High School: Batavia
BATAVIA, Ill. -- Prairie Ridge senior Connor Greenwald knew all too well the feeling of losing in a semifinal playoff game.
Greenwald had experienced that crushing disappointment as both a sophomore and junior when the Wolves were halted one step short of reaching the state championship in back-to-back seasons. It was a feeling that stayed with him throughout the last two years.
On Saturday, Greenwald was finally able to shake those memories for good and embrace a new feeling after Prairie Ridge defeated Batavia 33-22 in a Class 6A semifinal to advance to its first state championship game.
Prairie Ridge will play Peoria Richwoods, which defeated Lemont, for the state title on Saturday.
After sharing dozens of hugs with teammates and fans, Greenwald wasn’t sure how to express what he was actually feeling at the moment.
“Words can’t describe how awesome it is,” said Greenwald, who rushed for a game-high 231 yards and two touchdowns. “I’m so happy with my whole team. We worked so hard to get to this point. We did it. It’s awesome.”
It didn’t come easy for Prairie Ridge.
“I think if we score on that drive, the game’s ours,” Batavia quarterback Noel Gaspari said.
Instead, Prairie Ridge took over the ball, drove 82 yards and went ahead 20-14 when Jordan Getzelman rushed for an 18-yard touchdown. Getzelman finished with 101 rushing yards.
A possession later, Prairie Ridge’s Josh Hrudicka picked off a pass and ran the ball 37 yards into the end zone to put the Wolves ahead 26-14. They extended their lead to 33-14 when Greenwald scored the second of his two touchdowns.
Batavia (12-1) did make one more push. With the wind at his back, Gaspari got to work in the fourth quarter. He moved the ball quickly and scored on five plays with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter. He added a 2-point conversion pass to pull Batavia within 33-22.
After stopping Prairie Ridge on its next possession, Gaspari again had the Bulldogs advancing the ball. He had one touchdown pass brought back due to an illegal block. He almost threw another touchdown pass, but Prairie Ridge’s Sean Folliard foiled that with a display of athleticism.
As Batavia’s Evan Zeddies was catching Gaspari’s pass in the end zone, Folliard flew at Zeddies, landed a massive hit and snatched the ball in mid-air for an interception.
“It’s the semifinals, man,” Folliard said. “All out. If you think they got the ball, you got to take it away, take it away. He had the ball, and I stripped it out as he was falling down.”
With that, Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp finally was able to exhale.
“Until time ran out, I was nervous,” he said. “[Folliard’s] so athletic. Him coming away with the ball doesn’t surprise me. Some of the things we get to see him do in practice. But a phenomenal play. One of the plays of the year for us.”
Like Greenwald, Schremp felt a lot of pressure taken off of him with Saturday’s win.
“My wife asked me this morning how I feel,” Schremp said. “I said I don’t know how to feel because it’s going to turn out to be one of the best days of your career or one of the worst days of your career. It turned out pretty good today.”
Gaspari was 29-of-46 passing for 374 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
LAKE VILLA, Ill. -- The Lakes Eagles played in their first quarterfinal game in school history on Saturday.
Their lack of experience showed.
The Batavia Bulldogs came into Lake Villa and pitched a shut out, winning Saturday's 6A playoff quarterfinal 42-0.
“We were talking goose egg all night,” senior defensive end/tight end Cole Gardner said. “We’ve let a couple goose eggs go this year but tonight we did not want that to happen. We came out and shut down the run, which is what we really needed to do.”
This was Batavia’s third shutout of the year. The Bulldogs have been a completely different squad since the second half of their opening-round game against Niles Notre Dame. Since then, the defense has only given up 17 points in five halves of football.
“We were all pretty shell-shocked going into the second half (of the Niles Notre Dame game),” quarterback Noel Gaspari said. “It feels good to kind of stomp on a team instead of having to come back from being down.”
The Bulldogs took control of the game early when they blocked an Eagles’ punt into the end zone, which was recovered by Austin Lewis for a touchdown.
The Eagles didn’t do themselves any favors on the next two drives, both ending in fumbles in their own territory.
While the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on the first fumble, the following possession concluded with fullback Alec Lyons punching it in from 4 yards out to make it 14-0.
Lakes followed up with a three-and-out and a short punt put the Bulldogs back into Eagle territory where Gaspari found Gardner for the first of two TDs between the two seniors.
