High School: Belleville East
Naperville Central cruised to a 43-3 victory over Belleville East in the second round of the IHSA Class 8A football playoffs on Friday night and though the home stands were nearly filled at kickoff, plenty more fans made their way to Memorial Stadium after watching the Redhawks' boys soccer team advance to the state finals with a 4-3 win over Fremd in penalty kicks.
"Redhawks athletics -- it's unreal right now," said quarterback Ian Lewandowski, who scored three first-half touchdowns. "I don't think anyone expected the Redhawks to be like this this year. Our soccer team is in the state finals, we're in the quarterfinals and all of our teams are doing a great job. We have the biggest fan base in the state, I think, and with all of the support from the community, it's just awesome. Everybody's in a great mood because of this."
After receiving the opening kickoff, Naperville Central (8-3) jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to a five-play drive which ended in the first of two Tyler Gillen field goals. The visiting Lancers (6-4) would respond, stringing together an 11-play drive of their own and evening the score with a 23-yard field goal from Austin Bartle. From that point on, however, everything went the Redhawks' way.
On the ensuing possession, senior running back Matt Randolph (199 yards, 2 TDs) put Naperville Central back on top with a 2-yard touchdown run, and just three plays later, defensive lineman Zach Borta sacked Belleville East quarterback David Carter in the end zone for a safety. Naperville Central would score once more before the first quarter came to a close as Lewandowski reached paydirt on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, giving Naperville Central a 19-3 advantage.
Midway through the second quarter, Naperville Central's Pat Clark recovered a Belleville East fumble and Lewandowski then tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to John Dicianni on the very next play from scrimmage. The Redhawks’ senior quarterback added a 6-yard touchdown run less than two-minutes later and the Redhawks took a 33-3 lead into halftime.
"One thing this group prides itself on is coming out and giving great effort," said Redhawks head coach Mike Stine. "Right from the get-go, we wanted to come out, take the ball down the field and score. They held us to a field goal and then came back and tied us 3-3, but we were able to break [things open] after that.
"Matt was special again tonight, [as was] our offensive line, Ian and our defense. That's a great offense over there and to hold them out of the end zone was a great effort by that group of guys."
The Redhawks didn't let up int he second half either, scoring their final ten points within four minutes of the kickoff and a running clock was put into effect with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter. Naperville Central would force a total of four Belleville East turnovers in the game, but Lancers head coach Tim Funk didn't attribute his team's woes to the 270-plus mile bus-trip his team took for the second week in a row. Rather, Funk acknowledged the strength of Naperville Central's defense.
"That's not why we lost tonight -- we got beat by a better football team," said Funk. "When you play a team like [Naperville Central] you can't make mistakes like we did and they deserve a lot of credit. We're not going to take anything away from them, but at the same time, in order to do the things we need to do to be successful, we can't turn the ball over, we needed to play solid defense and they're a good football team. They played a lot better than we did tonight, obviously."
The win pushed Naperville Central into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006, and the Redhawks are now set to host Homewood-Flossmoor next weekend.
"I don't know much about them other than they put 40 [points] on the board every game," Stine said about the Vikings. "We're going to have a great defensive effort and figure out a way to try and slow them down."
Though the Redhawks have a full week of practice on the horizon, Stine's squad will put down their pads and head out to Frankfort on Saturday night, where they'll on the soccer team as it faces Morton High School in the IHSA Class 3A state championship.
"We're one big happy family," Stine said with a smile. "We love each other, we cheer for one another and we're out here practicing and sharing the field with the soccer team. There's no rivalry -- we want them to win the state title, they want us to win the state title and we're going to try and make a run at it."
Player of the game: Naperville Central Sr. QB Ian Lewandowski: 6-of-12, 129 yards, TD and 9 carries, 32 yards, 2 TDs; Sr. RB Matt Randolph: 16 carries, 199 yards, 2 TDs. / Belleville East Sr. RB ReShawn Bean: 20 carries, 49 yards, Jr. K Austin Bartle: 23-yard FG
Stat of the game: None of the Redhawks' eight scoring drives lasted longer than 2:20.
It was over when: Naperville Central went ahead 43-3 after a 76-yard Matt Randolph touchdown run, causing a running clock to be used over the final 19:43.
Quote of the night: "Redhawk pride is so high right now… It's great to be a Redhawk. Everyone in the school, our fans, the entire Redhawk community is rallying behind our teams right now and it's just fun. It's fun to be a Redhawk." Naperville Central Sr. RB Matt Randolph.
Because of recruiting rules changes, college coaches are not able to watch club basketball in the spring any longer, but it doesn’t mean players go unnoticed.
