High School: Lemont
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
Next up: a home playoff game and a daunting task for the opposing offense.
Lemont forced four first-half turnovers, and only two meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter blemished what could have been a sixth shutout of the season. Instead, the Indians settled for a 41-13 win over Oak Forest on Friday night.
Lemont (9-0) had already claimed the South Suburban Blue title and its eighth straight playoff berth, but the regular season needed a punctuation mark. The Indians delivered it in convincing fashion.
The defense forced five turnovers in all, and quarterback Damon Aleman threw three touchdown passes. Two went to Tyler Jay, his only receptions of the game.
It wasn't another blanking, but it was a dominating performance in a rivalry-game win.
"Can't ask for anything better," said Aleman, whose defense entered the game allowing just four points per game. "I'm sorry they didn't get their shutout, but they still played great."
The perfect regular season is Lemont's second in a row and third in four seasons. But nine wins in nine games is more of a beginning than an end.
"Our next goal is to win as many games in the playoffs as we can," Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen said. "There's a lot that goes into that."
Oak Forest (6-3), too, had already qualified for the playoffs, but the Bengals struggled mightily on Friday. Three straight drives to end the first half resulted in interceptions: two by Lemont's Jake Lemming and another by Mike Monaco. They also lost a fumble, recovered by Justin Lulek, and allowed a kickoff to be recovered by Lemming.
Oak Forest coach Brian McDonough gave his players a lengthy speech after the game. He hopes those words help translate into a first-round win next week.
"It's our national championship. It our Super Bowl," McDonough told his team. "Whatever you want to call it, we need a big win."
Lemont got one in the regular-season finale. Its players are preparing for a few more.
"We're going to prepare for them like we'd prepare for any other team," Aleman said of his team's next opponent, not yet determined on Friday night. "We're not going to take them easy."
Players of the game: Lemont -- QB Damon Aleman (Sr.) 6-of-10 passing, 181 yards, 3 TDs; Mike Anzalone (Sr.) 23 attempts, 126 yards; WR Tyler Jay (Sr.) 2 receptions, 111 yards, 2 TDs; DB Jake Lemming (Jr.) 2 INTs, kickoff recovery. Oak Forest -- RB Matt Barry 22 attempts, 88 yards, TD.
Stat of the game: Before halftime, Lemont's defense forced twice as many turnovers (4) as Oak Forest's offense had first downs (2).
It was over when: Christos Giatras' 15-yard touchdown run -- and two-point conversion reception -- capped Lemont's 14-play drive to start the second half and gave the Indians a 27-0 advantage.
Quote of the night: "The thing is, we have so many things that we have to improve upon," Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen said. "We can always work on tackling and blocking. We can always do that better. We're not going to come out and be complacent."
MIDLOTHIAN, Ill. -- The magnitude of Friday's 21-0 win over Bremen wasn't lost on Lemont linebacker Brad Uher. Perhaps that's what made basking in victory such an enjoyable postgame exercise.
"This was the biggest game I’ve played in my football career, we’re undefeated and we have to play these last couple games strong and head into the playoffs,” Uher said after keying a shutout that may ultimately decide the South Suburban Blue championship.
The first half was a defensive struggle for both teams. Both high flying offenses were held in check by missed opportunities and pressure up the middle from the defensive lines.
Lemont, playing with a short field and the wind at its back, moved the ball with tough running and short passes, but struggled to get on the board. Kicker Joe Heir attempted two field goals with little success.
Pateince proved to be an asset; as the first half wound down, Lemont running back Mike Anzalone (185 yards, TD) started to see some running room. Still, both teams went to the locker room at the half with the score tied at 0.
“I’m blessed to run behind this O-line,” said Anzalone. “Coach challenged the seniors to step up and that’s what I did.”
Lemont's defensive front -- led by Connor O’Brien and John Tomala -- applied pressure all night on Bremen quarterback Cedric Clemons.
“We were excited and ready to go," Uher said of the defensive effort. "We’ve been practicing for this all week. We knew this was going to be our biggest game of the year and we stopped them” said Linebacker Brad Uher now we’re the only undefeated team in the conference.”
Lemont’s offense came to life in the second half with Anzalone and batterymate Christos Giatras (2 TDs) running thru large holes and breaking tackles for big gains. The duo scored all three Lemont touchdowns on the ground.
“We reminded them about the goals we set out this year, challenged the seniors to step up and play Lemont Football at halftime” Lemont head coach Eric Michaelson said following the win.
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
No. 13 Wheaton North (8-2) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (10-0) on Saturday
The story: This will be the second time these DuPage Valley foes meet this season. The first time around Wheaton Warrenville South ran away with a 42-14 win. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole threw only one incompletion in the win. Wheaton North was within seven points at half, but will need to put together a full game against the top-ranked Tigers.
Wheaton North player to watch: Quarterback Reece Butler is the key to the Falcons flying. He needs to have another off-the-charts game for Wheaton North to have a chance.
Wheaton Warrenville South: Wide receiver Travis Kern has emerged as a playmaker this season. He and Titus Davis have been major targets for O’Toole.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Wheaton North 17
No. 2 Simeon (10-0) at No. 16 Schaumburg (8-2) on Saturday
The story: Simeon’s path to the Chicago Public League’s first state championship becomes more difficult starting with this game. The question is whether the Wolverines can turn it on again against another top team. They haven’t been truly challenged since the season-opener against Mount Carmel. Schaumburg is coming off a big win over Elk Grove. The Saxons will have to contain Simeon’s big-play offense to pull off the upset.
Simeon player to watch: Offensive lineman Chris Bryant is a major reason the Wolverines have had so much offensive success. He’s 6 foot 3, 330 pounds and is being recruited by a number of schools.