Gaspari and his 6-foot-6, 250-pound weapon have been close since they were young and that has helped the Bulldog offense tremendously.
“Our connection is unbelievable,” said Gardner, who had two catches for 20 yards and two scores. “We’ve been playing sports since we were five together. We hang out all the time. There are multiple times where I just say ‘Hey, I’m going out on a seam here’ and he’s ready for it. We just see things and we play together.”
“They play like it’s backyard football,” head coach Dennis Piron said. “They played flag football back when they were very young in the Batavia community. They’re best friends.”
Batavia, which is undefeated so far this year, has not been this deep into the playoffs since their state title appearance in 2006. The past two seasons have not been good the Bulldogs as they have recorded 2-7 and 5-5 records.
“A lot of these kids hadn’t even won a playoff game yet before this year,” Piron said. “But we have smart boys and once they figure it out, things kind of go our way.
The Bulldogs will play at home next weekend against Prarie Ridge and Piron has said that he’s already been scouting Wolves. Six times.
“Prarie Ridge has been a personal project of ours for a long time,” Piron said. “We believed if we had ever gotten this far it would be a team we would play. I’ve got a lot of coaches who would be willing to do those sorts of things for our program. They are good, hard-working guys who really care about Batavia Bulldogs football.”
Player of the game: When Bulldogs QB Noel Gaspari faced pressure, he was able to bounce throughout the pocket and shake off would-be tacklers to keep plays alive. He finished with a solid day in the air, 17-24 for 243 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs.
Stat of the game: Forty-two was the highest point total the stingy Lakes defense has given up all year.
It was over when: Capping off an 11-play, 80-yard drive to start the second half, Gaspari threw a quick pass to Gardner, who overpowered his man one-on-one and trucked his way into the end zone for a 4 yard touchdown. This put the Bulldogs up 28-0 and they never looked back.
Quote of the night: “We’re kind of bullies. We got some mean guys. We have some lineman who takes things personally. Our power backs are really good blockers and our running backs like to be like offensive linemen. We’ve been able to mash people all year like that. We can mash you and we can throw it. When you have a team that can do that so well, it really poses a problem for defenses.” – head coach Dennis Piron about his offense.
No. 1 Maine South (10-0) at No. 19 Stevenson (8-2)
When:Saturday at 3 p.m.
The story: Maine South and Stevenson met in the Class 8A quarterfinals last season. Maine South won that matchup 20-9 and continued on to its third consecutive state championship. Stevenson’s goal will be to keep this game close. The Patriots have had seven games this season decided by seven points or less. They’ve won five of them. Maine South hasn’t been in many tight games. It defeated Wheaton Warrenville South 13-9 early in the season, but has won every game since by 16 or more points. Maine South has been held to less 35 points just once this season. Stevenson hasn’t allowed more than 28 points this year.
Maine South player to watch: Wide receiver Jimmy Frankos is one of Matt Alviti’s main targets. Frankos had four catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Stevenson player to watch: Wide receiver Troy Radtke is capable of making big plays in the Patriots’ offense.
Prediction: Maine South 35, Stevenson 24
Lake Zurich (8-2) at No. 2 Glenbard West (10-0)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West and Lake Zurich possess two of the top defenses in the area and two of the top defensive players. Glenbard West, which is led by Penn State recruit Tommy Schutt, has held eight opponents to seven points or less. The Hilltoppers have given up a total of 57 points this season. Lake Zurich’s defense isn’t as dominant as it was last season, but the Bears can still get to the ball with blazing speed. Led by Minnesota recruit Jack Lynn, Lake Zurich has held six opponents to seven points or less. Both teams have also lost to Wheaton Warrenville South in the state championship in recent years. Glenbard West fell in 2009 and Lake Zurich lost last season.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Running back Mike Shield has broken his share of runs this season.
Glenbard West player to watch: Running back Avery Balogh has consistently been productive this year.
Prediction: Glenbard West 27, Lake Zurich 17
No. 18 Wheaton Warrenville South (7-3) at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (10-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Wheaton Warrenville South has to lose for someone else to win a Class 7A state championship. The Tigers have won the last two titles. Although they didn’t resemble early on a team that was going to three-peat, they do look more like it now. Lincoln-Way East has proven itself against some of the state’s best teams and is a legitimate state contender. Its offense hasn’t been contained yet. This has a shot at being one of the better playoff games of 2011.
