High School: Stevenson
There was plenty of excitement in Class 3A and 4A regional semifinals on Tuesday. If this is any indication of the games to come, it should be an interesting ride to Peoria for the state finals.
Thornton 39, Crete-Monee 37: Thornton, the No. 13 seed in the Lockport section, upset No. 4-seed Crete-Monee at Thornton. Thornton’s Marvin Jones scored on a layup with two seconds left for the game-winning basket. Joshua Russell scored 15 points in the win.
Bogan 65, Mount Carmel 64: Bogan, the No. 3 seed in the Argo sectional, needed some late-game heroics by Devonte Smith to defeat host Mount Carmel. Smith scored a layup with 41 seconds left to give Bogan the lead and finished with 26 points. Mount Carmel led 56-47 in the fourth quarter.
New Trier 39, Niles West 35: New Trier, the top seed in the Glenbrook South sectional, slipped past No. 15-seed Niles West at Niles West. Austin Angel secured the win with a steal with 21 seconds left. He had eight points, four steals and three blocks.
Downers Grove South 69, Oswego East 68: Downers Grove South, the No. 2 seed in the East Aurora sectional, just got past Oswego East after leading by as many as double digits. Downers Grove South’s Jamall Millison had 28 points, and Oswego East’s Kenny Battle Jr. finished with a career-high 33 points.
Bloom 41, T.F. North 37: Bloom, the top seed in the Lockport sectional, held on for a victory over No. 16-seed T.F. North. Donald Bloom secured the win by knocking down 11-of-13 free throws. He finished with 15 points.
Huntley 40, DeKalb 37: Huntley, the top seed in its own regional, escaped with a win over DeKalb. Huntley has only lost three games this season, and DeKalb entered the game with 16 losses.
Metea Valley 45, Geneva 42: Metea Valley, the No. 3 seed in the East Aurora sectional, had to battle No. 14-seed Geneva to pull out a victory. Geneva led 40-36 with 2:31 left, but Metea Valley went on a 9-2 run to close out the game.
Joliet West 64, Plainfield South 61: Joliet West, the No. 5 seed in the Lockport sectional, edged Plainfield South at Thornton. Morris Dunnigan came through with a three-point play with nine seconds left for the win. Brian Edwards had 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench for Joliet West. Eddie Presniakovas had 25 points for Plainfield South.
St. Joseph's 68, Glenbard South 65: St. Joseph’s Reggie Johnson and Paul Turner combined for 53 points to help the Chargers to a win over Glenbard South at Nazareth.
Brooks 60, Rich East 58: Brooks defeated Rich East thanks to a buzzer-beating basket by sophomore Erick Locke, who finished with 26 points.
Johnsburg 60, Woodstock 54: Johnsburg needed two overtimes to defeat Woodstock at Johnsburg.
Other games: Thornridge defeated Tinley Park 60-58 behind Josh Hodges’ 24 points ... Coming off its upset of Hillcrest, Lemont just got past Corliss with a 59-55 win ... Hersey defeated Buffalo Grove 57-56 at Stevenson ... In downstate Illinois, Collinsville, one of the favorites in its own sectional, was upset by Belleville West 61-57 at Belleville East.
The holiday tournament season is upon us. Here’s a guideline to the week ahead.
Five tournaments to attend
1) Pontiac, Dec. 28-30: It helps that Pontiac has the country’s top team in Simeon and top player in Jabari Parker, but that’s just the start. Curie and Warren have both been ranked in the top 5 this season and could give Simeon a game. Peoria Manual is one of the top teams outside of the Chicago area this season and has a number of Division I players. The semifinals could include all four teams.
2) Proviso West, Dec. 27-30: This could be an interesting year at Proviso West because of the parity. Proviso East, which is ranked No. 2, is the favorite, but it’s wide open after that. Glenbrook North, Homewood-Flossmoor, Morgan Park, New Trier and St. Joseph have all been ranked at some point this season.
3) Rich South, Dec. 26-27, 29-30: The McDipper could include a top-10 championship game between No. 5 Seton and No. 7 Bloom. Both enter the tournament undefeated. Crete-Monee, Evanston, Hales, Leo, Marian Catholic and Rich South give the tournament depth.
4) York, Dec. 27-30: The Jack Tosh Tournament added De La Salle this season. The Meteors should be the favorites, and they could see Downers Grove South in the championship. Maine South, Naperville North, Riverside-Brookfield and St. Ignatius should be competitive, too.
5) Wheeling, Dec. 27-30: Wheeling has become a whole lot more interesting with the rise of Notre Dame, St. Viator and Stevenson this season. Notre Dame and Stevenson are ranked, and St. Viator is 10-0 heading into the tournament.
Five players to see
1) Jabari Parker, Simeon at Pontiac: If you haven’t already seen Parker, the No. 1 junior in the country, see him. If you’ve already seen him, see him again. Friday is the best day to be at Pontiac. Simeon is likely to play at 2:30 p.m. in the semis and 9 p.m. in the championship.
2) Billy Garrett Jr., Morgan Park at Proviso West: Garrett Jr. is the future of DePaul. His game has continued to develop, and he has a chance to be one of the nation’s top guards when he arrives to Lincoln Park.
3) Gavin Schilling, De La Salle, York: There are actually a number of De La Salle players to see, but Schilling has been the hot name as of late.
4) Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic, Rich South: Ulis, a sophomore guard, has been receiving rave reviews. This could be a good chance to witness him against other top players.
5) Jewell Loyd, Niles West at Stevenson and Loyola: If you’re to see one girls basketball player all season or even possibly all decade, Loyd is the one to watch. She puts up 40 points and 20 rebounds on a regular basis. Niles West plays at Stevenson on Tuesday and Loyola on Wednesday.
Monday: Rich South is the only tournament running. If you’re looking to go to just one or two game, the late afternoon (4 p.m.) is a good place to start.
Tuesday: The first day of Proviso West is always interesting. The Rich South quarterfinals start at 4p.m. York vs. Riverside-Brookfield at York at 7:15 p.m. could be a fun first-round matchup.
Wednesday: It’s the first day of Pontiac if you want to be there the entire time. New Trier and Homewood-Flossmoor could meet in Proviso West’s second round at 5:15 p.m. Neighborhood rivals Proviso East and St. Joe’s could also meet at 8:30 p.m. at Proviso West.
Thursday: Warren and Waukegan is a potential second-round game at Pontiac at 11 a.m. St. Ignatius vs. Downers Grove South could be a York semifinal at 7:15 p.m. Stevenson and Notre Dame are aligned to meet in a Wheeling semifinal at 7:15 p.m.
Friday: Pontiac is the place to be, but you can double-dip by going there for the semifinals at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and head back toward the city for another championship game. Rich South’s championship is at 7 p.m. York’s championship is at 7:15 p.m. Proviso West’s championship is at 8 p.m. Wheeling’s championship is at 8:45 p.m.
