Scouting Fox football playoff first-round games

  • Quarterback Dontrell Maxie leads Larkin into a Class 7A first-round playoff game Friday night at Wheaton North.

      Quarterback Dontrell Maxie leads Larkin into a Class 7A first-round playoff game Friday night at Wheaton North. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/28/2021 4:39 PM

Bartlett (5-4) at Neuqua Valley (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville


Seeds: Bartlett No. 30; Neuqua Valley No. 3 in the Class 8A bracket.

Wins against playoff teams: Bartlett 0, Neuqua Valley 5

Winner gets: Palatine (19) or Chicago Taft (14)

Outlook: "Neuqua Valley is a very good team. We need to start fast," Bartlett coach Matt Erlenbaugh said. "We will need to play our best game of the season in all phases. That's how playoff football is, and we can't wait for the challenge. The guys are really locked in and focused." Erlenbaugh has been thrilled with senior quarterback Jacob Scearce. "He has been commanding our offense like a two-year starter and captain that he is," he said. Junior wideout-defensive back Jalen Davis had a TD catch, 2 interceptions and "also had some huge hits causing PBUs," Erlenbaugh noted. Neuqua Valley, out of the DuPage Valley, lost to Naperville North in Week 9. Neuqua's first five wins this year came against playoff teams.

Edwardsville (5-4) at South Elgin (9-0)When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Where: South Elgin High School

Seeds: Edwardsville No. 31; South Elgin No. 2 in the Class 8A bracket.

Wins against playoff teams: South Elgin 4, Edwardsville 1

Winner gets: Chicago Marist (18) or Glenbard East (15)

Outlook: South Elgin comes into the game averaging 316 yards per game on the ground. "Edwardsville is younger than usual, but they are talented and extremely well-coached," South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic said. "We will have to win the turnover ratio and handle the rain well. Defensively, we will need to trap the ball well. We have played well in all three phases, but we have yet to be challenged the way we will be Friday." Omari Larson leads South Elgin in sacks and hurries, while Teonic said Jordan Jones is the heart and soul of the Storm's defense. Salvi Macaluso, Teonic added, has been a run-pass-option buster at outside linebacker. "We have won the toxic and turnover ratios, while playing well in all three phases," Teonic said. "Seems simple, but to us, the game of football is about pad level, ball security, blocking and tackling." Edwardsville, out of the Southwestern Conference, has five wins against teams with a combined 11 wins on the season, and has lost two games in a row coming into Week 10.

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Lake Zurich (5-4) at Batavia (9-0)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Batavia High School

Seeds: Lake Zurich No. 32; Batavia No. 1 in Class 7A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Lake Zurich 0; Batavia 6

Winner gets: Mt. Carmel (17) or Thornwood (16)

Outlook: Batavia isn't looking at this game as a 1 vs. 32 seed situation. "Lake Zurich is a well-coached team playing good football right now," Batavia wide receivers coach Jason Toth said. "We need to take care of the ball and execute in all three phases. During the playoffs games can come down to a couple of mistakes, especially on special teams." Batavia has run for 1,680 yards and 25 touchdowns. Jalen Buckley leads the way with 1,152 yards and 15 rushing TDs, along with 16 catches for 230 yards and 4 more touchdowns. Anthony Roberts has been a lockdown corner for the Bulldogs with 22 solos and 1 interception. Batavia's defense is averaging 12.8 points allowed a game and pitched shutouts in weeks 7 and 8. "We play for each other and believe in each other," Toth said. "Our players do a great job of watching film throughout the year, and when games aren't going our way, they don't point fingers. Instead, they pick up each other. It's a great team with some great senior leadership." Lake Zurich, out of the North Suburban Conference, has won four of its last five. Lake Zurich averaged 96 passing yards per game through the first six weeks and has increased that to 141 over the last three. The Bears average more than 160 yards rushing per game. "We have been able to balance our offense better," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. Planz said his team is in the postseason because "we stayed the course and kept attacking the process," he said. "Adversity is a part of the game and life. Our guys did a great job shutting out all the negative noise and focusing on what they control. Because of that, we get to keep playing."