Wheaton Warrenville South players to watch: The Tigers’ junior offensive line has come a long way since Game 1.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Wide receiver Jay Yancy would be the No. 1 receiver on most teams.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 24, Wheaton Warrenville South 21
Mount Carmel (7-3) at No. 5 Bolingbrook (9-1)
When:Saturday at 6 p.m.
The story: A few weeks ago, this matchup had the makings of a Class 8A semifinal. Instead, Mount Carmel dropped its last two games of the regular season and it fell in the seeding. Don’t think Bolingbrook is taking the Caravan any lighter due to that. Mount Carmel is still a state title contender. If its offense can get going, the Caravan can play with anyone. Bolingbrook has continued to flourish on both sides of the ball and is the favorite to reach the state championship from its bracket.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Running back Brandon Greer was key to the Caravan’s offense rolling in the first round.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Quarterback Aaron Bailey is one of the most exciting players in the state.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 31, Mount Carmel 17
No. 16 Cary-Grove (8-2) at No. 10 Nazareth (9-1)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: With so many state title contenders in Class 6A, it was inevitable there would be some intriguing early-round matchups. This game is among those. Both teams showed throughout the regular season they’re among the state’s best. Both excel with strong running backs and solid defensive play. Nazareth did go undefeated at home during the regular season.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Max Kersten is among the defensive playmakers for the Trojans.
Nazareth player to watch: Quarterback Sam Poulos has the ability to beat opponents through the air.
Prediction: Nazareth 28, Cary-Grove 20
Crystal Lake South (9-1) at Carmel (7-3)When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Crystal Lake South’s defense has limited nearly every offense it has played this season. The Gators have allowed more than 14 points just once. On the other hand, Carmel’s offense hasn’t been slowed down. The Corsairs have scored at least 27 points in all 10 of their games. In the games Carmel did lose, it allowed a minimum of 32 points. If Crystal Lake South’s offense can put up a similar numbers, the Gators could be in good shape.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Quarterback Austin Fowler completed five passes in last week’s win and three of them were for touchdowns.
Carmel player to watch: Quarterback Brian Brennan’s excels at running the option, but he can pass the ball effectively when needed.
Prediction: Carmel 31, Crystal Lake South 24
Brother Rice (7-3) at No. 14 Downers Grove South (9-1)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: This is a showdown of two of the elite running backs in the state. Downers Grove South’s Josh Williams has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdown. Walker, who shares carries, has rushed for 1,189 yards and 17 touchdown on 148 carries. This is another chance for Brother Rice to prove itself against an elite team. The Crusaders had trouble against Loyola, Mount Carmel and St. Rita during the regular season.
Brother Rice player to watch: Andrew Walker is the Crusaders’ other running back option.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Defensive back John Wauer intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble last week.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 34, Brother Rice 28
Lake Forest (8-2) at No. 8 Batavia (10-0)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Top-seeded Batavia got a scare in the first round. The Bulldogs did dominate the second half of last week’s win against Notre Dame. They’ll be looking for that sort of start against Lake Forest. The Scouts have been a surprise this season. No one expected them here after dropping their season opener to Buffalo Grove. In a win over Stevenson and a loss to Lake Zurich, Lake Forest’s defense kept it in each game. Its offense will need to step up for the Scouts to have a chance.
Lake Forest player to watch: Owen Williams rushed for four touchdowns in the first half last week.
Batavia player to watch: Cole Gardner caught six passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win.
Prediction: Batavia 31, Lake Forest 21
Lakes (8-2) at Grant (7-3)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: When these two teams met in Week 3, Lakes rolled to a 38-14 win over Grant. Since then, Grant has been a different team. It’s won six of its last seven games and pulled off a comeback win over Antioch in the first round. Lakes lost to Antioch during the regular season, but has been consistently solid on both sides of the ball all season.
Lakes player to watch: Direll Clark rushed for 280 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries last week.
strong>Grant player to watch: Running back Jonathan Well ran for 229 yards on 31 carries last week.