1) Morgan coach Nick Irvin’s father, Mac Irvin, passed away on Saturday. Mac was a legendary figure in Chicago basketball. Morgan Park opens the Proviso West tournament at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
2) Simeon’s road to another Pontiac title won’t be easy. The Wolverines could see a talented Peoria Manual team in the semis and either Curie or Warren in the championship game. Warren lost to Simeon in the Pontiac and state title games last year. If Simeon survives, it will remain the No. 1 team in the country.
3) Proviso East hasn’t won a Proviso West championship since it won it in back-to-back years in 1990 and 1991. First-year Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce was a senior on the 1990 team. It would be fitting for him to coach the Pirates to a title this year.
4) How many undefeated teams will remain after this week? Bloom and Seton are undefeated at Rich South. Curie and Simeon are undefeated at Pontiac. St. Viator takes it undefeated record into Wheeling. Bogan travels to Centralia with an unbeaten mark. Andrew (at Kankakee) Plainfield East (Pekin) and Metea Valley (Hinsdale South) are also undefeated.
5) Some players will make stars out of themselves after this week. Who will we be talking about next week?
CAROL STREAM, Ill. -- Glenbard North running back Phil Jackson has been pivotal for his team all season. But perhaps the Panthers' recent playoff run has stirred up some sibling rivalry.
Glenbard North beat No. 4 Stevenson 28-0, with sophomore Justin Jackson, Phil's little brother, helping the Panthers to a commanding two touchdown lead in the first half.
"We came in with a defensive mindset, wanting to pitch a shutout and we did it," said the younger Jackson.
The Panthers got going early scoring their first touchdown, an 18-yard hand off to Justin within six minutes. Glenbard North's offensive line gave quarterback Brian Murphy the time and place to run himself, and utilize both Jackson brothers the whole game.
"People have said we're just a bunch of big guys and that's all," said offensive lineman and captain Dan McHale. "But we've got a great core and when we do our job Brian and the backs make it so easy."
Stevenson sputtered on offense, punting four times in the first 13 minutes.
Later in the second, Patriots' QB Matt Micucci found his arms, nailing three completions in a 35-yard drive down to GB North's 10. But Micucci, who completed only nine of 30 passes, also as kicker, missed a field goal attempt by putting it wide.
On the Patriots' next first down, Tremel Smith picked off Miccuci's first throw, and Alex Mendez did the same a minute and a half later. Both interceptions set up Panther scoring opportunities.
Justin Jackson, who had 112 total yards on the night, converted Smith's pick three plays later on a 44-yard run, making it 13-0. Trevor Hackett missed the Panthers' extra point, but made up for it after Mendez' interception with his own 20-yard touchdown reception, making it 19-0. A second later, Phil Jackson ran in a two-point conversion, to cap off the first half at 21-0 to the Panthers.
The second half wasn't much better for Stevenson. Gaining excellent field position on the Panther 20-yard line after blocking a Panthers punt, Micucci got sacked, threw two incompletes then missed his second field goal attempt from the 23.
Glenbard North's defensive line continued to threaten Micucci throughout the last 24 minutes, sacking him four times. Smith almost intercepted twice more while the Panthers' defensive backs remained rampant, thwarting every single Stevenson drive.
"We were a bit concerned because as a team they're pretty well balanced," said Glenbard's coach Ryan Wilkins. "But our defense rushed the quarterback really well tonight and our offense was spot on."
Player of the game: Justin Jackson, with two TDs in the first half.
The game was over when: Stevenson, at the end of the third quarter gave up unnecessary yardage due to penalties, multiple times.
Stat of the game: 65 yards of penalties against Stevenson, mostly in the second half. An even zero total rushing yards for the Patriots.Play of the game: Phil Jackson's crafty cut left and 46-yard touchdown run, which put the Panthers up 28-0.
Quote of the game:"It's never a rivalry with us and when we're on this field we're one, together," - Jackson
What it means: Darkhorse Glenbard North has toppled better ranked teams each week of the playoffs and now look to challenge the mighty Loyola next week.
Lyons (7-4) at No. 1 Loyola (11-0)
The story: On paper, Loyola should run away with this one. But after last week’s round of upsets, it’s easy to realize that there are no guarantees in the playoffs. The Ramblers haven’t been tested yet through two rounds. They outscored their first two opponents 64-0. Lyons has had some close calls, defeating Bartlett by three points in the opening round and then knocked off Glenbrook South by three points in overtime last week. The Lions’ strength the past three weeks has been putting up points. Their only games of scoring 30 or more points this season came in the last three weeks.
Lyons player to watch: Jaime Jones would have been a great fantasy running back last week. He rushed for five touchdowns on 25 carries.
Loyola player to watch: Wide receiver Peter Pujals is coming off a nine-reception, 181-yard performance against Dunbar.
Prediction: Loyola 31, Lyons 13
No. 12 Downers Grove South (10-1) at No. 2 Bolingbrook (10-1)
When:6 p.m. Saturday
The story: Some of the best football games of the previous four years were Bolingbrook-Downers Grove South matchups. Last season, Bolingbrook won 28-21. In 2009, Bolingbrook won 16-14 in a regular-season matchup, and Downers Grove South won 22-20 in the playoffs. In 2008, Bolingbrook pulled out a 21-20 win. In 2007, Downers Grove South won 10-7. This was the first season their non-conferences meetings ceased, so it’s only fitting they square off in the Class 8A quarterfinals. This could be another classic.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Kaylon Miller is one of the many offensive weapons for the Mustangs.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Offensive lineman Robbie Bain is often responsible for the holes created for Aaron Bailey.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 26, Downers Grove South 24
No. 3 St. Rita (9-2) at O’Fallon (10-1)When:7 p.m. Friday
The story: St. Rita will be making the long drive to the St. Louis area again. The Mustangs made a similar trip in Week 2 when they went to play an out-of-state opponent in East St. Louis. St. Rita is hoping for a better outcome this time after losing that game. O’Fallon has pulled out a couple close wins this season. It narrowly defeated Pekin 34-31 last week. The Panthers’ offense has scored on a consistent basis. St. Rita’s defense will be looking forward to that challenge.
St. Rita player to watch: Max Kurucar had a key interception in last week’s win over Andrew.
O’Fallon player to watch: Running back Ejay Johnson rushed for six touchdowns in the first round.
Prediction: St. Rita 30, O’Fallon 17
No. 4 Stevenson (9-2) at No. 17 Glenbard North (8-3)
When:3 p.m. Saturday
The story: According to the seeding, Stevenson and Glenbard North should not be playing in the quarterfinals. Glenbard North overcame Barrington and Palatine to get here. Stevenson pulled off the biggest upset of the playoffs with last week’s win over three-time defending Class 8A state champs Maine South. Stevenson has the been king of close games this season. The Patriots have won six games by a touchdown or less. Glenbard North fell on the wrong side of a couple close games during the regular season, but has been finishing strong late in the season.
Stevenson player to watch: Matt Morrissey is among the capable wide receivers for the Patriots.
