Scouting DuPage County second round playoff games

  • Glenbard North's Shea Gaffney, pictured drawing a penalty against Lake Park, scored 3 touchdowns last week against Bolingbrook. This week he'll try to help the Panthers knock off 9-1 Warren.

    Glenbard North's Shea Gaffney, pictured drawing a penalty against Lake Park, scored 3 touchdowns last week against Bolingbrook. This week he'll try to help the Panthers knock off 9-1 Warren. Daily Herald file photo

  • Naperville Central's Tristen Hall catches a pass in the end zone for a score against Naperville North last week. Hall and the Redhawks host the No. 1 seed in Class 8A, Loyola, on Saturday.

    Naperville Central's Tristen Hall catches a pass in the end zone for a score against Naperville North last week. Hall and the Redhawks host the No. 1 seed in Class 8A, Loyola, on Saturday. Sean King/for the Daily Herald

  • Wheaton North quarterback Mark Forcucci recently was named the DuKane Conference Player of the Year. He'll look to have a big game Friday in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs against Hoffman Estates.

    Wheaton North quarterback Mark Forcucci recently was named the DuKane Conference Player of the Year. He'll look to have a big game Friday in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs against Hoffman Estates. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

 
By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/4/2021 11:20 AM

Warren (9-1) at Glenbard North (7-3)

Class 8A

 

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Last week: Warren 27, Barrington 9; Glenbard North 34, Bolingbrook 30

Outlook: This game has the potential to be an old-school, grind-it-out defensive battle. Over the last three seasons, the Blue Devils have been relying on a stout defense to carry them to victories, including placing second in Class 8A in 2019.

Warren's defense allowed a North Suburban Conference-low 27 points in the regular season, with a 10-2 defeat to Maine South in Week 2 its only loss. Warren recorded six shutouts, defeating Barrington twice, including last week in a first-round playoff game.

"Warren's very physical and fundamentally sound, a fierce defense at all three levels," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "We need to keep in good down and distance, have no negative plays or penalties that put us in long distance downs because that's when they'll dial up the pressure."

On the other side, Glenbard North's physical defense is one of the top units in the DuKane Conference, allowing a conference-low 89 points. The Panthers are allowing just 176 yards per game, including a scant 57 yards on the ground. But Warren running back Maurice Edwards, a Vanderbilt recruit, is one of the top backs in the state. Edwards ran for 168 yards in last week's win over Barrington. The battle between Edwards and the Panthers' defense could determine the outcome of the game.

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"(Edwards) is a downhill back with a technically sound offensive line," Wilkens said. "He can run through tackles, cut back or out run defenders. We need to get as many helmets to the ball as we can."

Glenbard North wide receiver/defensive back Shea Gaffney is a player to watch against the Blue Devils. He scored 3 touchdowns in the first half against Bolingbrook last week to raise his season totals to 24 receptions for 558 yards and 4 TDs.

Loyola (10-0) at Naperville Central (7-3)Class 8A

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last week: Naperville Central 28, Naperville North 16; Loyola 44, Downers Grove South 0.

Outlook: Naperville Central, which won all six games in the spring season, goes in search of a big upset against state title-favorite Loyola. The Ramblers, coached by Illini legend John Holecek, are the No. 1 team in Class 8A. After defeating Naperville North in an emotional game last week, Naperville Central has to gear up for another intriguing battle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

First-year coach Mike Ulreich said the Redhawks are excited to play the Ramblers, but noted his team has to be focused on every play to pull off the upset.

"I think it comes down to execution when you play a team like Loyola," Ulreich said. "They play with great pad level and hand placement on both sides of the ball, and they tackle well. We will need to be a complete football team for four quarters. We also can't beat ourselves with penalties and turnovers, so we need to play complimentary football and execute on third downs and in the red zone, especially in the fourth quarter. Every play matters and we just need to win one snap at a time."

Ulreich said special teams could be an X-factor in Saturday's game. The Redhawks have elite players all over the field, including on special teams. Northwestern recruit and senior wide receiver Reggie Fleurima returned a punt 49 yards for a touchdown last week against Naperville North. Ulreich added he hopes the Redhawks can take a page from the past, when they posted a 13-10 victory over Loyola in the Class 8A state title game in 2013. In that win, Dillon Gross blocked a field goal and returned it 83 yards for a scoop-and-score touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"Our special teams have to make an impact on the game," Ulreich said. "In many of our biggest playoff games in years past, including Loyola in 2013, there was at least one play on special teams that changed the course of the game. Last week is a perfect example of that But, if we can win the field position battle, it puts our offense and defense in positions to be successful."

Ulreich mentioned the play of senior Tristen Hall for helping lift the Redhawks late in the season. "Tristen Hall has brought a lot of life to our offense and special teams over the last four games," he said. "He plays fast and gives everything he has for the team. He has a chance to make a difference on Saturday and his teammates really respond to his effort."