Prediction: Lakes 27, Grant 20
Joliet Catholic (8-2) at Morris (9-1)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: These are two of the state’s most historic programs. Morris has made 29 playoff appearances, including 11 consecutive, owns a 60-25 playoff record, won three state titles and had six runner-up finishes. Joliet Catholic has made 35 playoffs appearances, including 14 consecutive, gone 97-21 in the playoffs, won 13 state titles and had three runner-up finishes. Morris has had two of its worst games of the season in the last two weeks. The Redskins’ main problem has been starting slow. Joliet Catholic’s offense can put up points quickly. If its defense can contain Morris, Joliet Catholic should advance.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Linebacker Austin Bolton had eight tackles and recovered an onside kick last week.
Morris to watch: Jeff Perry rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns over Morton last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 42, Morris 21
There’s no class more wide open than Class 6A in this season’s IHSA football playoffs.
Picking the state champion out of a hat may be as accurate as an educated guess this year. There are at least nine state-title contenders.
Batavia, Cary-Grove, Crete-Monee, Lemont, Nazareth and Prairie Ridge are all currently ranked in the ESPNChicago.com Top 20. From outside the area, Normal Community, Normal Community West and Danville all have strong resumes. Then, there are teams like Antioch and Lake Forest, which have played well during spurts this season.
“Class 6A is solid,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron. “There are lot of teams who could win it all. I expect a lot of upsets these first two weeks.”
Best opening round game
No. 13 Grant vs. No. 4 Antioch: Antioch will get a chance to avenge its only regular-season loss. Grant upset the Sequoits 22-14 in Week 8. Grant’s Kyle Whitman scored the game-winning touchdown with 45.7 seconds remaining.
Top 10 Class 6A teams
1. Lemont (9-0): The Indians defense is among the state’s best. Lemont has allowed just five points a game and held five opponents scoreless. The Indians have the easiest road to the semifinals.
2. Batavia (9-0): The Bulldogs have been one of the season’s bigger surprises. While they were expected to be a good team this season, no one could have guessed they’d be so dominant. Batavia outscored opponents by an average of 35.4 points in the regular season.
3. Crete-Monee (9-0): The Warriors have the talent to compete with anyone. The only question is if they’ll be ready to play another top-ranked team. Their regular-season schedule was the easiest of the elite 6A teams.
4. Nazareth (8-1): The Roadrunners fought through a demanding eight-game East Suburban Catholic schedule and won a share of the title. Their offense can put up points, but their defense was especially impressive in wins over Joliet Catholic and Marist.
5. Cary-Grove (7-2): The Trojans are as hot as anyone in the class right now coming off an overtime win over Prairie Ridge. They could meet Nazareth in the second round.
6. Prairie Ridge (8-1): The Wolves looked like the state championship favorite before falling 22-21 to Cary-Grove in Week 9. It was the first time their offense was held to less than 29 points.
7. Normal Community West (9-0): The Wildcats are the premier 6A team outside of the Chicago area. They went undefeated in a tough Big Twelve Conference. They defeated Danville 15-14 in Week 5 and could see a rematch with the Vikings in the second round.
8. Danville (8-1): The Vikings lost to Normal Community West by one point and defeated Normal Community by one.
9. Lake Forest (7-2): The North Suburban Lake went under the radar this season, but the Scouts were right there with Lake Zurich and Stevenson. They defeated Stevenson 10-7 and lost to Lake Zurich 16-6.
10. Antioch (8-1): The Sequoits were at one time ranked in the Chicago area. They could find themselves in the quarterfinals if they can return to form.
Top 5 players to watch
1. Crete-Monee, SR, DB, Anthony Standifer: Standifer is one of the premier defensive backs in the state. He’s headed to Michigan next season.
2. Lemont, JR, OL, Ethan Pocic: Pocic is one of the state’s biggest and most talented offensive lineman. He’s 6-6 and 285 pounds and is being highly recruited.
3. Nazareth, SR, DB, Kalium Ewing: Ewing was the East Suburban Catholic defensive player of the year. He’s returned four interceptions for touchdowns.
4. Prairie Ridge, JR, RB, Jordan Getzelman: Getzelman is averaging 13 yards per carry and has scored 11 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns.
5. Batavia, SR, QB, Noel Gaspari: Gaspari is one of most talented quarterbacks in the area. He’s thrown for 2,061 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Bremen (6-3): Someone will have to emerge to face Lemont in the quarterfinals, and it’s likely Bremen. The Braves have been up and down a bit, but they do possess one of the state’s top running backs in David Smith.
Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde: “We have a difficult opener versus Bloomington. They are a team that has made the playoffs 25 straight years. They play fundamentally sound defense and have some legitimate weapons on offense. Should we win Saturday, we would play an excellent Normal Community or Peoria Richwoods team. We feel good about where we are as a program, and feel we can compete with all the teams in our quadrant, but must first win round one.”
Nazareth coach Tim Racki: “We have a tough bracket, but we play in a tough conference. No such thing as an easy road in the playoffs in my opinion.”
Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen: “I think 6A is solid. There are a lot of good, well-coached teams.”
The road for the defending Class 6A state champions
Boylan was bumped up to Class 7A, so there will definitely be a new champion in 6A.
Only five teams in the Class 6A playoff have won a state championship before. Richards and Peoria Richwoods have won two titles, and Cary-Grove, Deerfield and Normal Community have each won one.
State championship prediction: Batavia defeats Lemont
GENEVA, Ill. -- Undefeated neighbors Batavia and Geneva met in a furious football matchup Friday that made the old Hatfield and McCoy rivalry seem tame by comparison.
The score only told half the tale as Batavia handed host Geneva its first loss 46-34.
Geneva got on the scoreboard early taking a 7-0 lead. Vikings' Ben Rogers returned Batavia's first punt 65 yards to put them at Batavia's 4-yard line. Quarterback Matt Williams slipped in two plays later for a touchdown on a 1-yard sneak.
Tides turned in the second quarter when Batavia struck back on an Alec Lyons touchdown run, heeling in, 7-6 after missing the extra point. Later, Williams returned the favor, with a short TD pass to Rogers, making it 14-6 for Geneva.
But Geneva's risky behavior on offense eventually cost it. After Batavia scored a field goal to make it 14-9, Williams fumbled a snap at Geneva's 23-yard line. The Bulldogs' defensive lineman, Austin Lewis, recovered the Vikings' fumble in the endzone, putting at 17-14 to Batavia before halftime.
Geneva returned to the second half on a roll, with running back Parker Woodworth's touchdown, regaining the lead at 20-17. Woodworth carried the ball 12 times and caught one pass for a total of 93 yards.
Still, the Bulldogs lived up to their name. After regaining the lead, Batavia QB Noel Gaspari stuck to the running game, driving the score to 24-20 on Dom Guzaldo's first touchdown rush.
Throughout the game Batavia's defense pressed Williams and the Vikings' offensive line hard. With 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Batavia's D held Geneva at its own 23-yard line for three consecutive plays then capitalized on Geneva's risky 4th-and-10 conversion attempt. The Bulldogs linemen chased Williams on 4th down, sacking him for a 19 yard loss at the 4 yard line.
"That's a pretty tough offense, and the game got a little bit crazy at times." said Batavia coach Dennis Piron.
"But we were able to match their scores which is something special this year."
Batavia made it 32 -20 with another Guzaldo touchdown followed by a two-point conversion by receiver Zach Strittmatter, who also had 90 yards on 5 catches before the two-pointer.
Keeping things exciting, Bobby Hess returned Batavia's next kickoff for 94 yards and a touchdown to make it 32-27. But the Bulldogs came right back on an 88 yard scoring drive to pad their lead, 39-27 with Guzaldo's third touchdown at the start of the 4th.
Geneva rallied to make it 39-34 with another Williams sneak with 4:33 left and a touchdown after the Vikings' 16-play, 88-yard drive.
Then after a string penalties committed by both sides, Batavia scored again on an Alec Lyons rush to make it 46-34.
Geneva's errors then sealed its fate with a minute and a half left, fumbling the kickoff at the 4 yard line, to let Batavia close it out.
Speaking about his defense, Piron said, "Our defense did a pretty good job. Maybe we're too aggressive at times. Yet you can't take that out of us, that's how we play."
Player of the game: Batavia's Dom Guzaldo had a breakout night with 93 yards and three touchdowns.
It was over when: Geneva, down 46-34 fumbled Batavia's kickoff with 1:37 in the game.
Quote of the night: Dom Guzaldo: "We're not going to lose any of our fire. We're still going to come out every game as strong as we did [tonight]."
Check out the complete rankings.