Glenbard North player to watch: Phil Jackson makes his presence known on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Stevenson 24, Glenbard North 21
No. 5 Wheaton Warrenville South (8-3) at East St. Louis (9-2)
The story: This is the game everyone had hoped to see last season, but it wasn't to be after East St. Louis was removed from the playoffs due to an ineligible player. Neither team is as talented as it was a year ago, but this should still be an entertaining game. East St. Louis’s defense overwhelmed Oswego with its speed in last week’s win. Its offense also has its share of athletes. Wheaton Warrenville South has been getting by on its defense. The Tigers pulled out a 7-0 win over Lincoln-Way East last week.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Jack Lipinsky is a threat to get to the quarterback on any play.
East St. Louis player to watch: Natereace Strong is no ordinary freshman running back. He ran for 146 yards and a touchdown against Oswego.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 17, East St. Louis 13
Elk Grove (10-1) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: Lake Zurich put together a defensive masterpiece against Glenbard West. If the Bears are playing that well, there are few teams who will be able to beat them. Elk Grove has flown around the radar this season without any wins over ranked teams, but all it has been doing is winning. The Grenadiers are riding a nine-game winning streak into this game. They’ve scored 35-plus points in their two playoff games.
Elk Grove player to watch: Fernando Lozana scored three touchdowns in last week’s victory.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Mike Shield scored the lone touchdown in last week’s win over Glenbard West.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 21, Elk Grove 13
Hubbard (9-2) at No. 7 Lemont (11-0)
When:6 p.m. Saturday
The story: Hubbard is the lone Chicago Public League team to reach the quarterfinals in any class. The Greyhounds’ defense has come up big in the playoffs. It hasn’t allowed more than 13 points. Lemont will be a huge test for Hubbard. The Indians haven’t scored less than 35 points since September. Lemont is also one of the state’s premier defensive teams. It has allowed only two teams more than 14 points.
Hubbard player to watch: Quarterback Quincy Skanes ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Richards.
Lemont player to watch: Kyle Krull is one of the defensive stars for the Indians.
Prediction: Lemont 38, Hubbard 17
No. 8 Batavia (11-0) at Lakes (9-2)
When:5 p.m. Saturday
The story: Batavia again looked like one of the area’s best in last week’s win over Lake Forest. The Bulldogs’ run defense especially emerged in the win. That defense will have another challenge this week against Lakes and its bruising running back Direll Clark, who has been one of the biggest stars of the playoffs. He ran for 200-plus yards in last week’s win over Grant.
Batavia player to watch: Alec Lyons had a sack and two tackles for loss in last week’s win over Lake Forest.
Lakes player to watch: Andre Spencer had seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown last week.
Prediction: Batavia 38, Lakes 24
No. 9 Nazareth (10-1) at No. 15 Prairie Ridge (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: This game has a state championship feel. Either team could take this game and go onto the win the Class 6A title. Nazareth was expected to be good this season, but no one could have imaged it would be this good. The Roadrunners ran through the gauntlet of the East Suburban Catholic for the league title and has been nearly perfect in the playoffs. Prairie Ridge went through a similarly difficult schedule in the Fox Valley and has cruised in its two playoff games. Both teams have strong run games and can put up points.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Jordan Getzelman only needed five carries to run for 108 yards and two touchdowns last week.
strong>Nazareth player to watch: Aenas White caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in last week’s win over Cary-Grove.
Prediction: Nazareth 31, Prairie Ridge 21
No. 14 Marian Central (11-0) at No.10 Montini (8-3)
When:2 p.m. Saturday
The story: This is the quarterfinal matchup everyone was waiting for in Class 5A. Marian Central defeated Montini 21-20 when they met in Week 4. The question is whether Marian Central can repeat the feat now that Montini quarterback John Rhode has returned from injury. Rhode missed the first game. He’s thrown 28 touchdowns in his six games back. It’s not as if Marian Central pulled off a fluke win, though. No opponent has come within 15 points of the Hurricanes since their win over Montini.
Marian Central player to watch: Wide receiver Scott Stochal had eight receptions for 147 yards and one touchdown last week.
Montini player to watch: There may not be a better player in the state at any position than wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp.
Prediction: Montini 35, Marian Central 28
Rockford Boylan (11-0) at No. 11 Crystal Lake South (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: Like Nazareth-Prairie Ridge, this game could have been a state championship game. Boylan and Crystal Lake South have been two of the state’s premier teams all season. Boylan, which won last year’s Class 6A title, has won all of its games by 14 or more points and has held 10 of its opponents to less than 10 points. Crystal Lake South’s defense has been just as spectacular. The Gators have allowed only one opponent more than 14 points this season. This game could come down to inches.
Rockford Boylan player to watch: Defensive lineman Dean Lowry is a Northwestern recruit.
strong>Crystal Lake South player to watch: Reese Dziedzic rushed for 127 yards in last week’s win over Carmel.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 20, Boylan 14
No. 15 Joliet Catholic (9-2) at Washington (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: Joliet Catholic had its season ended unexpectedly by Peoria Richwoods in the Class 5A quarterfinals last season. The Hilltoppers are looking to take another step this season. Joliet Catholic defeated Washington 49-7 in the opening round last season. This is an improved Washington team, though. The Panthers have been especially impressive defensively this year.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Running back Ty Isaac added to his memorable season with five touchdowns last week.
strong>Washington player to watch: Dakota Bullard returned the opening kick 87 yards in last week’s win over Rich East.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 38, Washington 24
No. 18 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-3) at No. 19 Naperville Central (8-3)
When:7 p.m. Friday
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor and Naperville Central have been two of the most dominant teams through two rounds of the playoffs. Both teams have scored 40-plus points in both of their wins. Naperville Central’s defense has been more consistent that the Vikings’ defense this season. In Naperville Central’s three losses, it didn’t allow its opponent more than 21 points. In Homewood-Flossmoor’s three losses, it allowed 30-plus points in each game. Homewood-Flossmoor likely has the edge on offense between the two teams.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Tim Williams has continued to be one of the top quarterbacks in the area.
Naperville Central player to watch: Quarterback Ian Lewandowski ran for two touchdowns and threw for one in last week’s win.
Prediction: Naperville Central 38, Homewood-Flossmoor 28
No. 20 Kaneland (11-0) at Rochelle (8-3)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: The saying “a win is a win” is most apt for the playoffs. It doesn’t matter how you survive, as long you survive. Kaneland and Rochelle are well aware of this. Kaneland got by Belvidere with a 51-45 win the first round and edged St. Francis 31-28 in the second round. Rochelle defeated Urban Prep Charter 43-41 in the first round and Sycamore 21-16 in the second round. The two teams met in the regular season, and Kaneland defeated Rochelle 35-14 in Week 5.
Kaneland player to watch: Cornerback Jacob Razo intercepted his ninth pass of the season last week.
Rochelle player to watch: Quarterback Nick Moore had a 91-yard touchdown run in last week’s win.
Prediction: Kaneland 28, Rochelle 17
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
LINCONLNSHIRE, Ill. --Although Stevenson still has to wait until Saturday's games are final, the Patriots got the first half of what they were after on Friday night, holding off York 31-28 in the first round of the IHSA Class 8A playoffs in Lincolnshire.
Now the Pats will anxiously wait for another shot at three-time defending state champion Maine South, whom they would host next week if the Hawks get past Curie.