Schaumburg player to watch: Shepard Little has been one of the state’s top running backs this season. Schaumburg will need to score in this game, and Little is the man to do it.
Prediction: Simeon 46, Schaumburg 42
Hononegah (9-1) at No. 3 Carmel (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Carmel has been consistently good offensively and defensively this season. The Corsairs were especially impressive on the defensive side in last week’s first-round win. Hononegah has put some points this season, and its only loss was to undefeated Boylan. Hononegah is coming off a 51-7 win over Taft.
Prediction: Carmel 31, Hononegah 13
Sterling (8-2) at No. 4 Joliet Catholic (9-1) on Saturday
The story: There are few teams in the state playing as well as Joliet Catholic right now. The Hilltoppers have scored 45-plus points in their last six games. Big Ten-bound running backs Malin Jones and Josh Ferguson have been piling on the yards. Sterling defeated Morton 28-21 last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 63, Sterling 10
No. 5 Loyola (9-1) at Fremd (6-4) on Saturday
The story: If there’s an upset this week, a lot of people are looking at this game as a possibility. It speaks nothing of Loyola’s play, but rather what Fremd has been up to. The Vikings seem like that team of destiny this season. After starting out 1-4, Fremd has won its past five games. Loyola will be a tough match up for Fremd. The Ramblers have also been among the area’s hottest teams.
Prediction: Loyola 28, Fremd 17
No. 6 St. Rita (9-1) at Harlem (8-2) on Friday
The story: St. Rita has to travel to Machesney Park on Friday after Harlem upset Glenbrook North in the first round. Harlem has scored 30-plus points in seven games this season. St. Rita escaped with a narrow win over Highland Park last week. Star running back Jahwon Akui is expected back after missing last week’s game.
Prediction: St. Rita 34, Harlem 17
Lake Forest (7-3) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Lake Forest is one of the sleeper teams in 6A. The Scouts have played well the last quarter of the season with a win over Vernon Hills and a narrow loss to Lake Zurich. As they showed in their 45-25 opening-round win over Shepard, their offense has big-play capabilities. Five of their touchdowns were scored on 50-yard-plus plays. Crystal Lake South is the team to beat in Class 6A and has played consistently.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 27, Lake Forest 21
No. 8 Lincoln-Way East (9-1) at No. 11 Glenbard West (9-1) on Saturday
The story: There are so many potentially great games in the second round, but this one could be the best. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 for most of the season, and both have been among the state’s best defensive teams. While Wheaton Warrenville South is still the favorite in Class 7A, both of these teams are capable of giving the Tigers a game.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Wide receiver J.J. Robertson returned from injury last week and scored two touchdowns. He’s among the area’s best at his position.
Glenbard West player to watch: Do-everything senior Nick Burrello is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He’s coming off a big game.
Prediction: Glenbard West 21, Lincoln-Way East 20
South Elgin (7-3) at No. 9 Stevenson (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Stevenson continues to put it together on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Patriots are led by ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week Brion Wood. Offensively, they’ve used a balanced running and passing attack. South Elgin ended the regular season with back-to-back losses, but bounced back with a win over a tough Warren team last week.
Prediction: Stevenson 24, South Elgin 13
Sandburg (8-2) at No. 10 Lyons (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Lyons has been on a roll. It has out-scored its last three opponents, which included Glenbard West, 143-20. Sandburg’s only losses this season were to Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor, two teams still alive in the playoffs. The Eagles are 3-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or less.
Prediction: Lyons 28, Sandburg 14
No. 12 Lake Zurich (9-1) at No. 15 Prospect (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Prospect puts up a lot of points; Lake Zurich doesn’t allow many. Something will have to give in this game. The Knights have scored more than 40 points seven times this season. Lake Zurich has only given up more than 14 points twice.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Senior Jacob Brinlee became the school’s all-time leading rusher last week. He has more than 3,000 yards in his career.
Prospect player to watch: Quarterback Steve Dazzo can burn a team in so many ways. He’s been phenomenal the past few weeks.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 31, Prospect 28
No. 14 Mount Carmel (8-2) at Neuqua Valley (7-3) on Friday
The story: Mount Carmel’s offense is relentless. The Caravan have scored 30-plus points in eight of their games this season. Only St. Rita was able to contain them. Neuqua Valley is better than its record. The Wildcats’ three losses have come by a combined 10 points. They have an impressive 43-6 win over Waubonsie Valley on their resume.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Neuqua Valley 28
No. 17 Morgan Park (9-1) at Prairie Ridge (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Like Simeon, Morgan Park is out to become the first Public League state champion. Prairie Ridge will have something to say about that. Its only loss came to Crystal Lake South and has been one of the area’s best defensive teams. Morgan Park has scored 30 or more points in six games this season.
Prediction: Morgan Park 33, Prairie Ridge 24
Geneva (8-2) at No. 18 Lemont (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Geneva has been on a tear. The Vikings have scored 69 points in their last two games and are on an eight-game winning streak. Lemont is one of the favorites in Class 6A. The Indians have allowed one opponent more than 21 points this season.
Prediction: Geneva 35, Lemont 27
No. 19 York (9-1) at Naperville North (7-3) on Friday
The story: Naperville North put it all together in last week’s win over Marist. If the Huskies can play a total game again, they have the talent to pull off an upset against York. The Dukes rallied to defeat a tough Lockport team last week 21-14. They’ll need to play at a higher level this week.
Prediction: Naperville North 21, York 17
Bartlett (8-2) at No. 20 Maine South (8-2) on Saturday
The story: Maine South has won its last 11 playoff games, and the Hawks are shooting for their third consecutive state championship. Bartlett lost two close games early in the season and now has won seven in a row.
Prediction: Maine South 38, Bartlett 28