Geneva (5-4) at Collinsville (8-1)When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where: Collinsville High School

Seeds: Geneva No. 26; Collinsville No. 7 in the Class 7A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Geneva 2; Collinsville 1

Winner gets: Rolling Meadows (23) or St. Rita (10)

Outlook: How far from Geneva to Collinsville, you ask? More than 260 miles and more than four hours of driving are in store for the Vikings Saturday. One key stat for Geneva: the Vikings have won the turnover battle in all five of its wins. "(Collinsville) is very explosive on offense with two great players in the backfield," Geneva coach Boone Thorgesen said. "Their line is big and nasty and their defense is very opportunistic with big plays at key moments. We must play sound defense and get 11 hats to the football to contain their big-play offense, control the line of scrimmage and take care of the football." Thorgesen loves how Tyler Tuisl is playing at wide receiver. "He is as dependable a player as we have on offense and has really worked himself into a great wide receiver," he said. Junior defensive end Mason Luker is a converted quarterback who had 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 5 tackles in Week 9. Collinsville does not play in a conference. Its only loss this year was a 36-31 setback to 6-3 Mt. Zion. Running back Jerry Richardson (5-9, 170, Jr.) has 1,323 yards an 14 TDs, while the defense is led by sophomore linebacker Isaiah Norton (101 tackles) and nose tackle Dalton Hursey, a junior. "Geneva is a very talented team and they don't really have any weaknesses," Kahoks coach Colton Rhodes said. "We will have to play our brand of football in all three phases of the game."


Jacobs (6-3) at Hersey (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Hersey High School, Arlington Heights

Seeds: Jacobs No. 19; Hersey No. 14 in the Class 7A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Jacobs 2; Hersey 3

Winner gets: Eisenhower (30) or Normal Community (3)

Outlook: One stat that jumps off the page is Jacobs is averaging more than 40 points a game this season, "but this is playoff football and everyone in the playoffs is going to be playing at a high level," Jacobs coach Brian Zimmerman said. "It comes down to execution." Ben Landrum continues to excel for the Golden Eagles, as well as Max Benner at quarterback. "Obviously our run game is our bread and butter, but Max is growing more confident with each game and reading defenses better," Zimmerman said. Jacobs starts in the neighborhood of 15 underclassmen. Zimmerman also is seeing improvement from the defense, as well as a cohesive approach with the offensive line and tight end crew. Hersey, out of the Mid-Suburban League, comes in on a two-game losing streak after starting 7-0, with setbacks to 7-2 Prospect and 8-1 Buffalo Grove.

Hampshire (5-4) at Moline (8-1)When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Moline High School

Seeds: Hampshire No. 28; Moline No. 5 in the Class 7A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Hampshire 2; Moline 2

Winner gets: Willowbrook (21) or Whitney Young (12)

Outlook: Hampshire comes into this game with a balanced offensive attack (1,972 rushing yards and 1,414 passing). The Whips have 11 take-aways on defense, meeting a goal of more take-aways than games (11-9). Ty Fikis and James Borgardt (leading tackler against Cary-Grove) have been difference-makers for Hampshire and coach Jake Brosman. "The players on this team have been determined since Day 1 to prove they are a good football team," Brosman said. "They have worked hard in everything that we have done to put themselves in the postseason." Moline won the Western Big 6 title with a 7-0 record and has surrendered only 85 points in nine games. "We have been more consistent this fall then we were in the spring, that's been a big help with our success," Moline coach Mike Morrissey said. "Defensively, we have become more aggressive and have done a nice job of creating turnovers. Offensively, our offensive line has matured and become a lot more focused on the fundamentals and it's helped us create an identity. We are fortunate to have some skill guys who can make big plays for us."

Larkin (5-4) at Wheaton North (8-1)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Wheaton North High School, Wheaton

Seeds: Larkin No. 29; Wheaton North No. 4 in the Class 7A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Larkin 1; Wheaton North 4

Winner gets: TF South (20) or Hoffman Estates (13)

Outlook: Three of Larkin's five wins have come by shutout. Coach Grant Dietz pointed out Larkin hasn't had a shutout in 15 years prior to this season. The Royals also have given up 188 points and at one point were fourth in points allowed in the Upstate Eight. "The defense is a major reason for our success," he said. "To be able to do that speaks volumes about the players and also to the coaches who work their tails off trying to scheme and plan. We are playing well on defense, scoring on offense (26.9 points per game) and giving ourselves a chance every week." Dietz continues to applaud the efforts of quarterback Dontrell Maxie, slash back Jamo Stubbs and lineman Michael Hibbler. "These three young men have stepped up their game and have the rest of the team rallying around them," he said. "I am very proud and wish I had them for another season." Wheaton North's only setback is to DuKane Conference champion and Class 7A No. 1 Batavia (23-20).