A number of Illinois high school player boosted their stock this spring. Here’s a look at the top ones:
Cliff Alexander, Curie HS, Derrick Rose All-Stars, Class of 2014, 6-8, forward: Alexander began creating a buzz for himself during the high school season when he started on varsity for Curie. He’s continued that this spring for the Derrick Rose All-Stars. He’s currently being recruited by Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky and a number of mid-major programs.
“He showed promise and potential this past winter, especially in the second half of the season, but when you combine his physical attributes and play this spring, Alexander's stock has shot through the roof as far as being one of the truly elite college prospects in the state of Illinois,” said recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen, who publishes the City/Suburban Hoops Report. “Big men are absolutely coveted and Alexander is now right there among the state's best.”
Milton Doyle, Marshall, Illinois Hawks, Class of 2012, 6-4, forward: Doyle sat out last season at Marshall. He caught a lot of people’s eyes at last weekend’s Reebok Headliner tryout camp in Chicago. His recruiting interest should skyrocket in July while playing with the Illinois Hawks.
“After sitting out last high school season after transferring from Tilden to Marshall, Doyle showed himself to be a very capable wing athlete with a high motor and tremendous ability to score off the dribble,” said local recruiting analyst Scott Phillips, who runs Scott Phillips Hoops. “Milton has a smoothness about his game and is capable of finishing with both hands with an array of creative moves. His jumper needs some work, but an added bonus with Doyle is his willingness to defend.”
Malcolm Hill, Belleville East, Southwestern Illinois Jets, Class of 2013, 6-4, guard: Hill has proven he can score on the biggest of stages during the spring for Southwestern Illinois Jets, and now more and more colleges are looking at him. Illinois recently offered him.
“After putting together a standout sophomore season, Hill was still a bit under the radar,” Henricksen said. “However, he opened the eyes of national recruiting services this spring and, along the way, grabbed the attention of college coaches with his play and the high ceiling he has as a prospect.
Jalen James, Hope, Illinois Wolves, Class of 2013, 6-3, guard: James has become one of the most sought after point guards in the Class of 2013 after a strong spring with the Illinois Wolves. DePaul, Illinois, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, VCU Xavier, among others are recruiting him.
“He was on my radar this winter after taking in a couple of his games and seeing the smooth game he possessed, the size he brought to the point guard position and how he is barely scratching the surface,” Henricksen said. “But he took it to another level as a prospect this spring playing against better, tougher competition. With his play this spring, James has solidified himself as a top 10 player in the loaded Class of 2013.”
Marlon Johnson, Joliet West, Illinois T-Wolves, Class of 2012, 6-9, forward: Playing with the Illinois T-Wolves this spring, Johnson especially put his name on the map at the Chicago Classic during the Memorial Day weekend. DePaul, Illinois, Kansas, Loyola, Northern Illinois, Tennessee and a number of others have since expressed interest in him.
“He's burst on the scene rapidly as a run-and-jump athlete that can make plays on both ends of the floor,” Phillips said. “Marlon grew six inches in a year, and he's just starting to figure out how to use his tremendous leaping ability to make an impact. His current strength is in an up-tempo game where he has room to outrun other forwards.”
Marcus Posley, Winnebago, Class of 2012, 6-1, guard: Posley and point guard Fred VanVleet have become a backcourt tandem to watch on the club circuit for Pryme Tyme. Posley has a number of mid-majors looking at him.
“I've been a huge fan of Posley for awhile and now there are others that are appreciating all that he brings to the table after a stellar, consistent spring,” Henricksen said. “He’s tough, competes, plays with a big-time motor and physically is so strong. He's elevated his game by showing an ability to knock down shots from the perimeter.
Nathan Taphorn, Pekin, Class of 2013, 6-6, forward: Taphorn has what every college desires – someone with size and who can shoot. Taphorn is now drawing high-major interest after a productive spring with the Illinois Wolves. DePaul, Illinois, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, VCU Xavier, among others are recruiting him.
“There may not have been a player who did more for his stock than this sharpshooter with length and a high basketball IQ,” Henricksen said. “He went from a relative unknown to a Division I prospect in a matter of weeks while playing with the Illinois Wolves this spring.”
Xzavier Taylor, Morgan Park, Illinois Fire, Class of 2013, 6-9, center: Taylor has added a number of dimensions to his game and has been one of the state’s best big men this spring for the Illinois Fire. He is receiving recruiting interest from DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Louisville, Northern Illinois, among others.
“The big thing with Xzavier is confidence,” Phillips said. “His defense has always been ahead of his offense, but with some added reps he’s become more of a scoring threat, especially in transition.”