Hoffman Estates (8-2) at Wheaton North (9-1)Class 7A

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last week: Wheaton North 42, Larkin 0; Hoffman Estates 34, TF South 26.

Outlook: Hoffman Estates is looking to add to its banner season after an impressive win over TF South last week. The Hawks rely on a supercharged offense to win games, led by a several big-time playmakers. The Hawks scored a whopping 332 points in the regular season, easily leading the Mid-Suburban League West Division.

Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said the Hawks' offense will test his stingy defense.

"For us to beat Hoffman Estates, we will have to try and keep their potent offense off the field as much as possible," Wardynski said. "Even if we're unable to score on a possession, it will be important to take some time off the clock and earn a few first downs in order to keep our defense fresh.

"Defensively, Hoffman Estates runs some unique fronts and pressure packages. Our kids are going to have to be disciplined with their blocking rules and responsibilities. We know that Hoffman Estates faces a lot of really good offenses every week in the Mid-Suburban League, so we know that they will have a good scheme in place defensively. Offensively, Hoffman Estates has an explosive offense with athletes all over the field. It's easier said than done but we'll have to try and limit their quick strike plays."

Wardynski said stopping Hoffman Estates' multitude of offensive weapons -- running back Yoshua Pettis, wide receiver Jashawn Johnson and quarterback Aidan Cyr -- are the key points for his defense. Johnson, a Western Michigan recruit, had 7 receptions for 110 yards receiving in last week's win over TF South.

"Their running back runs hard and consistently breaks arm tackles," Wardynski said. "He has good balance which enables him to stay on his feet and finish runs. He's also a threat out of the backfield in the passing game. Their quarterback is a very accurate passer who doesn't seem to make many mistakes with the football. We're also impressed with his ability to push the ball down the field to his speedy receivers. When facing a team that runs it and throws it as well as Hoffman Estates, they keep you off balance and prevent you from gearing up to stop any one thing."

Wheaton North quarterback Mark Forcucci, the DuKane Conference Player of the Year, passed for 13 touchdowns and threw just one interception in the regular season. Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse said the Falcons have talent up and down their roster.

"We're going to have to match their physicality and play very disciplined," Heyse said. "We can't shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties. Wheaton North will not beat themselves, so we will have to do the same. Wheaton North's defense is one of the best around. They're led by two outstanding inside linebackers. They have no weak spots. They all are physical, can run and are all very disciplined. We must stay balanced and attack every inch of the field."

Glenbard South (9-1) at Sycamore (7-3)Class 5A

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Last week: Glenbard South 41, Noble Prep 14; Sycamore 48, Evergreen Park 21

Outlook: Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey expects a hard-nosed battle against Sycamore on Saturday. Under coach Joe Ryan, the Spartans have been a consistent winner for several years.

"Sycamore is very well-coached and a physical team on both sides of ball," he said. "There's no hiding what they're going to do on defense and offense, so it's about can you beat us? Based on scout film on them, they're very consistent and play an extremely physical and fast brand of football. They may have an edge on us in terms of size, but we have speed and athleticism. Coach Ryan has been doing it a long time, so it's going to be fun and frustrating preparing to play against Sycamore."

Crissey said the line of scrimmage play should be a key aspect of Saturday's game. The Raiders have an all-senior offensive line, while his defensive line, led by Connor Murphy, is elite.

"I think I've been here 14 or 15 seasons on the football staff," he said. "We've had a lot of good players, even a couple of Division I kids. But we've never had a team like now, where both sides of the line are very consistent and gotten better every single year. This defensive line, without hesitation, is one of the best I've had. They allow the linebackers to fly around and play fast and physical."

St. Francis (8-2) at Genoa-Kingston (9-1)Class 4A

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Last week: St. Francis 41, Peoria Notre Dame 31; Genoa-Kingston 59, Bogan 0.

Outlook: St. Francis had a tougher-than-expected first-round home game, while Genoa-Kingston cruised to a blowout win last week. The two teams clash for a potential great second-round matchup in Genoa on Saturday. St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said the Cogs play sound football and have several playmakers.

"Genoa-Kington is a well-coached group that continues to come after you," McMillen said. "They play the game the way it's supposed to be played -- disciplined, smart, aggressive and tough. We can't make mistakes. We have to be more sound on defense with our keys and reads. Playing an offense like G-K, if you're not doing your job, they will get massive amount of yards." McMillen said his team has benefitted from playing two tough games in the last two weeks. "I learned that even though we didn't played well when it was time to step up, our boys did," he said. "We didn't win that game because of one guy, but it was a team effort. We will continue to need the team to step up throughout the playoffs."

Other games

Wheaton Academy at Joliet Catholic, 7 p.m. Friday

Moline at Willowbrook, 7 p.m. Friday

Neuqua Valley at Palatine, 6 p.m. Saturday

Glenbrook South at Hinsdale Central, 2 p.m. Saturday

Lisle at Byron, 1 p.m. Saturday

IC Catholic Prep at Pecatonica, 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Glenbard West at Lockport, 6:30 p.m. Saturday

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