No. 1 Maine South (4-0) at New Trier (3-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Maine South hasn’t lost in the Central Suburban South since 2000. New Trier has proven it’s a good team this season with three consecutive wins since losing its season opener to Schaumburg, but the question is if it’s a good enough team to dethrone Maine South. The Hawks haven’t allowed more than 12 points in a game this season and have scored 40 or more points in three of their wins. It’ll take a special game for the Trevians to defeat Maine South.
Maine South player to watch: Pat Barrett, a two-year starter, is one of the team’s quiet leaders and hardest workers.
New Trier player to watch: Quarterback Jack Nykaza has the Trevians’ offense running smoothly. Maine South’s defense will be another challenge for him.
Quote: Maine South coach David Inserra – “I like how we are progressing, but we still need more consistency from the receiving core. The O-line, with five juniors getting significant time, is doing very well. Paul Preston is as explosive as advertised, and Matt Alviti can only get better with the wide receivers improving. Defense is solid and will have a good match this week with New Trier. Specials are improving after a poor showing early.”
Prediction: Maine South 31, New Trier 14
No. 2 Glenbard West (4-0) at Oak Park (2-2)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West has to be considered right with Maine South as the area’s best team. The Hilltoppers have dominated on both sides of the ball and their defense has been remarkable. They’ve allowed an average of six points a game this season. That isn’t likely to change this week. Oak Park has been an up-and-down team under first-year coach John Hoerster. After two consecutive wins, the Huskies lost 35-7 to York last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Kicker/punter Dan Cavazos has been the Hilltoppers’ unsung hero. All of his kickoffs this season have been touchbacks. His punt hang time hasn’t allowed a return yard. He has not missed an extra point or field goal.
Oak Park player to watch: Jakari Cammon rushed for 178 yards on 25 carries in last week’s game against York.
Quote: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet - “We’re shaping up to be a solid team, great group of young men to coach.”
Prediction: Glenbard West 35, Oak Park 7
Sandburg (4-0) at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East took care of its first conference obstacle last week with a 38-21 win over Homewood-Flossmoor. Now comes the Griffins’ second test with undefeated Sandburg. The Eagles have gotten by all of their opponents, but just barely. They’ve won three of their games by seven points or less. Their defense will have to step up to contain Lincoln-Way East.
Sandburg player to watch: Anthony Adams completed 10-of-14 passes, including the game-winner with 1:52 left, to defeat Lincoln-Way Central last week.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Griffins fullback Nick Colangelo rushed for 102 yards and one touchdown on nine carries in the second half last week.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 45, Sandburg 20
Brother Rice (3-1) at No. 4 Mount Carmel (4-0)
When:Friday at 7 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: A week after Brother Rice and St. Rita hooked up on the South Side, it’s now time for Brother Rice and Mount Carmel to do the same. The Caravan have been running away with their wins for most of the season. This should be a good test for them. Brother Rice stuck right with St. Rita before losing last week. Brother Rice has proven it’s a quality team, but it still needs to knock off one of the conference’s powers to be move up the ladder. Both these teams will want to keep the ball on ground.
Brother Rice player to watch: Running back Martez Walker was limited last week. He’ll look to make up for it against Mount Carmel.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Defensive lineman Vontrell Williams committed to Illinois last week.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Brother Rice 27
No. 5 Joliet Catholic (4-0) at Benet (0-4)
When:Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Joliet Catholic is one of seven teams in the state to score 200 or more points this season. The Hilltoppers are averaging 50 points a game. Benet hasn’t won a game, but its defense has been sharp. It hasn’t allowed more than 27 points. The problem is the offense hasn’t scored more than 14 points.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Running back Ty Isaac was one of five players to make ESPNU’s Class of 2013 watch list.
Benet player to watch: Jack Euritt had four receptions and a touchdown against Marist last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 42, Benet 7
Gordon Tech (3-1) at No. 6 Loyola (4-0)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Loyola crosses over into the Catholic League Red to host Gordon Tech this week. The Rams are coming off a 45-44 win over Hales. Loyola’s offense will be even more of a challenge for them. The Ramblers have been averaging a little over 40 points a game.
Gordon Tech player to watch: Quarterback Julian Russell threw for four touchdowns and rushed for two in last week’s win.
Loyola player to watch: Loyola’s unsung hero has been long snapper Dan Rafferty. He’s been accurate all season.