Crystal Lake South (5-4) at Harlem (8-1)When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: Harlem High School (Machesney Park)

Seeds: South No. 14; Harlem No. 3 in the upper part of Class 6A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: South 1; Harlem 3

Winner gets: Antioch (11) or Lake Forest (6)

Outlook: Shane Moran leads the Gators' defense with 102 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 picks and 2 fumble recoveries, while on the other side of the ball Nate VanWitzenburg has run for 1,068 yards and 17 touchdowns and has caught 3 more TD passes. "We have been tested all year," South coach Rob Fontana said. "We have had the next man up mentality and our guys have never lost focus of what was important for them, which was making the playoffs. We have players like Shane Moran who will run through a wall for his teammates if that means winning a game and we have guys like Justin Kowalak who will never let our players think we are out of any games." Harlem, out of the NIC-10, has allowed 14 or less points in eight of its nine games. The Huskies' only loss is to league champion Hononegah (14-6). The Huskies have 28 sacks, 87 tackles for loss, 6 defensive TDs and 12 interceptions. Adrian Palos has run for 1,058 yards and 17 TDs and has 152 tackles. Six-foot-3, 315-pound Brennon McCoy has 67 pancake blocks, while 6-3, 295-pound Shawn McKinney has 31 quarterback hurries. Erik Serrano has 12 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. "We lift weights and are extremely aggressive," Harlem coach Robert Moynihan said.

Rockford East (5-4) at Cary-Grove (9-0)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Cary-Grove High School, Cary

Seeds: Rockford East No. 16; Cary-Grove No. 1 in the upper half of the Class 6A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Cary-Grove 5, Rockford East 0

Winner gets: Grayslake Central (9) or Belvidere North (8)

Outlook: Cary-Grove has scored no less than 36 points in a game this season and eight of its nine victims had 40 or more points put on them. Rockford East lost in Week 9 to Rockford Boylan and made it in on playoff points. The E-Rabs lost only by 2 points 7-2 Belvidere North to start the season. Sophomore running back Javius Catlin has run for 1,018 yards in 8 games, and is only the second sophomore in NIC-9/NIC-10 history to rush for 1,000 yards. He has two kickoff returns for TDs as well. Sophomore Deterrace Dotson has 2 returns for scores as well. Senior Tyress Cunningham-Smart has 14.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. "Block and tackle," said East coach Gary Griffin. "If we can be consistent and deliberate in what we do, we will be OK. We want to be like them. Their success and track record speaks for itself."

Kaneland (5-4) at Fenwick (7-2)When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Triton College, River Grove

Seeds: Kaneland No. 15; Fenwick No. 2 in the upper half of the Class 5A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Kaneland 1; Fenwick 4

Winner gets: Rockford Boylan (10) or Chicago Brooks (7)

Outlook: Kaneland quarterback Troyer Carlson is coming off a 404-yard, 7-touchdown game last week (38 passing TDs and 3 rushing this season), while Sam Gagne caught 5 balls for 175 yards and 4 touchdowns. Johnny Spallasso had 2 interceptions in Week 9. "Fenwick has some very dangerous and talented players," Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. "Their strength is in their receiving corps and secondary. They play in a tough league with a grueling schedule. We have to limit big plays, continue to take the ball away like we have done the last few weeks and protect the football and the quarterback." Kaneland was 6-0 in the turnover war last week. Fenwick has won four games in a row and won the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic White Division title this season.

Marmion Academy (6-3) at Chicago Noble/Comer (7-2)When: Saturday, Noon

Where: Gately Stadium Chicago

Seeds: Marmion No. 11; Noble/Comer No. 6 in the top half of the Class 5A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Marmion 1; Noble/Comer 3

Winner gets: Nazareth Academy (14) or Chicago Goode (3)

Outlook: Marmion has won three games in a row after three losses in a row (and 3 wins before that). They will head to the city to face a Noble/Comer team that finished second in the Chicago Public League Illini Great Lakes Division behind Chicago Goode. Noble/Comer opened the season with a 49-0 loss to Geneseo and then won five games in a row before a 2-score loss to Goode.

Aurora Christian (6-3) at Lena-Winslow (7-2)When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where: Lena-Winslow High School, Lena

Seeds: Aurora Christian No. 11, Lena-Winslow No. 6 in the top half of the Class 1A bracket

Wins against playoff teams: Aurora Christian 0; L-W 2

Winner gets: Galena (14) or Forreston (3)

Outlook: "This is the third time in the playoffs we are facing Lena-Winslow," Aurora Christian coach David Beebe noted. "We didn't fare too well the first couple times. They are, once again, a very good team. They are very sound in what they do and disciplined. We have to protect the football, for sure. We cannot turn it over."

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