Scouting DuPage County quarterfinal playoff football games
No. 4 Edwardsville (10-1) at No. 5 York (10-1)
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
About Edwardsville: The Tigers flexed their muscle against Glenbard West on the road in the second round, winning 48-14 to capture their third straight victory. They have now scored 35 or more points eight times this season, averaging 41 points per game. Edwardsville's lone loss is to East St. Louis, a 27-15 defeat in Week 8. The Tigers have made the playoffs each year under coach Matt Martin since 2011. They'll try to reach their third state semifinal appearance during that span. Edwardsville's defense is led by junior edge rusher Iose Epenesa, the top-rated junior prospect in Illinois according to both Rivals and 247Sports. He holds offers from schools like Miami, Michigan, USC, Auburn and Penn State. The defense has allowed more than 14 points three times this season.
About York: The Dukes survived a second-round thriller against Lyons when Damian Glodz made a 30-yard field goal as time expired to help his team win 17-14. Running back Jake Melion rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Sean Winton threw for 154 yards and ran for another 45. York's defense only allowed 42 total yards in the second half against Lyons. The second round game was the closest game the Dukes played this season -- a 24-14 win over Lyons during the regular season was the closest game they competed in up to that point. York has now won four straight games and will try to return to the semifinals for a second straight season.
Up next: The winner faces either No. 1 Loyola (11-1) or No. 24 St. Ignatius (8-3).
No. 1 Normal Community (11-0) at No. 9 Glenbard East (10-1)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday.
About the Ironmen: The top-seeded Ironmen escaped in a 31-30 overtime victory over Bradley-Bourbonnais, taking the lead for good on Tommy Davis' 3-yard touchdown run and William Castro's PAT kick. Bradley-Bourbonnais scored a touchdown of its own to pull within 31-30 but a failed 2-point conversion pass ended the comeback bid. Junior quarterback Kyle Beaty passed for 272 yards, while junior receiver Mar'Quan Gary had 8 receptions for 115 yards in the second-round triumph. It is the team's first state quarterfinal trip since 2015, and its first 11-0 mark since 2007. "Normal is very good," said Rams coach John Walters. "They have some players we need to contain. We need to slow down their quarterback (Beaty), running back (Davis), and wide receiver (Gary), as all three are game breakers. I was impressed with their quarterback play -- his command of the offense and ability to make plays throwing and with his legs. Defensively, they are physical and tackle well. Their linebacker (Brady Augustin) can really bring it when he gets to the ball, and end (Dexter Niekamp) plays with power." Brady has thrown 9 touchdown passes this season, 5 of them caught by Gary, while Davis has added 6 rushing TDs. Senior cornerback Aiden Boundy has a nose for the ball with 3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. Last weekend, the Ironmen were flagged 11 times for 105 yards.
About the Rams: Glenbard East punched its first state quarterfinal ticket since 1999 with last weekend's 28-13 second-round victory over Addison Trail. Running behind offensive linemen Josh Kelly, Jesus Vasquez, Chris Monk, Nate Schram, Ryan Kropidlowski, and Elias Morales, senior tailback Matt Larson rushed for 296 yards and 4 touchdowns on 28 carries against the Blazers. "The biggest thing that need to be shouted from a mountain top -- the play of our offensive line," said Walters. "Their ability to control the line of scrimmage and create space for Larson was key." Defensively, the Rams have been strong throughout the season and forced 3 turnovers last weekend, including senior defensive end Daniel Zlatanov's fumble recovery inside Ram territory and the team clinging to a 21-13 lead. Now, they'll face the top seed in their bracket -- unbeaten Normal Community. Offensively, the Ironmen average more than 47 points per game and have topped the 50-point mark 5 times. Defensively, Normal Community has recorded 6 shutouts in 11 games. "Controlling the line of scrimmage will be a priority," said Walters. There is a definite buzz around the Lombard school this week in preparation of the home quarterfinal clash. "People are excited," said the coach. "There's lots of energy around and lots of talk about the game. Being home is huge. They (Ironmen) have to travel the two hours. Home is what we know. We should have a great crowd and a lot of support." The winner will face either No. 12 Lincoln-Way West or No. 13 Downers Grove North in the 7A semifinals next weekend.
No. 13 Downers Grove North (9-2) at No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (9-2)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
About Downers Grove North: The Trojans overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit against Hersey in the second round in order to win 24-21. They earned their first trip to the quarterfinals since 2013. Sophomore quarterback Owen Lansu completed two long passes late in order to lead the comeback and threw 166 of his 187 yards in the second half. Downers Grove North has now won four straight games since losing back-to-back games to York and Lyons. The Trojans have outscored their opponents 133-46 during that winning streak. They'll try to make their first semifinal appearance since 2004 when the Trojans won the Class 8A state title.