"The past three years, the road to the state championship has gone through Maine South," said Patriots head coach Bill McNamara. "We'd be happy to see them."
Maine South has never lost to Stevenson and has also ended the Patriots' season six-times since 2001. However, according to senior quarterback Matt Micucci, knowing a second-round date with the Hawks was on the horizon only added motivation for the Hawks to come out strong against the visiting Dukes.
Sure enough, Stevenson (8-2) forced a three-and-out on York's first possession of the game and quickly jumped on top 7-0 when senior running back Kevin Foley ran for a 20-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession. Stevenson then made it 14-0 just seven-seconds later when fellow senior Jon Way intercepted a Joe Lucca pass and ran 22-yards for the pick-six. Stevenson would collect three Lucca interceptions in total.
"Our defense played really well," said McNamara. "They [run] that spread package, they have really good athletes at wide out, they have a great quarterback and [we knew] they were going to put pressure on us. I'm very proud of the way our defense played tonight."
Lucca, who threw five-touchdowns in York's Week 9 victory over Hinsdale Central, started 0-5 with two interceptions on Friday. He did, however, get his team on the board with a 12-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, but a Micucci touchdown pass and field goal gave the Patriots a 24-7 lead at halftime.
In the third, York (6-4) would pull within 10-points as Lucca threw the first of three second-half touchdown passes to Jordan Preuss (10 catches, 98-yards, TD), but Stevenson answered once again with a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the ensuing possession.
Lucca and the Dukes would again battle back, scoring 14-unanswered points in the fourth quarter, but after recovering one onside-kick following its third touchdown, York was unable to do so after its fourth. Though the Dukes would hold Stevenson and receive one last chance at a heroic comeback, the Dukes went three-and-out and Micucci took a knee to end the game.
"The back breaker was scoring a touchdown and then watching them go 80 yards for a touchdown [of their own]," said York head coach Bill Lech. "We had just gained some momentum and then we gave the damn momentum back. We had just chipped away, but again, they're a great team. They're physical, they're strong and I'm proud of our kids. Our kids persevered."
Lucca would finish 24-51 through the air for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Despite also throwing a trio of picks, Lech wasn't sure if he'd ever been more proud of a player's performance.
"Joe's a tough kid. He's got one of the nastiest coaches in the state of Illinois," said a humbled Lech. "I am not nice to Joe, but Joe is very thick skinned and he knows that this is a game of short memories. I don't know that I've ever been more proud of a kid than I am of Joe Lucca. He's been beaten, he's been knocked out, he's suffered concussions, but he kept coming back."
On the other hand, McNamara was plenty proud of his senior offensive combo of Micucci and Foley, who combined for 322-yards of total offense and three touchdowns as well.
"Kevin is a really hard runner - he's our work horse," he said. "I give credit to our offensive line for opening up some holes and making things happen for him. And I thought Micucci played great tonight. He managed the game really well and took advantage of opportunities when he had them."
Stevenson is now set to host its second-round game as well, but with all due respect to Curie High School, the Patriots' student-section made it very clear as to who they want to see next week... the question is, could the chants of "We Want Maine South," be heard all the way in Park Ridge?
Players of the game: Stevenson RB. Kevin Foley had 30 had carries for 150 yards and a TD. York QB Joe Lucca was 24-of--51 for 259-yards with 3 TDs, 3 INTs and 14-carries for 51 yards and a TD.
Stat of the game: Lucca started 0-for-5 with a pair of INTs and Stevenson scored 14-points in a span of :20 seconds in the first quarter.
It was over when: Lucca's 51st pass attempt fell incomplete on fourth down with 15 seconds left to play.
Quote of the night: "Now it's like Lake Zurich week all over again. Maybe it's even more intense because we've never beaten Maine South. I really hope this is the year we're going to do it." - Stevenson Sr. RB Kevin Foley on possibly getting the chance to play Maine South next weekend.
LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. – The heroes and location had changed from a year ago, but the result was just the same.
For the second consecutive season, Stevenson drove the field in the final minutes to knock off conference rival Lake Zurich. On Thursday, the Patriots went 98 yards on their game-winning drive, and Kevin Foley scored from 3 yards out with 23 seconds remaining to lift his team to a 24-17 win over visiting No. 9 Lake Zurich.
Last season, the Patriots went 80 yards and scored with six seconds left to pull off 24-23 win at Lake Zurich.
“It’s last year all over again,” Lake Zurich senior Jon Way said. “This time it’s our home field, so we get to celebrate with our fans, which is nice. Yeah, it’s just like déjà vu. We put up points, and we come back for that last touchdown.”
The North Suburban Lake match up was a rollercoaster most of the way through.
After a scoreless first quarter, Stevenson (5-2, 3-1) jumped on Lake Zurich (5-2, 4-1) with three consecutive scores to go up 17-0 in the second quarter. Patriots quarterback Matt Micucci connected with Anthony Bozin for a 55-yard touchdown and then Way for a 10-yard score. Micucci added a 41-yard field goal.
Micucci had one of his finest days as Stevenson’s quarterback. He went 18-for-23 passing for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He was the backup last season.
Lake Zurich quarterback Zach Till scored the first touchdown on a 22-yard run, and Mike Shield plunged in for a 1-yard score to tie the game.
From there, the drama only increased.
Following another Lake Zurich stop, the Bears moved the ball again with ease on Stevenson. They got all the way down to its 1-yard line and faced a fourth and goal. Till attempted to carry the ball in over the left corner, but Stevenson linebacker Carl Miller stepped up and halted him from reaching the goal line.
It was Stevenson’s third goal-line stop of the season.
“Our defense has always stepped it up,” Micucci said. “Those guys make big plays at big times.”
Stevenson’s defense was tested twice more. On Lake Zurich’s next drive, it set up a 33-yard field goal attempt. Miller came through again and blocked the field goal off his helmet. Finally after Stevenson’s last score, Dominykas Bickus intercepted Till to seal the win.
“It was two playoff-caliber football teams just battling it out, slugging, punching,” Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. “It was like 15-round heavyweight boxing match. We had enough in the tank in the end.”
Lake Zurich was left with an empty feeling again.
“We got to play four quarters of football,” Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. “I don’t think we’ve done that as a football team. Here we are in Week 7, and we still haven’t played four quarters. We need to do something coaching-wise, player-wise to do that or it’s going to be tough for us.”
Till rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown. He was 8-of-18 passing for 95 yards.
Here's a look at the seventh week of action in ESPNChicago.com's top 20.
Evanston (4-2) at No. 1 Maine South (6-0)
When:Thursday at 7 p.m.
The story: Maine South’s offense has lived up to its billing this season. The Hawks have put up 40 or more points in five games. Quarterback Matt Alviti and running back Paul Preston are an elite 1-2 punch. Evanston has won four games, but has struggled against top-tier teams. The Wildkits’ losses were to Glenbrook South and Loyola.
Evanston player to watch: Running back Ray Bahr has had some big days this season. He scored three times in the first half against Maine East.
Maine South player to watch: Quarterback Matt Alviti is coming off a five-touchdown game.