Others who improved their stock this spring:
Jubril Adekoya, Andrew HS, MeanStreets, Class of 2013, 6-6, forward
Austin Angel, New Trier, Rising Stars, Class of 2012, 6-4, guard
Brad Foster, Lincoln-Way Central, Illinois Warriors, Class of 2012, 6-8, forward
Mike LaTulip, Prospect, Full Package, Class of 2012, 5-11, guard
Erick Locke, Brooks, Illinois Fire, Class of 2014, 6-0, guard
Luke Norman, Freeport, Illinois Warriors, Class of 2012, 6-1, guard
Fred VanVleet, Auburn, Pryme Tyme, Class of 2012, 5-11, guard
Paul White, Whitney Young, Ferrari, Class of 2014, 6-7, guard
Russell Woods, Leo, Illinois Fire, Class of 2012, 6-8, forward
Malik Yarbrough, Zion-Benton, Ferrari, Class of 2014, 6-4, forward
ESPNChicago.com previews all of the top-20 games.
No. 10 Glenbard West (10-1) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (11-0) on Saturday
The story: The last time Glenbard West and Wheaton Warrenville South met it was the Class 7A state championship game. Last season, Wheaton Warrenville South defeated the Hilltoppers 31-24 in two overtimes in Champaign. Ever since, Glenbard West has been talking about revenge. Both teams have been ranked in the top 10 for most of the season. Wheaton Warrenville South has been the state’s most dominant team. No opponent has scored more than 14 points on the Tigers, and they’ve put up 38 or more points in 10 of their games. Glenbard West has been strong on both sides of the ball as well. It’s coming off a 42-28 win over Lincoln-Way East. Wide receiver Mark Hiben had a state-record 319 receiving yards in the victory. The Hilltoppers are a run-first team, though. The winner will either play Minooka or Belleville East.
Glenbard West player to watch: Junior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt is considered one of the best in the country. He needs to put pressure on Reilly O’Toole for the Hilltoppers to have a chance.
Wheaton Warrenville South: Quarterback Reilly O’Toole was hyped from the start of the season and has lived up to every ounce of it.
Quote: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet – “We are fast on defense again and maybe more explosive on offense. Wheaton Warrenville South is a lot stronger on offense this year. Their defense is great again with great team speed. Last year is absolutely motivation for us.”
iPrediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Glenbard West 28
No. 11 Lake Zurich (10-1) at No. 2 Simeon (11-0) on Saturday
The story: Simeon’s offense has been unstoppable all season. The Wolverines haven’t scored less than 42 points all year. Last week, they put up 55 in a win over Schaumburg. On the other hand, Lake Zurich’s defense has been among the state’s best this season. The Bears have allowed 8.5 points a game this season. Only two teams have scored more than 14 points against them. The winner will play either Carmel or St. Rita.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Linebacker J.J. Raffelson has been one of keys to Lake Zurich’s defense this season. He’ll need another big game to slow down Simeon.
Simeon player to watch: Quarterback Robert Gregory may be the state’s best dual-threat quarterback. In last week’s win, he threw for five touchdowns and ran for two more.
Prediction: Simeon 38, Lake Zurich 28
No. 3 Carmel (10-1) at No. 6 St. Rita (10-1) on Saturday
The story: Both these teams spent almost the entire year ranked in the area’s top 10. Carmel relies on its defense and multi-back running game. The Corsairs haven’t allowed their last five in-state opponents to score more than seven points. St. Rita has also been tough to score on and is led offensively by all-state running back Jahwon Akui, who scored five times last week. The Mustangs put up less than 21 points only once this season. The winner will play either Lake Zurich or Simeon.
Prediction: Carmel 31, St. Rita 28
No. 4 Joliet Catholic (10-1) at Peoria Richwoods (11-0) on Saturday
The story: Joliet Catholic hasn’t been tested yet through two rounds of the playoffs. The Hilltoppers won both of their previous games by 42 points. Richwoods should present more of a challenge, especially at home. The Knights are undefeated this season and are coming off a 49-13 win over Lincoln-Way West. They haven’t seen a team like Joliet Catholic this season. The winner will either play Glenwood or Springfield.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, Richwoods 17
No. 5 Loyola (10-1) Palatine (7-4) on Saturday
The story: Palatine has been the surprise of the playoffs. The No. 14-seeed Pirates upset Glenbard North in the opening round and took down Glenbrook South last week. Their defense has been strong the past three weeks, holding their opponents to 14 points or less. Loyola is riding a seven-game winning streak into Saturday. The Ramblers held off Fremd last week for a 14-7 win. Their defense has been stepping up in recent weeks. The defense scored a touchdown again last week. The winner will play either Maine South or Stevenson.
