Scouting DuPage County football playoff first-round games
No. 17 seed Naperville Central (6-3) at No. 16 seed Naperville North (6-3)Class: 8A
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Two of the hottest teams in the DuPage Valley Conference hook up for one of the more enticing Class 8A first-round games. In Week 6, the Huskies recorded a 38-27 win at Naperville Central, closing out the regular season with five consecutive wins.
Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said playing the Redhawks, who rebounded to win their final three games after losing to the Huskies, represents a tough test.
"We have to stop their stars -- wide receiver Reggie Fluerima and quarterback Owen Prucha -- because they make them go," Drendel said. "I'm not sure you can stop them, but maybe slow them down. But their other skills guys are really good. Overall, they're a really good team, definitely better now than when we played them before."
In nine games, Prucha has completed 147 of 225 passes for 1,895 yards and 17 touchdowns to go with 6 interceptions. Tyler Dodd leads the team with 635 yards rushing and 7 TDs, while Fleurima, a Northwestern recruit, had 53 receptions for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Naperville Central first-year coach Mike Ulreich said he expects a hard-fought game.
The Huskies handed Neuqua Valley, one of the favorites to win the 8A team, its lone loss in Week 9, pulling out a 34-32 win on the road. Running back Ethan Roberts leads the Huskies with 1,066 yards in 8 games, while quarterback Aidan Gray has passed for 1,415 yards and 16 touchdowns in 9 games.
"We have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," Ulreich said. "That means stopping their run game and controlling the tempo of the game with our offensive line and our run game. Naperville North's offensive line allowed them to control the game the last time we played. (Ethan Roberts) is a difficult back to defend, and is the engine that makes their offense work. We have to find a way to stop their run game and then limit the big-play ability of their talented quarterback."
Ulreich credited his team for bouncing back from back-to-back losses to Neuqua Valley and Naperville North, which showed the team's strong character. He noted Prucha has been a driving force behind the team's turnaround.
"Running the ball and the physical contact brings out a competitive side to him that has given our offense a different edge," Ulreich said of Prucha. "His teammates have fed off that competitiveness and it has really opened up both our run game and play action."
Wheaton No. 24 Warrenville South (5-4) at No. 9 Brother Rice (7-2)Class: 7A
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Outlook: Two big-name programs hook up for a potential memorable Class 7A first-round playoff game. Brother Rice is seeking its first state title since 1981 in hopes of sending long-time coach Brian Badke out on top in his final season at the helm. The Crusaders have a high-profile offense, led by Notre Dame recruit Jack Lausch.
First-year Wheaton Warrenville South coach Sean Norris, a former all-state quarterback at Wheaton North, is no stranger to understanding the importance of a big-time quarterback in the playoffs.
"Brother Rice is very talented and it all starts with their quarterback," Norris said. "He's a very good player. He can make every throw. He can make big plays with his arm and legs, so he's dangerous. So containing their quarterback, tackling and eliminating the big plays will be key for us. Our defense has played well all year and they will be up for the challenge.
"I think our team is playing our best football right now. Since our Wheaton North game, we've been playing much more consistent, tough football. Our seniors have shown a lot of toughness and grit through a lot of challenges this year. Our offensive and defensive lines have been a big reason for our success late in the season. We are led by seniors on both sides and they have been really good setting the tone."
Norris said quarterback Matt Sommerdyke has become a consistent player and a leader for the Tigers this season. Despite dealing with some injuries, Sommerdyke has passed for 1,620 yards and 12 touchdowns, completing 58% of his passes.
"Matt has been really good all year," he said. "He's a very smart quarterback with a lot of heart. He has battled through some injuries and really led our offense. Also, Danny Healy is coming off an injury that kept him out for the last half of the season. He's a three-year starter and aW great leader for us on defense. Quentin Spencer has been a good surprise for us leading the team in catches with 42 receptions for 495 yards and three touchdowns. He can also play running back and is dynamic with the football."