Prediction: Maine South 49, Evanston 10
No. 2 Glenbard West (6-0) at Addison Trail (6-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Both Addison Trail and Glenbard West enter their Week 7 matchup undefeated. Glenbard West has proven itself. Addison Trail will look to accomplish that this week. The Blazers have outscored their opponents 172-13, but none of their six previous foes currently has a winning record. A win over Glenbard West -- or even a close game -- would build credibility. Glenbard West quarterback Justice Odom is expected to miss this week after suffering a knee injury last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Running back Kendall Johnson is dangerous rushing or receiving the ball.
Addison Trail player to watch: Defensive back Vince Beltrano had two interceptions in last week’s win.
Prediction: Glenbard West 27, Addison Trail 10
No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (6-0) at Lincoln-Way Central (1-5)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East survived the rough patch of its scheduled, pulling out wins over Bolingbrook, Homewood-Flossmoor and Sandburg. The Griffins should have an easy time closing out the regular season undefeated. Their next three opponents have won a combined three games.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Brian Bayer made a difference last week. He came through on the defensive line and as a short-yardage back.
Lincoln-Way Central player to watch: Brett Ditchman rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Joliet West last week.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 49, Lincoln-Way Central 7
No. 4 Loyola (6-0) at Fenwick (3-3)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Loyola took a major step toward winning another Catholic League title with last week’s win over Mount Carmel. The Ramblers’ schedule doesn’t get much easier from here on out. After Fenwick, which does have its strengths, they face Brother Rice and St. Rita. Fenwick has won its last two games. In its other matchup against a Catholic League Blue opponent, Fenwick lost 42-0 to St. Rita.
Loyola player to watch: Connor Person is another one of Loyola’s top receivers. He had a 36-yard touchdown against Mount Carmel.
Fenwick player to watch: Jack Stibitch rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Gordon Tech.
Prediction: Loyola 42, Fenwick 7
No. 5 St. Rita (5-1) at Bishop McNamara (5-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: St. Rita may have the state’s toughest schedule the next three weeks. Bishop McNamara leads the Catholic League White. Its only loss this season was to Brother Rice. After Bishop McNamara, St. Rita closes out the regular season with Mount Carmel and Loyola. The Mustangs haven’t allowed more than 17 points to an in-state opponent.
St. Rita player to watch: Zach Soria led the Mustangs’ rushing attack in last week’s win over Hales.
Bishop McNamara player to watch: Quarterback Channing Dolliger has come through with some key throws this season.
Prediction: St. Rita 31, Bishop McNamara 13
No. 6 Mount Carmel (5-1) at St. Laurence (2-4)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Mount Carmel will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season. The Caravan’s offense was contained in last week’s 12-7 loss to Loyola. Quarterback Don Butkus and company will look to get it going again against St. Laurence, which lost 49-31 to Providence earlier in the season.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Brandon Greer is a major player on both sides of the ball.
St. Laurence player to watch: Andrew Javorka caught two touchdown passes in last week’s loss to Bishop McNamara.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 49, St. Laurence 10
Proviso East (1-5) at No. 7 Downers Grove South (6-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Downers Grove South’s last true test of the regular season may be Addison Trail in Week 9. Until then, the Mustangs should have no trouble the next few weeks. Downers Grove South has outscored its opponents 234-34 this season. Proviso East lost to Addison Trail 35-0 last week.
Proviso East player to watch: Quarterback Malcolm Hilliard has produced for the Pirates this season.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Wide receiver Kaylon Miler is one of the Mustangs’ many offensive stars.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 49, Proviso East 7
No. 8 Prairie Ridge (6-0) at No. 19 Jacobs (6-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: This could be the game of the week or another Prairie Ridge rout. On paper, Jacobs should give Prairie Ridge a game, but no one has been able to do that so far. Even last week, the Wolves scored 41 points on a tough Crystal Lake South defense. Jacobs has been able to score on everyone this season. The Golden Eagles are averaging 38 points a game.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Collin Corcoran had three tackles for a loss in last week’s win over Crystal Lake South.
Jacobs player to watch: Caz Zyks not only has a cool name, but he leads Jacobs’ rushing attack.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 35, Jacobs 27
No. 9 Lake Zurich (5-1) at Stevenson (4-2)
When:Thursday at 7 p.m.
The story: These two teams created one of the best games of last season. Stevenson scored in the final seconds to pull out a 24-23 upset of Lake Zurich. Lake Zurich will be favored again this season. The Bears have been dominant on the both sides of the ball since losing to Cary-Grove in Week 2. Stevenson suffered its second loss of the season last week. It lost to Lake Forest 10-7. The Patriots’ offense will need to step up this week.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Mike Shield has been key on both sides of the ball for the Bears.
Stevenson player to watch: Quarterback/kicker Matt Micucci has scored points in a variety of ways this season.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 24, Stevenson 20
No. 10 Bolingbrook (5-1) at Sandburg (5-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East likely has the conference crown wrapped up now, but second place still is available. Bolingbrook and Sandburg each enter this game with one conference loss. Both teams lost to Lincoln-Way East. Bolingbrook will be favored in this one. The Raiders were up 14-0 against Lincoln-Way East before surrendering 20 consecutive points. Sandburg lost 31-7 to Lincoln-Way East.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey is a threat to run for a touchdown on every snap.
Sandburg player to watch: Quarterback Anthony Adams completed 4-of-6 passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns last week.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 35, Sandburg 13
No. 11 Crete-Monee (6-0) at Rich Central (3-3)
When:Friday at 6 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee had a battle on its hands for a bit in last week’s win over Bloom. Ultimately, it won 32-7. The Warriors should have an easier time this week. Rich Central hasn’t beat a team with a winning record this season.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Marcus Terrell has been one of the area’s premier quarterbacks this season.
Rich Central player to watch: Wide receiver Brandon Fowler caught six passes for 103 yards last week.
Prediction: Crete-Monee 49, Rich Central 10
St. Viator (1-5) at No. 12 Carmel (4-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Carmel is back in the East Suburban Catholic race with Joliet Catholic’s loss. The Corsairs do still have to face Marist, but otherwise shouldn’t be tested. St. Viator has allowed 50-plus points in four games this season. Carmel’s high-powered offense will be another challenge for it.
St. Viator player to watch: Quarterback Mickey Macius has the potential to be one of the area’s best next season.
Carmel player to watch: Quarterback Brian Brennan was impressive running and throwing the ball last week.
Prediction: Carmel 49, St. Viator 17
Hillcrest (0-6) at No. 13 Lemont (6-0)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Lemont’s defense continues to be one of the best in the state. The Indians shut out their fourth opponent last week. They’ve allowed 26 points in six games. They should have a good shot at another shutout this week. Hillcrest is winless and is averaging just over 10 points a game.
Hillcrest player to watch: Devonte Brewer will look to give the Hawks an offensive spark.
Lemont player to watch: Mike Anzalone rushed for 183 yards on 24 carries in last week’s win.
Prediction: Lemont 35, Hillcrest 0
Elgin (1-5) at No. 14 Batavia (6-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Batavia should win the Upstate Eight River after defeating Geneva last week. The Bulldogs’ remaining games shouldn’t be too difficult. This week’s opponent Elgin has lost its last five games. Batavia quarterback Noel Gaspari’s shoulder injury wasn’t as bad as it appeared last week. He’s expected to play this week.