Prediction: Loyola 49, Gordon Tech 14
Providence (3-1) at No. 7 St. Rita (3-1)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: St. Rita pulled out a narrow win over Brother Rice last week and will have another challenging game this week. The Mustangs’ defense has been their strength all season. Providence struggled in last week’s 32-6 loss against Loyola. The Celtics have a chance to redeem themselves against another top-10 team this week, but their offensive will have to be more consistent.
Providence player to watch: Running back Andy Hoffmeister scored Providence’s lone touchdown in last week’s loss to Loyola.
St. Rita player to watch: Charles Elmore was last week’s MVP on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: St. Rita 28, Providence 14
No. 8 Carmel(3-1) at Wayzata, MN (3-0)
When: Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Dubuque
The story: Carmel’s lone non-conference game this season is against Wayzata, a Minnesota team. Carmel has won three straight since losing to Joliet Catholic. Its running game has been among the best in the area, but its defense has been good, too. The Corsairs’ last three opponents scored a total of 30 points. Wayzata is undefeated on the season and has been in control of every game. No opponent has scored more than 21 points against them.
Carmel player to watch: Running back Mike Panico has been picking up big yards every time he touches the ball.
Wayzata player to watch: Eric Roti has rushed for a team-best five touchdowns this season.
Prediction: Carmel 35, Wayzata 31
Downers Grove North (1-3) at No. 9 Downers Grove South (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Downers Grove South’s offense and its star running back Josh Williams have been getting a lot of the headlines, but the Mustangs’ defense has been stellar, too. They’ve allowed seven points all season and have out-scored their opponents 161-7. Despite their records, this still has a chance to be a good one. Downers Grove South squeaked out a 17-14 win over North last year. Despite having three losses, the Trojans have been in every game this season.
Downers Grove North player to watch: Quarterback Riley McGinnis has been airing it out for the Trojans.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Senior linebacker Korey Higgins is one of the players making a difference on defense.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 41, Downers Grove North 27
West Aurora (2-2) at No. 11 Glenbard North (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard North has plenty of tough games coming up, but it’s the team to beat in the DuPage Valley for now. The Rams have outscored their opponents 179-20 through four games. West Aurora has lost its last two contests. The Blackhawks scored a total of 20 points in their losses.
West Aurora player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Quintez Jones looks better each week.
Glenbard North player to watch: Justin Jackson has given Glenbard North a quality backup running back.
Prediction: Glenbard North 31, West Aurora 7
Crystal Lake Central (3-1) at No. 11 Prairie Ridge (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge has been as impressive as anyone in the state. It’s out-scored its opponents 195-14. This week begins the tougher part of the Wolves’ schedule. Crystal Lake Central marks the first winning team they’ve faced this season. Their previous opponents have a combined record of 1-15. Crystal Lake Central has a chance to prove itself in this game. The Tigers haven’t allowed more than nine points to an opponent, and their only loss was a 9-0 one to Crystal Lake South.
Crystal Lake Central player to watch: Running back Gage Harrah is a threat whenever he touches the ball.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Running back Jordan Getzelman can run with the ball or catch it out of the backfield.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 24, Crystal Lake Central 14
No. 12 Lake Zurich (3-1) at Mundelein (0-4)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lake Zurich should be able to cruise for one more week before the Bears’ schedule becomes difficult. They’ve won their last two games by a combined score of 61-14 after losing to Cary-Grove. Mundelein has scored just seven points over the last three weeks.
Lake Zurich player to watch: John Orlando had a 54-yard touchdown reception in last week’s win.
Mundelein player to watch: Drew Malcolm caught a touchdown pass against Libertyville last week.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 35, Mundelein 7
No. 13 Bolingbrook (4-0) at No. 14 Homewood-Flossmoor (3-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This has the makings of the game of the week. Bolingbrook is undefeated, but it still needs to prove itself in the conference. Homewood-Flossmoor wants to rebound from last week’s tough loss to Lincoln-Way East, and there would be no better way of doing that than beating Bolingbrook. Both teams’ numbers are similar. Bolingbrook has outscored its opponents 188-47. Homewood-Flossmoor has outscored its opponents 186-51.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Aaron Bailey has been as good as any quarterback in the area. This will be another chance to prove himself.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Sheldon Jones does a little bit of everything for the Vikings’ offense. He had two touchdowns last week.