No. 12 seed Peoria Notre Dame (6-3) at No. 5 seed St. Francis (7-2)Class: 4A
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Outlook: The Spartans notched a signature win by defeating previously unbeaten IC Catholic Prep last week to build some momentum for a run at the 4A state title. The Spartans had 13 players named to the Metro Suburban Red all-conference team, with Adam Criter earning Offensive Player of the Year. TJ McMillen was named the Offensive and Defensive Line Player of the Year, while linebacker Sammy Atkins received the Defensive Player of the Year. Criter, an all-purpose player, has rushed for 298 yards and 10 TDs to go with catching 19 passes for 444 yards and 3 TDs. Atkins lead the team with 68 solo tackles and 32 assists and tallied 5 sacks.
"Peoria Notre Dame is a well-coached team," St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said. "They're very disciplined and tough and do the little things right. We will need to match that intensity and not get caught up in the moment. We have to play our style of football and not make dumb mistakes that could cost us."
No. 30 seed Bartlett (5-4) at No. 3 seed Neuqua Valley (9-1)Class: 8A
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Wildcats fell short of an undefeated regular season, losing to Naperville North in Week 9.
Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said Bartlett is a well-balanced team with a lot of weapons.
"We have to stop Bartlett's running attack. We need to force them into throwing situations. I've been pleased with the way the defense has played all year, led by Cole Dutkovich and Palmer Domschke. We have done a great job this year stopping the run. Offensively, we have been playing much better of late. Jaden McGee and Mark Mennecke have been two keys to our offense starting to roll. Carter Sessa has been consistently good for us on both sides of the ball all year."
Meanwhile, Bartlett sealed a playoff bid by defeating East Aurora 24-14 last week. The Hawks, coached by Matt Erlenbaugh, have lost all four of their games against teams with winning records but the Hawks have bonded during a tough season, both mentally and physically following the death of Alex Czerwik in early August.
"Neuqua Valley is a very good team," Erlenbaugh said. "They're well-coached and have size and speed all over the field. For us to be successful, we have to start fast, be the more physical team, win the turnover battle and not make mental mistakes.
"I'm proud of our team for how they have handled adversity this season. The guys have truly come together after a terrible tragedy losing one of our brothers at the beginning of the season. They play for each other and they play for Alex. This is a tight knit group of young men. We're a brotherhood and a family. We're grateful to be playing the game that we all love and being together.
No. 21 Glenbard North (6-3) at No. 12 Bolingbrook (7-2)Class: 8A
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Outlook: In this day an age of prolific offenses, the Panthers and Raiders have been built on the strength of their defenses. The Raiders have not allowed more than 21 points in a game since giving up 28 points to Minooka in the season opener. Bolingbrook's defense has given up just 40 points in its last four games.
The Panthers finished the regular season with two wins in their last three games, allowing just 33 points. The Panthers' defense has only allowed one opponent -- a 36-31 win over Naperville North in Week 2 -- to score more than 21 points in a game this season.
"We need to get as may hats to the ball as possible and tackle well because their tailback and quarterback are extremely elusive," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "We also have to stop the long pass. They have two outstanding receivers on the outside, so we have to be able to run the ball and keep their offense off the field. Our defense has played well all season."
Other gamesClass 8A: No. 26 Sandburg (5-4) at No. 7 Hinsdale Central (8-1)
Class 8A: No. 18 Marist (6-3) at No. 15 Glenbard East (7-2)
Class 8A: No. 25 Minooka (5-4) at No. 8 York (8-1)
Class 8A: No. 20 Oswego (6-3) at No. 13 Glenbard West (7-2)
Class 8A: No. 32 Downers Grove South (5-4) at No. 1 Loyola (9-0)
Class 7A: No. 29 Larkin (5-4) at No. 4 Wheaton North (8-1)
Class 7A: No. 21 Willowbrook (6-3) at No. 12 Young (7-2)
Class 5A: No. 16 Chicago Bulls (5-4) at No. 1 Glenbard South (8-1)
Class 4A: No. 12 Peoria Notre Dame (6-3) at No. 5 St. Francis (7-2)
Class 4A: No. 9 Coal City (6-3) at No. 8 Wheaton Academy (7-2)
Class 3A: No. 11 Monmouth-Roseville (6-3) at No. 6 IC Catholic Prep (8-1)
Class 3A: No. 9 Carver (6-3) at No. 8 Lisle (6-3)