine what a second game between IC Catholic Prep and St. Francis might look like.

In next week's Class 4A semifinals. With a berth in the title game on the line.

This rivalry goes back decades and reignited last year when St. Francis joined the Knights in the Metro Suburban Conference. In Week 8 of this season, the Spartans claimed a 20-19 victory to snap IC Catholic Prep's 33-game winning streak.

But, again, we can't look ahead with No. 4 St. Francis (10-1) facing powerhouse No. 1 Coal City (11-0). And not with No. 3 IC Catholic Prep (10-1) traveling to No. 2 Richmond-Burton (11-0).

Let's wait and see what happens this weekend.

4. One more step:

Here we are again with Willowbrook in the Class 7A quarterfinals. It's a familiar and critical juncture for the No. 5 Warriors (10-1), who travel to face No. 20 Lake Zurich (8-3) on Saturday.

It's the fourth straight season Willowbrook's reached this point, and now the Warriors need to take that next step.

In the last three years they've been knocked out by state powers Batavia, Prairie Ridge and East St. Louis. The latter two went on to win the state title.

A victory gets the program over that massive hump and into the semifinals for the first time since its playoff debut in 1974.

Needless to say, it's a huge moment for Willowbrook.

5. Stat time:

Wheaton Warrenville South (8-3) advanced to the Class 7A quarterfinals with last week's 28-7 win over Downers Grove North.

It was the program's 76th playoff victory against only 19 losses.

Twitter: @kevin_schmit

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