About Lincoln-Way West: The Warriors have found another gear in the postseason, having overwhelmed both Hoffman Estates and Collinsville to advance into the quarterfinals. It's been an all hands on deck philosophy for the Warriors in getting to this point, but considerably better play by the defense has set the tone for this postseason run. RB Joey Campagna has fueled the offense. He had a monster effort in the win over Collinsville, finishing with five touchdowns and well beyond 100 yards rushing. Campagna is now closing in on 1,500 yards rushing on the season with 22 touchdowns. Lincoln-Way West is aiming for the school's second appearance in the semifinals with a the 2015 run to the Class 5A title game accounting for the first, the last and only time the program has reached such lofty heights.
Up next: The winner faces either No. 1 Normal Community (11-0) or No. 9 Glenbard East (10-1).
No. 4 Morgan Park (10-1) at No. 8 St. Francis (9-2)
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
About the Mustangs: Representing the Chicago Public League, Morgan Park advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight season with last weekend's 27-21 second-round victory over Sycamore. Junior quarterback Marcus Thaxton, who has thrown 23 touchdown passes, completed 12 of 14 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, while adding a rushing score against Sycamore. Senior receiver Chris Durr, who has tallied 11 touchdowns, caught 8 passes for 113 yards and a TD last weekend. Junior Ahmad Grayer's fumble recovery in the end zone helped save the day for the Mustangs against Sycamore, while senior tailback Keshawn Lewis-Hunt rushed for 93 yards and a pair of TDs on 18 carries. "They're a very good football team, maybe the most talented team we have faced this year," Spartans coach Bob McMillen said of Morgan Park. "They have incredible players all over the field that can do special things. They're a tough, fast, physical team that plays to the whistle. We need to match their hunger. This Morgan Park team wants to prove it's not just another CPS school -- they want to make a statement against not just any school but a private school. We need to be ready."
About the Spartans: Securing their third quarterfinal appearance in the past four full seasons, the Spartans clicked on all cylinders during last weekend's 49-8 second-round victory over Sterling. Senior quarterback Alessio Milivojevic continued his superb season, completing 28 of 37 passes for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns without an interception, while adding a rushing touchdown in the Spartans' second win over Sterling this season. "I don't think I need to say it anymore -- this kid is the best player in the state of Illinois," McMillen said of his quarterback. "He proves it week in and week out, he prepares like no other, he watches as much tape as anyone I have been around, and he knows this offense well. Him and our OC (Dan Paplaczyk) are on the same page all the time, plus when you have four very talented receivers and they are all knowing where to be, it works out well." Ian Willis, Tanner Glock, Zach Washington, DeShaun Williams, and Dario Milivojevic headline the Spartans' receiving group, while junior tailback TyVonn Ransom and senior Dom Beres handle the bulk of the ground game. Defensively, the Spartans recorded 5 take-aways against Sterling -- a trend McMillen hopes to continue Saturday afternoon. "Our defense needs to continue to fly around and make plays," said the coach. "We seem to start slowly sometimes, but I think it's because they are trying to figure teams out. Our defensive coaches have been stressing turnovers. They practice it every day, and the boys did a great job causing them. We need to have that same mindset moving forward." The winner will face either No. 15 Nazareth or No. 6 Carmel in the 5A semifinals next weekend.
No. 8 Sandwich (8-3) at No. 4 Wheaton Academy (10-1)
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
About the Indians: Sandwich has made an amazing transformation this season, going from not fielding a varsity football team a year ago (due to numbers) to reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. "To go from not having varsity football last season to being in the quarterfinals the next earns my full respect," said Warriors coach Jim Johanik. The Indians, who have scored 103 points in their two playoff games, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 54-6 second-round victory over Dyett last weekend. Sandwich is led by several underclassmen, including sophomore quarterback Braden Behringer (6 touchdown passes), junior running back Simeion Harris (10 touchdowns), sophomore running back Nick Michalek (9 touchdowns), junior linebackers Jimmy Ramey (6 tackles per game), Caleb Jones, (3 interceptions), and sophomore linebacker Jeffrey Ashley. A pair of seniors -- wide receiver Calvin Lane and tailback Brodie Case -- supply added depth for the Indians, who went 0-9 in 2021. "Both teams taking the field Friday have made history," said Johanik. "It's good to share the spotlight with them."
