Scouting the state quarterfinals in Lake County
No. 5 Willowbrook (10-1) at No. 20 Lake Zurich (8-3)When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Last week, second round: Willowbrook def. Yorkville, 33-24; Lake Zurich def. Hersey, 14-7.
Winner plays: No. 8 Phillips (9-1) vs. No. 1 Mt. Carmel (11-0) winner.
Outlook: First-year Lake Zurich football coach Ron Planz entered the school earlier this week and saw white hoodies here, white hoodies there and white hoodies way over there. "White hoodies, everywhere," Planz said of the 'Lake Zurich Football Playoffs 2019' sweatshirts that at least 70 percent of the student body had donned that day.
"It was amazing."
Planz's Bears have designs on wearing out another playoff opponent on the home turf Saturday -- one week after a 48-points-per-game, 9-win squad from Hersey fell 14-7 to Planz's spirited crew in a second-round game.
"Nobody said we'd be here," Planz said, alluding to LZ's 0-2 start.
Where Willowbrook senior Sam Tumilty will be when the Warriors face the Bears during the Warriors' fourth consecutive quarterfinal: behind center and behind linebackers. The dangerous-per-second quarterback/free safety passed for 314 yards (2 TDs), rushed for 136 (2 TDs) more and came down with a fourth-quarter interception in a 33-24 defeat of Yorkville last weekend. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder has amassed 2,364 yards and 23 TDs as a passer and 1,286 yards and 17 TDs as a rusher.
"That kid is electric, a great football player," said Planz, who, as Elmhurst College's football coach from 2013-17, recruited players at Willowbrook and other high schools near the liberal arts college.
But Tumilty won't be the only dual-threat signal caller in the matchup. Bears senior quarterback Jack Moses burned Hersey's Huskies on Nov. 9 with his right arm and two legs, churning for 148 yards on the ground (including 75- and 19-yard TDs) and completing 10-of-18 tosses for 128. His season totals, through 11 games: 1,301 yards passing (13 TDs, 5 INTs); 972 yards rushing (12 TDs).
"Willowbrook," Planz said, "won't be intimidated. Coach (Nick) Hildreth has established a good culture there."
Since a 24-3 loss to Class 8A state quarterfinalist Warren on Oct. 11, Lake Zurich has allowed a combined 21 points in four games. The Bears' 'D' surrenders a dinky 12.9 points per game. Its position coaches deserve some ink: Nick Summers (defensive coordinator, DL); Vito Andriola (ILBs); Jeff Bartlett (OLBs); and Shane Williams (DBs).
"A lot of defensive knowledge floating around our building," Planz said. "They're grinders, like our players are. They work really hard, and they don't cut corners. They get after it."
Willowbrook's other standouts include senior wideout Everett Stubblefield III (51 receptions, 1,034 yards, 12 TDs) and 6-foot, 200-pound senior running back Tavion Geanes (688 yards rushing, 6.1 yards per carry).
LZ's top running back, junior Jack Dwyer (646 yards rushing), hasn't played since Week 7 because of a leg injury and is "week to week,"
Planz noted. Bears senior wide receiver James Piggott paces the team with 36 catches for 584 yards (16.2 yards per snare), and senior DB Anthony Mangano has collected a team-high 4 INTs.
"Somebody asked me, 'What turned it around for you after your two early losses?' " Planz recalled. "We didn't turn anything around; we just grew. We then continued to plow and follow our two mottos -- 'Relentless' and 'Attack the process.' Our guys on 'D', they're doing their jobs and playing for each other. They're unselfish. They're fun to watch. Against Hersey last week, they were physical and made sound reads. They made that team fight for every yard."
LZ, now with a 38-20 program record in postseason play, earned a state quarterfinal berth for the seventh time since 2009 and for the 10th time in 18 seasons; Willowbrook (16-21 overall in playoff games) lost in a state quarterfinal in each of the last three seasons by an average score of 45-20. Last year Willowbrook lost 34-27 to 2017 state champion Batavia.
The other finalist in that 2017 title game? Lake Zurich.
No. 4 Warren (11-0) at No. 21 Bolingbrook (8-3)When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Last week, second round: Warren def. Fremd, 31-6; Bolingbrook def. Oswego, 31-30 (2 OT).
Winner plays: No. 1 Minooka (11-0) vs. No. 24 Brother Rice (7-4) winner.
Outlook: Warren football coach Bryan McNulty lived in Bolingbrook for years before moving and playing linebacker at Naperville Central.
"Good people down there," McNulty said of folks (not related to McNulty) who will root for the Raiders to eliminate McNulty's Blue Devils in a rematch of a first-round playoff game in 2017 (won by Warren, 28-14).
"They tell the truth there. They're salt-of-the-earth people."
Bolingbrook -- the Class 8A state champion in 2011, the Class 5A state runner-up in 1993, and a state quarterfinalist for the second time since 2014 -- will have to solve a Warren squad that has allowed a dearth of points this fall. Eleven teams have scored a combined 34 points vs. the Blue Devils since late August, or 4 more points than Oswego tallied in about 3 hours in its second-round, two-overtime loss to Bolingbrook last weekend. Think. About. That.
But McNulty had 242 reasons to salute his offense after Warren thumped MSL West champion Fremd 31-6 last weekend. Senior running back Derrick McLaughlin rushed for that many yards, on a monstrous 41 carries, behind wide-path-providers (aka linemen) Jack Hovey, Ethan McDermott, Matt Rich, Gus Krinich, Jaiden Lowery and H-back Seamus Mellican.
"Derrick hadn't carried the ball a lot of times at the end of the regular season," McNulty said. "In the Fremd game we asked him, 'Are you OK? Are you tired?' He told us, 'I'm fine.' He lifts weights often, keeps himself in shape. He felt fresh throughout the game. He was fresh on Monday."
Oswego was fearless in the second OT on Nov. 9. The fifth-seeded Panthers (9-1) had just scored a TD to trail by 1 when they opted to go for a 2-point conversion. Bolingbrook stopped Oswego's fullback at the 1-yard line to preserve the 31-30 lead and extend its season.
"Bolingbrook," McNulty said, "is a really good program with a strong tradition and a big stadium. It plays in an outstanding conference (Southwest Suburban Blue), and coach John Ivlow is an awesome man. It's a cool environment down there. They'll be ready; their fans will be ready."
Raiders senior wideout Antonio King (149 total yards from scrimmage) rushed for 2 TDs against Oswego, including the game-winner, on direct snaps; he scored his first, a 17-yarder, with 1:20 left in the regulation. Yale-bound QB Devyn Suggs (10-of-18, 165 yards), a 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior, connected with 6-4, 230-pound senior tight end Trevor Borland for a TD.
"Their quarterback is outstanding ... doesn't make many mistakes," said McNulty, whose 2018 edition lost 20-0 to eventual 8A state runner-up Brother Rice in a quarterfinal, after 14-3 and 17-14 wins against Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale Central, respectively.
"They have a big offensive line, and their defense is stout."
Warren's average final score after 11 games is 37-3. Bolingbrook's: 29-13.
Time for the Indirect Game: Warren topped Class 7A state quarterfinalist Lake Zurich 24-3 on Oct. 11; Andrew downed Bolingbrook 24-17 on Oct. 25; LZ defeated Andrew 14-7 in a first-round playoff game on Nov. 2.
Warren is one win away from securing its first state semifinal berth in program history.