Elgin player to watch: Running back/defensive back Dennis Moore has scored nearly every way possible this season.
Batavia player to watch: Dom Guzaldo came through last week with 92 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Prediction: Batavia 45, Elgin 10
Notre Dame (3-3) at No. 15 Nazareth (5-1)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Nazareth shocked the area with a win over Joliet Catholic last week. The Roadrunners have put themselves in position to make a run at the conference title. Their toughest games are likely behind them. Notre Dame has been good and bad this season. The Dons lost their first three games, but have won their last three.
Notre Dame player to watch: Nick Pieruccini ran for a touchdown and threw for one in last week’s 14-0 win over Benet.
Nazareth player to watch: Joshua Moore rushed for 176 yards and one touchdown on 37 carries in last week’s win.
Prediction: Nazareth 31, Notre Dame 14
Marian Catholic (3-3) at No. 16 Joliet Catholic (5-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Joliet Catholic’s offense looked invincible until last week’s loss to Nazareth. With the loss, the Hilltoppers dropped into a four-way tie for first place in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Their offense will certainly be motivated to pick it back up this week against Marian Catholic. The Spartans lost to Marist 52-27 last week.
Marian Catholic player to watch: Running back Jeruel Taylor has more than 1,000 yards on the season.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Running back Ty Isaac is in the mix for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, Marian Catholic 31
Streamwood (5-1) at No. 17 Geneva (5-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva and Streamwood suffered their first losses of the season last week. Geneva lost to Batavia, and Streamwood fell to St. Charles East. Geneva had its chances against Batavia, but its defense couldn’t contain the Bulldogs in the end. Streamwood’s defense had its own troubles in its 49-34 loss. St. Charles East had been winless.
Streamwood player to watch: Dalton Lundee threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns last week.
Geneva player to watch: Parker Woodworth rushed for more 100-plus yards again in last week’s loss.
Prediction: Geneva 42, Streamwood 20
No. 18 Antioch (6-0) at Round Lake (1-5)
When:Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Antioch is getting closer and closer to an undefeated regular season. The Sequoits’ only challenge is likely next week’s opponent Grant and should be able to take care of business the other two weeks. They were sharp in last week’s victory over Lakes. Round Lake has been out-scored 206-86 this season.
Antioch player to watch: Danny Arden was unstoppable last week. He rushed for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
Round Lake player to watch: Daniel Vega has been one of the team’s main offensive weapons.
Prediction: Antioch 42, Round Lake 7
Naperville Central (4-2) at No. 20 Wheaton North (5-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: The DuPage Valley race is heating up. Wheaton North took sole possession of first place with Glenbard North’s loss to Naperville Central last week. Wheaton North is 4-0 in conference, but four teams trail by just one game. Naperville Central pulled off a major upset last week and will be looking to carry that momentum into this week. Its defense has been its strength this season. Wheaton North has been averaging 32.7 points a game.
Naperville Central player to watch: Senior linebacker John Dulleck is one of the defense’s key pieces.
Wheaton North player to watch: Quarterback John Peltz has had the Falcons’ offense rolling this season.
Prediction: Wheaton North 24, Naperville Central 17
Season ahead: Stevenson took a hit in graduation. The Patriots lost their star quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebackers and a few others.
For some programs, losing that many players would mean a rebuilding season. Not at Stevenson. Seeing a number of their top players graduate is nothing new for the Patriots. They’ve been through it before, and they’ve prevailed, qualifying for the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons.
“We’re proud of our accomplishments,” Stevenson coach William McNamara said. “It’s tough to do that year in and year out. We have many goals [this season.] This year we’re going to have to take it game by game. The schedule is really difficult.”
Star power: Matt Micucci is one of the area’s elite kickers, making all 47 of his extra points last season, and he was 7 of 8 in field goals. While Stevenson expects him to keep up his performance in the kicking game, he’ll also be looked to lead the offense as the team’s starting quarterback. “Matt has a lot of physical attributes,” McNamara said. “He can throw the ball well. He moves the ball well. He can run the ball if needed. He’s worked very hard in the offseason.”
Breakout performer: Troy Radtke was Stevenson’s No. 3 receiver last year and also saw the field as a defensive back. He’s been bumped up to the No. 1 receiver this season and will likely be the Patriots’ only two-way player. He’s athletic and has size at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. He could make an impact on both side of the ball. “This year should be a big year for him,” McNamara said.
Defensive difference-maker: Dominik Bickus shifts over to the middle linebacker spot this season to fill in for last season's defensive leader Brion Wood, who graduated. Bickus is expected to have a similar impact. “He’s looking great,” McNamara said. “He’s in great shape, making all the calls. He was one of the junior leaders and now is going to be a senior.”
Newcomer to watch: Sophomore Matt Morrissey, the son of former Chicago Bear Jim Morrissey, has a chance to be a special one. He’ll see time this season at free safety. His older brother, Mike, played at Stevenson and Boston College. “He’s just a good-looking, athletic kid,” McNamara said. “He’s young, but he’s very athletic.”
Schedule breakdown: Stevenson’s schedule will be difficult. The Patriots open with back-to-back tough games in Lyons and Glenbrook South. The North Suburban Lake should be competitive again as well. Lake Zurich is the favorite, but Lake Forest, Libertyville and Warren have talent back, too.
Key game: Oct. 6 vs. Lake Zurich -- Stevenson defeated Lake Zurich 24-23 in one of the best games of the 2010 season. This year’s game could be another in-state classic.
What they’re saying: “That pain losing to the state champs pushes you in the offseason,” McNamara said. “Every kid remembers that feeling. That motivated them in the weight room and offseason training.”
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
The Hawks possessed the state’s best offensive weapon in 2008 (quarterback Charlie Goro) and 2009 (running back Matt Perez) and had plenty of talent around them to roll through their competition. Maine South went undefeated both years and won the state title in 2008 with a 41-21 win over Hinsdale Central and in 2009 with a 41-17 win over Marist.
In 2010, there’s finally hope for everyone else. While Maine South is still a state contender, the Hawks aren’t the same dominating team they were the past two seasons.
So who steps into the Hawks’ place? It’s up in the air. There are nearly a dozen teams capable of going all the way.
Here’s a deeper look at Class 8A.
Best opening round game
No. 9 Naperville North at No. 8 Marist: Both teams experienced similar seasons. They come from elite conferences. Both finished third behind highly-ranked teams. Both lost two close games. For Naperville North, it lost by seven points each to Glenbard North and Wheaton North and ended up third in the DuPage Valley. For Marist, it lost to Carmel and Joliet Catholic by a combined 11 points to take third in the East Suburban Catholic.