Prediction: Loyola 31, Palatine 17
No. 19 Prairie Ridge (10-1) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (11-0) on Saturday
The story: These two teams met up in Week 4, and Crystal Lake South pulled out a 24-20 victory. The Gators’ Brad Walovitch was the hero in the win, catching two touchdown passes, kicking a field goal and gaining a first down on a key fourth-down conversion. The two teams combined for 27 fourth-quarter points. Prairie Ridge has taken care of business ever since. It’s coming off an impressive 20-6 win over Morgan Park. The winner will play either Boylan or Cary-Grove.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 29, Prairie Ridge 28
No. 14 Maine South (9-2) at No. 8 Stevenson (11-0) on Saturday
The story: Maine South is still the king of Class 8A. The Hawks are two-time defending 8A champs and have won their last 12 playoff games. Maine South has won its last nine games this season by 21 or more points. Stevenson has gotten to where it is by relying on its offense and defense. The Patriots are coming off a close one. They defeated South Elgin 10-7 last week. The winner will play either Loyola or Palatine.
Maine South player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Matt Alviti has improved week after week. He’s been poised throughout the playoffs so far.
Stevenson player to watch: Junior kicker Matthew Micucci has come through in the clutch this season. He had a field goal in last week’s narrow win and in the Patriots’ 24-23 win over Lake Zurich earlier in the season.
Prediction: Stevenson 31, Maine South 28
No. 9 Lyons (10-1) at No. 12 Mount Carmel (10-1) on Friday
The story: Both teams are coming off dramatic wins. Lyons pulled out a 21-20 victory over Sandburg last week, and Mount Carmel defeated Neuqua Valley 21-14 in overtime. The Lions have held nine of their opponents to 20 points or less this season. Mount Carmel’s offense has carried it. The Caravan have scored 35 or more points in eight of their games.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 28, Lyons 24
No. 13 Lemont (11-0) at Marmion (10-1) on Saturday
The story: This could be one of the week’s best games. Lemont has put it together on both sides of the ball this season. The Indians’ defense has especially been good, allowing only three opponents more than 20 points this season. Marmion’s only loss came to Montini in its final regular season game. The Cades have held eight opponents to eight points or less this season.
Prediction: Lemont 17, Marmion 14
Homewood-Flossmoor (9-2) at No. 15 Naperville North (8-3) on Friday
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor is one of the year’s greatest success stories. A year after going 1-8, the Vikings are in the Class 8A quarterfinals. The Vikings’ offense can put up points. They’ve scored 30-plus points seven times this year. Naperville North’s defense has been among the area’s best. Led by all-state linebacker Nick Lifka, the Huskies haven’t allowed an opponent more than 14 points in the last four weeks. The winner will play either Lyons or Mount Carmel.
Prediction: Naperville North 24, Homewood-Flossmoor 14
Marian (8-3) at No. 17 Montini (9-2) on Saturday
The story: Montini defeated Marian 35-6 when they met during the regular season. Marian’s defense will need to contain the Broncos’ offense this time around to have a chance. Montini quarterback Matt Westerkamp and his cousin wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp have been on a tear. They hooked up for 200-plus yards and three touchdowns last week. The winner will play either Kaneland or Vernon Hills.
Prediction: Montini 35, Marian 14
Belleville East (9-2) at No. 18 Minooka (10-1) on Saturday
The story: Minooka avenged its only loss of the season last week with a 41-38 win over Plainfield South. The Indians’ running game stepped up again. Belleville East benefitted from East St. Louis being kicked out of the playoffs. Instead of facing nationally-ranked East St. Louis, Belleville East defeated Belleville West 21-13 last week. The winner will play either Glenbard West or Wheaton Warrenville South.
Prediction: Minooka 38, Belleville East 21
Kaneland (11-0) at No. 20 Vernon Hills (10-1) on Saturday
The story: Kaneland and Vernon Hills have been two of the premier Class 5A teams all season. Led by quarterback Joe Camiliere, Kaneland hasn’t scored less than 30 points in a game this season. It also hasn’t allowed an opponent to come within 14 points this season. Vernon Hills has been just as high-powered offensively. With Ohio State recruit Evan Spencer and Notre Dame recruit DaVaris Daniels leading the way, the Cougars have scored more than 40 points seven times this year. Their defense also shut out their first seven opponents this season. The winner will play either Marian or Montini.
Quote: Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken – “Their quarterback is outstanding, and they have a nice athletic group of receivers that give you a lot to cover and think about. Defensively, they’re quick and well coached. Both of us have scored over 40 a game and given up less than 10 a game, so it should be a good one. The keys are pretty simple. We need to minimize mistakes and communicate on defense.”
Prediction: Vernon Hills 34, Kaneland 31