Scouting first-round football playoff games in the Northwest suburbs
No. 22 Shepard (5-4) at No. 11 Prospect (7-2)When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Shepard beat Argo 59-22; Prospect lost to Rolling Meadows 26-24
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 6 Buffalo Grove vs. No. 27 Lincoln-Way West
Outlook: Sometimes a step back is an opportunity to move forward. That has to be the thought process for Prospect after losing last week and not being able to capture the Mid-Suburban East title outright. The Knights have been solid offensively all season, scoring 327 points. They have been led by junior quarterback Frank Covey, who the Knights are hoping to have back after he was injured last week. Brad Vierneisel, Owen Walter and Jake Parisi have been solid as wide receivers for Prospect. The Knights have been tough defensively this year, thanks to Walter, Jack Olson, Richard Sepulveda, Giovani Paredes, Ben Sahakian, Nicholas Grassano and Ethan Rossi. They have allowed 137 points this season. After starting the season 0-4, Shepard has won its last 5 games. The Astros have scored 194 points in those 5 wins.
No. 20 TF South (6-3) at No. 13 Hoffman Estates (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: TF South lost to Hillcrest 26-23; Hoffman Estates lost to Palatine 43-13
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 29 Larkin vs. No. 4 Wheaton North
Outlook: Hoffman Estates is coming off its most disappointing performance of the season. But the Hawks, who still earned a share of the MSL West title know that their best football is ahead of them. Jashawn Johnson was held without a touchdown last week, when a 75-yarder was called back on a penalty. But the Western Michigan commit has been golden all season. He has 60 receptions for 1,174 yards and 17 touchdowns, and two returns for touchdowns. Stephon Sellers has 36 catches for 687 yards and 9 touchdowns. Quarterback Aidan Cyr has been impressive all season, completing 131-of-193 passes for 2,292 yards and 28 touchdowns. And if teams just look to stop the pass, they will be sorry thanks to the physical running of Yashua Pettis-Taylor, who has 1,050 yards on 129 carries and 12 touchdowns. After starting the season 6-1, TF South has lost its last two games.
No. 19 Jacobs (6-3) at No. 14 Hersey (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Jacobs beat Dundee-Crown 47-14; Hersey lost to Buffalo Grove 21-20
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 30 Eisenhower vs. No. 3 Normal
Outlook: Two points. That's how close Hersey came to being undefeated this season. The Huskies will now take that chip on their shoulder to the state playoffs. Jimmy Makuh has been terrific all season, completing 139-of-208 for 2,176 yards and 22 touchdowns. Dylan Carlquist has 43 receptions for 780 yards. Breyden Smith has 43 receptions for 538 yards; 20 of those receptions and 240 yards have come in the last two games. Josh Bontje has 84 carries for 574 yards. Hersey's defense, which has surrendered 115 points this season, will need to stop the rushing attack of Jacobs. The Golden Eagles have gone to the ground behind Nazir Canty, Ben Ludlum and Mike Almeda.
No. 23 Rolling Meadows (5-4) at No. 10 St. Rita (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Rolling Meadows beat Prospect 26-24; St. Rita beat Notre Dame 31-7
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 26 Geneva vs. No. 7 Collinsville
Outlook: There aren't many giving Rolling Meadows a chance to beat St. Rita. But those are the same "experts" who didn't give Meadows a chance to beat Prospect last week and Meadows did just that. Meadows' trio of quarterback Evan Grave, Ethan Groark and Michael Brigham have been dangerous all season and they are playing their best football right now. Grace has thrown 22 touchdown passes with Groark on the receiving end of 12 of those and Brigham with 8 touchdown catches. St. Rita has won its last 6 games, but only two of those wins came against teams with a record of .500 or better.
No. 27 Lincoln-Way West (5-4) at No. 6 Buffalo Grove (8-1)When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Lincoln-Way West beat Homewood-Flossmoor 17-10; Hersey lost to Buffalo Grove 21-20
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 22 Shepard vs. No. 11 Prospect
Outlook: Buffalo Grove has stampeded its way to its best record since 2017. The Bison have been able to do it thanks to a thunderous ground game that has produced 2,613 rushing yards. Michael Cervantes runs the Buffalo Grove option to perfection, gaining 1,045 yards on 137 carries with 13 touchdowns. Scott Murray has piled up 750 yards and 15 touchdowns while Cole Nixon has produced 433 yards and 6 touchdowns and Jacob Pond 204 yards and touchdown. Trystan Anderson and Eli Shereshovech lead a defense that has allowed 121 points this season. Lincoln-Way West lost to Hersey 28-7 in the season opener. The Warriors were 2-4 and won their final three games to clinch a playoff spot. They have not beaten a team with a winning record this season.
No. 27 New Trier (5-4) at No. 6 Maine South (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Maine South beat New Trier 49-42
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 22 Evanston vs. No. 11 Plainfield North
Outlook: This will be a rematch from seven days ago with Maine South now the home team. The game last week was not as close as the score would indicate as Maine South lead 49-21 after three quarters and emptied its bench. The Hawks are making their 27th consecutive playoff appearance, the longest active streak in the state. Maine South has a balanced offensive attack with running back Mike Sajenko rushing for 702 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Rowan Keefe has rushed for 346 yards and thrown for 1,497 yards and 16 touchdowns, including 3 last week. Will Guzaldo, who has 29 catches for 451 yards, Chris Petrucci, who has 24 receptions for 323 yards, and Sajenko, who has 28 catches for 317 yards, are Keefe's top receivers.
No. 19 Palatine (6-3) at No. 14 Taft (7-2)When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Last Week: Palatine beat Hoffman Estates 43-13; Taft beat Goode 49-7
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 30 Bartlett vs. No. 3 Neuqua Valley
Outlook: Palatine earned a share of the MSL West title last week and is playing its best football right now. Quarterback Grant Dersnah has improved each week and is 115-of-181 for 1,507 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dominick Ball has 817 yards on 113 carries. Thomas Coroneous has stepped up for the Pirates and has 48 catches for 580 yards. The Palatine defense has been ferocious of late. Led by Mitch Larkin, Bobby Widlowski, Anthony Westfall, Kam Lewis, Jhermari Mabry and Joe Wagner, the Pirates have allowed just 39 points in their last three games and 152 for the season. Taft has won its last 5 games. Taft opened the season by losing 26-14 to Glenbrook North. Maine South and Evanston, teams Palatine defeated this season, both rolled over Glenbrook North.
No. 28 Barrington (5-4) at No. 5 Warren (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Barrington beat Fremd 42-14; Warren beat Lake Forest 18-14
Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 21 Glenbard North vs. No. 12 Bolingbrook
Outlook: Barrington opened the season against the Blue Devils and had just 1 yard of total offense against a stout defense. It took some time, but the Broncos are back to stampeding on the offensive end. Barrington has scored an average of 49 points in its last two games. Evan Panesis has been running with abandon, gaining 888 yards on 133 carries. Harley Thompson has his engine firing as well and has thrown for 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns on 74-of-127 passing. Ben Cocoma has 29 catches for 348 yards while Connor Lee has 18 catches for 420 yards. The Bronco defense will need to stop Warren's bruising running back Maurice Edwards.