Top 10 Class 8A teams
1. Loyola (8-1): Earned a share of the Catholic League title with upset of St. Rita
2. Glenbard North (8-1): Only loss to Wheaton Warrenville South
3. Stevenson (9-0): Finished regular season undefeated for second consecutive season
4. Lyons (8-1): Earned a lot of respect with Week 9 win over Glenbard West
5. Mount Carmel (7-2): Caravan roll into 25th consecutive playoff appearance
6. York (8-1): Defeated Lyons during the regular season
7. Maine South (7-2): Has won seven straight since rough start
8. Marist (6-3): Experienced a few tough breaks this season
9. Naperville North (6-3): One of the best defensive teams in the area
10. Downers Grove South (7-2): Playing well after losing first two games of the season
Top 5 players to watch
1. Nick Lifka, SR, LB, Naperville North:A Boston College recruit, he may be the state’s best defensive player. He had 18 tackles against Glenbard North this season.
2. Malcolm Weaver, JR, QB, Loyola: He has flourished in his first year starting for the Ramblers, throwing for almost 30 touchdowns.
3. Chris Sujka, SR, QB, Mount Carmel: He operates the Caravan’s option to perfection, breaking off runs of 50-plus yards nearly every game.
4. Stephen Salata, SR, WR, Stevenson: He has been one of the area’s top receivers this season with 100 yards receiving in almost every game.
5. Brian Bobek, SR, OL, Fremd: At 6 foot 3 and 275 pounds, he is considered one of the nation’s top offensive linemen and is committed to Ohio State.
Fremd (5-4): After being highly ranked to start the season, the Vikings dropped four of their first five games. With their backs against the wall, Fremd won its last four games, including a 26-12 victory over Barrington, and reached the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season. No one wants to face them right now.
Road for defending champions
Maine South began the season No. 1 in ESPNChicago.com’s rankings. Young and inexperienced, the Hawks probably didn’t deserve that ranking. There was an assumption that because they had won 28 consecutive games and back-to-back state titles that they would continue winning this season. They lost their first two games -- including a lopsided one to Wheaton Warrenville South -- and fell out of the rankings. Since then, Maine South has gained that needed experience and turned itself into a quality team. Led by sophomore quarterback Matt Alviti, the Hawks have won their last seven games all by 21 points or more and are heading into the playoffs with some momentum. They have the highest scoring average of all 8A teams with 40.4 points a game. Being a No. 4 seed, the road isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.
The Class 8A playoffs would like to welcome back Barrington, Bartlett, Brother Rice, Dunbar, Evanston, Homewood-Flossmoor, Neuqua Valley, Vocational, Whitney Young and York. All 10 teams missed the playoffs last season. Homewood-Flossmoor made the biggest turnaround from last year. After a 1-8 season in 2009, the Vikings were 7-2 this year.
State championship prediction: Loyola defeats Mount Carmel
The story:Wheaton Warrenville South looks to put the finishing touches on its second consecutive unbeaten regular season. The Tigers have been perfect in the regular season three of the past four years. They will be the favorite to win the Class 7A state championship when the playoff pairings are released on Saturday night.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 49, West Aurora 7
No. 14 Loyola (7-1) at No. 2 St. Rita (8-0) on Friday
The story:The Catholic League championship will be decided with this game. If St. Rita wins, it takes full possession. If Loyola wins, the Ramblers, St. Rita and Mount Carmel could all finish the conference season with one loss. Mount Carmel is the lone team to defeat Loyola this season. The Ramblers are led by junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver. St. Rita has relied on running back Jahwon Akui. ESPN 1000 will be in attendance.
Loyola player to watch: Quarterback Malcolm Weaver receives a lot of the press, but his receivers also make him look good. E.J. Webb has been his top target.
St. Rita player to watch: Mustangs linebacker Matt Mullen came up with a couple huge tackles last week. St. Rita will look for more of the same against a talented Loyola offense.
Quote:Loyola coach John Holecek -- “Rita’s O-line and running back are awesome. They’re fast and have a physical defense. We must score on all opportunities to keep up and must have no errors in the passing game. Running back Spencer Perry has to have a game if they decide to cover everything. We need to try and limit the big plays and withstand their muscle and speed. … Hope for divine intervention.”
Prediction: St. Rita 28, Loyola 27
Lyons (7-1) at No. 3 Glenbard West (8-0) on Saturday
The story:Lyons stands in the way of Glenbard West’s third consecutive unbeaten regular season. The Lions have been in a handful of close ones this season. Four of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Their lone defeat was to York. The Hilltoppers have been dominant on both sides of the ball all season. They’ve out-scored opponents 288-62. They defeated York 27-10 in Week 7.
Lyons player to watch:Chris Klotz caught a touchdown pass and blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone in the Lions’ win over Leyden last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Beau Warden has been one of the best linebackers in the state this season. He has 91 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Quotes:Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet -- “LT is a well-balanced offense even though they run a four- and five-receiver set. To be successful, we need to be able to run the ball and keep the chains moving.”
Prediction:Glenbard West 31, Lyons 17
No. 4 Carmel (8-0) at Elder (Ohio) (2-5) on Saturday
The story: Carmel closes out its season by traveling to Ohio on Friday. Elder has had a rocky season, going 2-5. The Panthers are coming off a bye week and have had time to prepare for Carmel’s arrival.
Prediction: Carmel 42, Elder 20
Brooks (3-5) at No. 5 Simeon (8-0) on Thursday
The story: Simeon has rolled through the Public League, and this city playoff opener shouldn’t be different. The Wolverines’ focus will be on the state playoffs as they try to become the first Public League team to win a state title.
Prediction: Simeon 56, Brooks 7
No. 6 Joliet Catholic (7-1) at Benet (5-3) on Thursday
The story:In a rare Thursday East Suburban Catholic game, Joliet Catholic travels to play an inconsistent Benet team. The Redwings likely clinched themselves a playoff spot with last week’s 10-7 win over St. Viator. Joliet Catholic’s offense has been unstoppable lately. The Hilltoppers have scored 48 or more points in their last four games.
Prediction:Joliet Catholic 49, Benet 17
McHenry (1-7) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (8-0) on Friday
The story: Crystal Lake South clinched the Fox Valley Valley title last week. The Gators have won with a balanced offense and defense. They’ve out-scored their opponents 253-86.
Prediction:Crystal Lake South 42, McHenry 6
Naperville Central (4-4) at No. 8 Glenbard North (7-1) on Friday
The story:Naperville Central needs to win this game to have a shot at the playoffs. Glenbard North is looking to bounce back from its 49-6 loss to Wheaton Warrenville South last week.
Prediction:Glenbard North 23, Naperville Central 17
No. 9 Lincoln-Way East (7-1) at Joliet Central (0-8) on Saturday
The story:Lincoln-Way East has been playing well heading into the playoffs. The Griffins have won their past six games since losing to Wheaton North.
Prediction:Lincoln-Way East 56, Joliet Central 7
No. 10 Stevenson (8-0) at Antioch (7-1) on Friday
The story: Stevenson is the top team in the North Suburban Lake, and Antioch is in second place behind Vernon Hills in the North Suburban Prairie. Prairie teams haven’t fared well against Lake teams this season.
