How the football playoffs are shaping up heading into Week 8
Since August 27, when the high school football season kicked off, anyone and everyone who cares about high school football has had October 23 circled on their calendars.
October 23 is IHSA pairings night and for the first time in two years, there will be playoffs.
Leading into Week 8, let's take a look at how the teams we cover in the Northwest suburbs and Lake County are looking in terms of their playoff hopes.
Lakes (5-2) can sew up a playoff berth with a win on the road Friday night at Grayslake Central (5-2) or next week at home in its Week 9 rivalry game with Antioch (4-3). That's no easy task for coach Jordan Eder's Eagles, who would likely make it in at 5-4. The other end of Lakes' spectrum would be to win its next two games and, at 7-2, possibly get a first-round home game.
Also in 5A, St. Viator (3-4) would need to shock the world the next two weeks by beating Mt. Carmel (5-2) and St. Patrick (4-3). Stranger things have happened and the Lions are home for both games. If they can pull it off, they'll have more than enough points to get in at 5-4.
Wauconda (7-0) is currently the No. 4 seed in 6A. The Bulldogs finish with Grayslake North (2-5) and Round Lake (2-5), so coach Dave Mills and his crew certainly look like a 9-0 team heading into the postseason.
Grayslake Central and Vernon Hills, both 5-2, need one more win to get in. The Rams host Lakes (5-2) Friday night and finish on the road against North Chicago (0-7), while VH is hoping for a 7-2 finish as the Cougars are at Highland Park (3-4) this week and then they finish at home against Maine East (0-7).
Antioch (4-3) hosts Round Lake (2-5) and finishes at Lakes (5-2). The Sequoits will have enough points to get in at 5-4 but 6-3 would be a more favorable option.
In Class 7A, the Mid-Suburban East comes down to these final two weeks, alhtough for playoff purposes, Hersey (7-0), Prospect (6-1) and Buffalo Grove (6-1) are in. But, the final two weeks will be fun as Hersey hosts Prospect this week and then finishes at BG. The Bison host Wheeling (1-6) this week and Prospect finishes at home against Rolling Meadows (3-4). Meadows is at Elk Grove (2-5) this week so a Mustangs win will mean they'll need to beat Prospect next week to get in.
Hoffman Estates (6-1) can clinch the MSL West title Friday at home against Schaumburg (2-5) then clinch a first-round home game by beating Palatine (4-3) on the road next week.
In Lake County, Libertyville (5-2), with just 31 points, will need to win against Warren (6-1) at home this week or at Stevenson (3-4) next week to get in, while Lake Zurich (3-4), also with 31 points, needs to win at Stevenson this week and at home against Waukegan (1-6) next week to be eligible.
Mundelein (3-4), with 32 points, needs to win out against Lake Forest (6-1) and Zion-Benton (2-5) and then hope.
Maine South and Warren, both 6-1, are in, and can solidify their seeding position by winning out. Maine South hosts an improving Evanston (5-2) squad on Friday, and a Hawks win will mean another Central Suburban South title for coach Dave Inserra's program. They finish at New Trier next week.
Also looking for an 8-1 finish, Warren is at Libertyville this week and closes out the regular season at home against Lake Forest (6-1), likely with the North Suburban Conference title on the line.
Palatine (4-3) will have enough points to get in at 5-4 but can seal the deal by beating rival Fremd (1-6) on the road this week and Hoffman Estates at home next week.
One of the more intriguing matchups this week is in Barrington where the 3-4 Broncos host 3-4 Conant. Both have 33 playoff points, so it's a winner is still alive, loser is out game. Barrington finishes at Fremd and Conant hosts Schaumburg.
At 3-4 and with 36 points, Stevenson could sneak in by beating Lake Zurich and Libertyville, both at home.
So, to coin a phrase from the great Pat Hughes, fasten your seat belts everyone. The home stretch is here and it should be a lot of fun.