Scouting Fox playoff quarterfinal games
Jacobs (8-3) at Prospect (9-2)When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Prospect High School, Mt. Prospect
Last week: Jacobs 17, Normal Community 7; Prospect 13, Buffalo Grove 8
Seeds: Jacobs No. 19; Prospect No. 11 in Class 7A
Wins against playoff teams: Jacobs 4, Prospect 5
Winner gets: Hononegah (11-0, No. 2) or St. Rita (9-2, No. 10) in Class 7A state semifinals.
Outlook: On paper based on seeds, a team in the underdog role will advance here for a chance to take part in the state semifinals next week. Jacobs was 4-3 at one point and now has won four games in row and is playing a third postseason game for only the second time in program history (2016 being the other). "Prospect has a big, strong offensive line and explosive offensive players and a very talented quarterback (Frank Covey)," Jacobs coach Brian Zimmerman said. "We know the quarterback has been injured, but we will prepare as if he is starting. Defensively, they fly to the ball, are fast and extremely athletic." During this current four-game winning streak, Jacobs has allowed 13, 14, 20 and 7 points. "Defensively as a whole we are starting to hit our stride and they are truly understanding their roles in our defensive schemes," Zimmerman said. On offense, Zimmerman said Jacobs will depend on its offensive line and tight ends to make sure it has rules in place for blocking. "We need to execute on offense and limit turnovers," he said. Jacobs standout Ben Ludlum stressed the importance of the Jacobs' offensive line. "The O-line has definitely been a critical aspect of our offense and has really proven to be a top O-line in the state, as well as our tight ends Nick True and Grant Stec, who are both great blockers and are key to our success. Those two have also proven to be big threats in the passing game and with Max Benner doing a great job leading our offense and making plays through the air. Having two other threats in the backfield has really been important in our offense with Nas Canty and Tony Brown." Ludlum said the Golden Eagles' defense is nothing like it was at the beginning of the season. "Our defense has really made a big jump from the beginning of the year," he said. "I think part of that was our new defensive scheme. I think what impresses me the most about our defense is how much growth it has made from the start of the season. Each week, things are getting smoother." Prospect, out of the Mid-Suburban Conference East Division, has playoff wins against Shepard (35-7) and Buffalo Grove (13-8), a team it had beaten 17-14 during the regular season. Prospect and Buffalo Grove tied for the MSL East crown. Daily Herald reporter Dick Quagliano reported earlier in the week the Prospect QB situation is unsettled with Covey being hurt in the last regular season game against Rolling Meadows. His status for Saturday is unknown. Backup Bradley Vierneisel was hurt against Buffalo Grove last week and is out. The Knights turned to sophomores Matthew Guza and Griffin Limbers, and Quagliano noted both struggled a week ago due to lack of reps in practice at the varsity level. Prospect did run the Wildcat with Owen Walter last week and had some success, Quagliano noted. "I think game-planning is always tough," Prospect coach Dan DeBeouf told Quagliano. "I think it is even tougher with the injuries we have. At the quarterback position, we are going to piece it together." Ludlum said success Saturday will come if current play continues. "Saturday night we have to go out there fired up and come out and play like we have been playing," he said. "Our offense has to do what we do and the defense has to keep playing like they have been. I am confident with how high our morale is that we can take care of business." Zimmerman said the recipe for success for Jacobs boils down to belief in players. "When things are down, they seem to respond well to adversity and never quit," he said. "We have a lot of talent that many outsiders of our program didn't believe, and our kids took that and used it as motivation."
Crystal Lake Central (8-3) at Cary-Grove (11-0)When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Al Bohrer Field, Cary-Grove High School
Last week: CL Central 14, Deerfield 7; Cary-Grove 55, Grayslake Central 27
Seeds: CL Central No. 12; Cary-Grove No. 1 in the top half of the Class 6A bracket
Wins against playoff teams: Cary-Grove 7; CL Central 4
Winner gets: Prairie Ridge (9-2, No. 7) or Lake Forest (9-2, No. 6) in the Class 6A state semifinals.
Outlook: The Fox Valley Conference has four teams in the state quarterfinals with Jacobs in 7A and then Prairie Ridge (possible semifinal opponent for the winner here) and these two squads. Central and Cary-Grove are no strangers to each other. The Trojans beat the Tigers 48-14 in Week 3 at Cary. "We see them every year," Central coach Jon McLaughlin said. "They are an awfully talented and well-coached team. We need to be disciplined and play good assignment football against their option attack." In the first meeting, Central quarterback Colton Madura was injured on the fifth play of the game (hip). He missed three games and still earned Fox Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors (as voted on by the coaches). "On offense, we need to finish drives and score," McLaughlin said. "We were unable to do that the first time we played." Madura has thrown for 1,720 yards and 18 scores and has 912 rushing yards (138 carries) and 13 more touchdowns. Running back Brent Blitek has 1,043 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Central's defense is powered by linebackers Will Martin (6-2, 205) and Braydon Gilbour (6-1, 200). Central has come from behind in seven of its eight wins. "Be resilient, be physical, don't panic and compete for 48 minutes has been our recipe for success," McLaughlin said. Cary-Grove continues to mow through the competition, averaging 48 points per game while allowing an average of 14. The Trojans have run for 3,816 yards and average 9.9 yards per carry. Nick Hissong has run for 1,251 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Drew Magel has 765 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jameson Sheehan has 665 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Wade Abrams has 595 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. Cary-Grove has passed the ball 74 times in 11 games. "The most impressive thing about our team this year is our focus on detail and the effects that it has," Cary-Grove senior tackle-defensive end Zach Petko said. "Every week, the coaches come up with a great game plan, and when we execute we have success. I know that going into every game, everyone is going to give their all and follow their responsibilities. For example, on offense we practice against many different defensive fronts, so when we get to the game and a team comes out in something unexpected, we already know how to block it." Petko said at this point, the team's success boils down to not getting complacent. "Ever since the summer practices, we took our practices week by week where the only thing on our mind was our opponent that week. While the goal is always to win a state championship, we have to do so much to get there. This week it is Crystal Lake Central, so we focus on what we have in front of us. We have to keep improving throughout the end of the year." Cary-Grove piled up 406 yards of total offense in the Grayslake Central win last week with 354 of it coming on the ground on only 29 carries. Andrew Prio ran 3 times for 99 yards, 54 of it coming on a touchdown run. Hissong carried 7 times for 91 yards.