Prediction: Stevenson 35, Antioch 14
No. 11 Lake Zurich (7-1) at Lake Forest (6-2) on Friday
The story: Lake Forest is coming off a 21-0 win over previously-unbeaten Vernon Hills. It was the first time Vernon Hills had allowed a point this season. Lake Forest’s two losses came to conference foes Stevenson and Warren. Lake Zurich’s defense has been among the best in the state this season. The Bears have allowed 10 or less points six times this year.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 24, Lake Forest 10
No. 12 Wheaton North (6-2) at Glenbard East (3-5) on Friday
The story:Wheaton North is hoping that this won’t be another nail-biter. The Falcons’ last two wins came down to the final minutes. They defeated Naperville Central 23-21 two weeks ago and Naperville North 14-7 last week.
Prediction:Wheaton North 41, Glenbard East 13
Providence (2-6) at No. 13 Mount Carmel (6-2) on Friday
The story:The season hasn’t gone according to plan for Providence, which was the 6A state runner-up last season. The Celtics began the year 0-4 and never could bounce back. If they could upset Mount Carmel, that might help their offseason. The Caravan have scored 40-plus points in five games this season.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Providence 20
No. 15 Plainfield South (8-0) at Plainfield North (6-2) on Friday
The story:This has the potential to be a fun one. Plainfield South has one of the state’s premier offenses. The Cougars have scored 397 points this season. They haven’t scored less than 41 points in a game. Plainfield North has scored 33 or more points six times this year and possesses running back Kapri Bibbs, who has run for 2,000-plus yard this season. The game will decide the Southwest Prairie championship.
Plainfield South player to watch:Running back Dondre Adams is the Cougars’ offensive threat.
Plainfield North player to watch:Bibbs is in the running for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He has 2,166 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns this season.
Quotes: Plainfield North coach Tim Kane -- “They have an explosive offense with weapons at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. Defensively, we will need to do all we can to eliminate big plays -- long runs and the deep pass. Offensively, obviously, we will need to get the ball in Kapri Bibbs' hands often. However, we will make some adjustments with formations and plays to maybe get it to him in different ways than we had previously as I am sure South has us very well scouted.”
Plainfield South coach Greg Banner -- “Gonna be great a high school football atmosphere, two strong teams battling for either a share of the conference title or the outright title. The biggest two keys are who makes the least mistakes, and who can stop the other from making big plays on offense. North has a strong rushing attack led by Bibbs. They have a lot of guys playing both sides of the ball, and they are talented. Should be a really exciting game.”
Prediction:Plainfield South 63, Plainfield North 54
Buffalo Grove (4-4) at No. 16 Prospect (7-1) on Friday
The story: Prospect has been one of the year’s bigger surprises. The Knights lost their season-opener and now have won seven straight, including an overtime win over Elk Grove last week. Buffalo Grove needs to win this game to be playoff eligible.
Prediction: Prospect 35, Buffalo Grove 20
No. 17 Schaumburg (6-2) at Hoffman Estates (1-7) on Friday
The story:Barrington, Fremd and Schaumburg all enter the final week with one Mid-Suburban West loss. Schaumburg’s only MSL West loss was to Barrington.
Prediction:Schaumburg 41, Hoffman Estates 10
Clark (4-4) at No. 18 Morgan Park (7-1) on Friday
The story:Morgan Park opens the Public League playoffs with Clark. The Mustangs are coming off a narrow win over previously-unbeaten Hubbard. Morgan Park quarterback Dae’Shaun Hurley was this week’s ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
Prediction: Morgan Park 47, Clark 6
No. 19 Marmion (8-0) at Montini (6-2) on Friday
The story:This should be one of the better games in Week 9. Marmion started off the year with a couple of narrow wins and has since been crushing opponents. Montini opened the season with back-to-back losses to Joliet Catholic and Loyola and has been on a roll ever since. The Broncos have allowed six points in their past four games. The Suburban Christian Blue championship will be decided here.
Marmion player to watch:T.J. Lally ran for 209 yards on just seven carries last week.
Montini player to watch:Jordan Westerkamp has been one of the state’s top wide receivers this year. He has 52 catches for 967 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Quote: Montini coach Chris Andriano -- “The key to this week’s game is for our defense to shut down their dangerous running attack. If they are able to sustain long drives and win the time of possession, we will be in trouble. Our defense will need to get off the field on 3rd down to give our offense more possessions. Offensively, we will need to be able to run the ball to keep their defense honest. Our QB will need to continue to make good decisions and distribute the ball to all of our receivers.”
Prediction:Montini 31, Marmion 24
No. 20 Lemont (8-0) at Hillcrest (0-8) on Friday
The story: The Indians haven’t lost more than three games in a season since 2003. That won’t change this season.
Prediction:Lemont 31, Hillcrest 13
LAKE ZURICH, Ill. – Stevenson’s Joe Cassata had been so sure before he was handed the ball from the 2-yard line with six seconds remaining in Friday’s game that he was going get into the end zone for the game-winner.
As the play unfolded, his confidence left him.
Cassata was given the ball. He ran as hard as he could. The defense met him quickly and knocked him down. As he hit the ground, he feared he hadn’t made it.
Cassata scored with three seconds left, and Matthew Micucci added the extra point to lift No. 18 Stevenson to a 24-23 upset win over No. 4 Lake Zurich in the clash of North Suburban Lake unbeatens.
Before Cassata could deliver on the goal line, Stevenson’s offense had to march down the field beginning from its 20-yard line with 2:14 remaining. The Patriots had been held scoreless their previous four possession of the half, so the odds were against them.
It began on the wrong note with quarterback Kevin Earl throwing an incompletion. On the next play, Earl scrambled for nine yards, and the offense got going. All together, it took the Patriots 12 plays – five runs, seven passes – to pull off the dramatic comeback.
The drive’s highlights included a leaping 16-yard grab by Stephen Salata from Earl, a 25-yard throw to Jaffar Mascoll, a 14-yard pass to Salata that put Stevenson on the 4. From there, Cassata ran for two yards, another two and Stevenson won.
Earl was at a loss for words afterward.
“I don’t know,” said Earl, who was 14 of 25 for 207 yards. “It was all or nothing, man. We just put all of our marbles in one bag. I don’t know. We just had to do it for one more drive. That’s all it took was one more drive. I just gave everything I had. Our O-line did everything they could, and we came out on top.
“I wasn’t necessarily throwing the ball all that hot today. [The receivers] made up for it. All my throws were underthrown and weren’t in the appropriate spots, but they stepped up and made huge plays in big times.”
Stevenson’s late touchdown spoiled Lake Zurich’s previous comeback effort. The Bears (4-1) trailed 17-7 in the fourth quarter when they began to rally. It started with an interception Mike Shield in Stevenson’s territory, which led to a touchdown pass by Zach Till with 11:54 left. After holding Stevenson again, Lake Zurich drove 50 yards and Till snuck in from one-yard out for a touchdown. The Bears missed the extra point and took a 20-17 lead.
“I give a lot of credit to Lake Zurich,” Stevenson coach William McNamara said. “They had one heck of a second half, and they played a great game. They were stymying us. We just started hitting in the end there. I’m really proud of our kids.”
Cassata finished with 61 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Lake Zurich running back Jacob Brinlee had 98 yards and one touchdown.