Prediction: Homewood-Flossmoor 35, Bolingbrook 28
No. 15 Geneva (4-0) at St. Charles North (0-4)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva can’t overlook St. Charles North, but it can start peaking at next week’s game against Batavia. Both teams face winless teams this week and should be undefeated going into next week. St. Charles North was defeated soundly by Neuqua Valley and Streamwood, two quality teams, the past two weeks.
Geneva player to watch: Offensive lineman Bobby Byker has worked his way up the depth chart the last few seasons.
St. Charles North player to watch: Kicker Michael Schroeder has accounted for all of the team’s 12 points on field goals the last two games.
Quote: Geneva coach Rob Wicinski – “There are always parts of the game to improve on ... but, we have few complaints here at Geneva and the team seems to be making normal progress as past Viking teams have done.”
Prediction: Geneva 35, St. Charles North 10
No. 16 Crete-Monee (4-0) at Kankakee (0-4)
When: Friday at 6 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee has put itself in the driver’s seat in the Southland Conference. The Warriors have been playing at a different level than everybody else. They defeated Glenbard South 63-14 last week. Kankakee has had a rough season so far, losing all four games by 16 or more points.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Wide receiver Lance Lenior has been the Warriors’ unsung hero. He has a team-high 25 receptions and is the team’s punt returner.
Kankakee player to watch: Chris Jackson can make an impact on the offensive and defensive line.
Quote: Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde – “We are pleased with where we are after four weeks, but we still need to improve each week leading up to week 10.”
Prediction: Crete-Monee 49, Kankakee 7
No. 17 Crystal Lake South (4-0) at McHenry (2-2)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Crystal Lake South’s defense has continued to lead the way. The Gators allowed a season-high 12 points in a win over Huntley last week. They should be able to contain McHenry before next week’s test against Prairie Ridge. McHenry already has more wins than it did last season. The Warriors haven’t been blowout this season and will look to continue to play solid football against Crystal Lake South.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Defensive end Josh Beveridge leads the Gators in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss.
McHenry player to watch: Quarterback Robert Tonyan has put up some impressive numbers this season.
Quote: Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann – “We are very happy with where we are at. We had a tough schedule to start our season. We feel our toughest games are yet to come, so we will need to continue to prepare well.”
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 34, Huntley 14
No. 18 Cary-Grove (3-1) at Jacobs (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: This is another game that will help decide the Fox Valley. Jacobs is undefeated at home, but it will still be the underdog against Cary-Grove. Jacobs has won all its games this season by 15 points or more. Cary-Grove bounced back from its narrow loss to Crystal Lake South with a win last week over Hampshire. The Trojans’ defense should be tested in this one.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Quinn Baker rushed for four touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, in last week’s win.
Jacobs player to watch: Quarterback Jason Judson threw two touchdowns and ran for one in last week’s win.
Prediction: Cary-Grove 21, Jacobs 17
Tinley Park (4-0) at No. 19 Lemont (4-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Lemont’s defense is tied for first in the state in points allowed. The Indians have given up just six points this year. They have shut out three opponents and allowed six points against Richards. Tinley Park’s game is its offense. The Titans have scored 40 points in all their games and gone over 50 twice. One of these trends will have to change this week.
Tinley Park player to watch: Running back Preston Thompson has been helping the Titans put up a lot of points this season.
Lemont player to watch: Defensive lineman John Tomala has been one of the bright spots on the defensive line.
Quote: Lemont coach Erich Michaelsen – “We are a work in progress. We have many areas to improve on.”
St. Charles East (0-4) at Batavia (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Batavia has been one of the season’s bigger surprises. The Bulldogs have been overwhelming on both sides of the ball, including in quality wins over Bartlett and Marmion. They haven’t allowed a first-half touchdown this year. St. Charles East has faced some good teams, but just hasn’t been able to stop them offensively for a whole game.
St. Charles East player to watch: Carter Reading rushed for 178 yards last week.
Batavia players to watch: Defensive tackles Mackenzie Brown and Austin Lewis have been providing pressure all season.
Quote: Batavia coach Dennis Piron – “I’m very pleased with how the team has come together and the relationships developing between the classes and the players. We had a great offseason and feel that has spilled over into our year. The challenge now is to improve as much in season.”
Prediction: Batavia 31, St. Charles East 13