About the Warriors: Reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in school history thanks to last weekend's 12-3 second-round triumph over St. Viator, the Warriors look to add to their record-setting season at home Friday night. Johanik felt last week's win helped "put us on the map." "Not that it really matters, but a lot of people still don't consider us a football school -- and I don't blame them," said the coach. "We restarted the program in 2007, and we were marginal for many years, but we turned the corner in recent years. I can't emphasize this enough -- we're here because we have great coaching. Our practices are a positive, upbeat, hardworking environment. We know we have a great school, great facilities, and a great environment to play good football, but you must win the bigger games to prove it to others. Beating a team like Viator that defeated quite a few other CCL teams, including Montini, was a good win for us. Being in the quarterfinals for the first time is icing on the cake. Maybe a few more people will begin to take notice." Defensively, Jeremy Johanik, Ethan Brunner, Robert Grant, William From, and Jake Weston helped limit St. Viator to just 22 yards rushing and 129 total yards last weekend. The Warriors have displayed their toughness, particularly two-way players like Gino Spinelli, Jeremy Johanik, Brett Kasper, Brett Dieter, Brandon Kiebles, Ethan Brunner, Zach Moravec, and Mitchell Carik. "Coach JR Rexilius, who has been coaching a lot longer than I have, and who grew up in the days of his father coaching tough Wheaton North teams, commented just the other day about the toughness of these guys," said Johanik. "He marveled at how tough these kids are -- and they are. Look at Brett Kasper -- the kid who plays quarterback, has 27 TDs, 1,900 yards and has thrown only 2 interceptions, and on defense is second in the state in interceptions (7). He's unreal -- and never once does he come out of the game. These guys have created a culture of toughness that has shaped the program and even impacted the school. We've shown the broader community you can be tough as nails on the field and a complete gentleman off the field. That's important to us as a program, for the school, and in our faith." The winner will face either No. 7 IC Catholic Prep or No. 11 St. Laurence in the 4A semifinals next weekend.
No. 11 St. Laurence (8-3) at No. 7 IC Catholic Prep (9-2)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday.
About the Vikings: Last weekend, the Vikings earned a 31-21 second-round victory over Dixon to reach the quarterfinals. Senior quarterback Evan Les directs the offensive attack for St. Laurence, flanked by senior tailback Aaron Ball. Senior Aaron Martinez is a two-way player on the offensive and defensive lines, while senior middle linebacker Connor Cleary and junior linebacker Jacob Bylina headline the defense. St. Laurence and IC Catholic Prep have a pair of common opponents -- St. Francis (beat St. Laurence, 43-28, and beat IC, 35-34; and Benet Academy (St. Laurence won, 30-6, while IC won, 34-9). "We worry more about us than about who our opponent has played," said Knights coach Bill Krefft. "We focus on the things we need to get better at to accomplish our goals." This is the Vikings' first quarterfinal appearance since 2017 when they lost to Providence, 49-24.
About the Knights: Capitalizing on several big plays, the Knights punched their ticket to the 4A quarterfinals with last weekend's convincing 35-7 road victory over Rockford Boylan. With the defense backed into a 1st-and-goal situation from the 2-yard line, Nathen Omolo thwarted Boylan's drive with an interception. From there, IC marched 85 yards in 5 plays to take a 7-0 lead. On Boylan's next possession, Joey Gliatta forced a fumble and teammate Kaleb Ellis pounded on the loose ball to set up a 41-yard touchdown drive that extended the lead to 14-0. With 2 seconds remaining in the first half, receiver KJ Parker got behind the defense for a 29-yard touchdown catch of a pass from quarterback Dennis Mandala and a 21-0 halftime advantage. "Our kids did a great job of executing," said Krefft. "Time after time, our kids were put in situations that could have gone either way, and time after time when their backs were against the wall, they executed." Gliatta, a two-way standout who rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 8 carried, added a 38-yard run on a 3rd-and-19 play against Boylan. "I can't say enough about Joey G,' said Krefft. "He has done this since he arrived at IC. He is a complete football player on both sides of the football. He is the example we use to show how we want the program to be." The Knights amassed 403 yards of total offense last weekend, 262 of those yards on the ground. A year ago, the Knights captured the Class 3A state championship. This season, they already have made a successful jump to 4A postseason play. "There is a huge difference in the number of one-way players to two-way players and the size of the programs," said Krefft. "Remember, we are really a borderline 1A school without our multiplier. We struggle to match the depth of 4A schools because of our school size and varsity roster size. We are constantly worried about depth and running out of depth competing against 4A schools." The winner will face either No. 4 Wheaton Academy or No. 8 Sandwich in the 4A semifinals next weekend.
No. 6 Montini (8-3) at No. 2 Princeton (10-1)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
About Montini: The Broncos return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 after beating Prairie Central 44-20 in the second round. Alex Marre, the CCL/ESCC White Offensive Player of the Year, showed off his big-play potential by returning the opening kickoff 82 yards. Montini has now won three straight and outscored St. Laurence, Eureka and Prairie Central 116-43. The Broncos' lone three losses came against playoff teams -- Providence, St. Viator and Brother Rice. Montini made the playoffs each year from 1993 to 2019, winning six state titles during that span. The Broncos will try to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2018, when they finished runner-up in Class 5A.
About Princeton: The Tigers qualified for their fourth straight quarterfinals after dominating Monmouth-Roseville 35-0 in the second round. Casey Etheridge rushed for 225 yards and three touchdowns as the offense has scored 35 or more points eight times this season. Junior lineman Cade Odell had six tackles and two sacks to lead Princeton's defense to its seventh shutout of the season. The defense limited Monmouth-Roseville to 174 total yards in the second round. Princeton has allowed more than seven points twice this season and more than 14 points once. The Tigers will try to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2019.
Up next: The winner faces either No. 1 Byron (11-0) or No. 5 Durand/Pecatonica (9-2).