It's down to the field of 64 in the IHSA football playoffs, but this week's High School Lites will have more of a "Sweet 16" feel.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago will cover 16 games on Saturday as teams fight to advance further down the road to a potential state championship. Each class currently contains eight teams with dreams of playing in Champaigns Memorial Stadium. Our cameras will bring you action from class 8A all the way to 3A-- from Chicago's north shore all the way to Coal City and Wilmington. In 8A, who wins the Upstate Eight rematch between Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley? Or the 5A rematch between Marian Central Catholic and Montini? Lyons and Downers Grove North have gone from Cinderellas to legitimate contenders. How far can they go? And could Chicago's Brooks High School represent the Public League in a big way with a trip to the 4A semifinals?
Here is a snapshot of every game High School Lites will profile on Saturday night's 10:30 p.m. show. The rankings reflect the class seeds in the IHSA playoffs.
No. 3 Palatine (10-1) at No. 2 Loyola (10-1), 12:00 p.m.
It's going to be up to the defenses of both the Pirates and Ramblers to step up. For Palatine, it means finding ways to contain quarterback Peter Pujals and running back Julius Holley. Both contributed with big games last week in a 31-7 victory over Bartlett. For Palatine, quarterback Ethan Olles and running back Cam Kuksa form a potent duo. Both teams feasted on opponents turnovers last week. The turnover battle could be key here.
No. 4 Glenbard North (10-1) at No. 1 Maine South (11-0), 1:00 p.m.
This will no doubt be Maine South's toughest test to date. Their opponents have a combined 53-54 record and Glenbard North represents the first team the Hawks have played with more than eight wins. The key players to watch will be Northwestern-bound QB Matt Alviti on Maine South. But South's defense may have a little more work cut out. Stopping elite Panther running back Justin Jackson needs to be at the top of their to-do list.
No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (10-1) at No. 1 Neuqua Valley (11-0), 6:00 p.m.
It's a matchup that everybody --at least in Aurora and Naperville-- have been waiting for in the playoffs. The Wildcats survived two overtimes to stun the Warriors 35-34 at North Central College. Both schools won impressively in the first and second rounds-- and they each feature running backs that are sure to cause fits for the opposing defenses. Neuqua's Joey Rhattigan and Waubonsie's Austin Guido will get a lot of looks Saturday night.
No. 3 Mount Carmel (10-1) at No. 15 Lyons (7-4), 7:00 p.m.
Northwestern-bound Matthew Harris is back and that could make things real interesting for Mount Carmel. Harris, who missed regular season time due to a chest injury, is one of the top two-way players in the area. He has definitely changed the complexion of the Lions' attack, but will it be enough to stop the Caravan? Don Butkus, Matt Domer and Draco Smith have dominated on offense. And coach Frank Lenti's defensive corps could be one of the best in Illinois.
No. 5 Wheaton North (10-1) at No. 1 Glenbard West (11-0), 1:00 p.m.
Wide receiverbackup quarterback Clayton Thorson left last week's game with a reported broken collarbone. This will put more pressure on quarterback John Peltz and running back Patrick Sharp to step up. It will be a challenge against a Hilltopper defensive unit that has kept seven opponents to a touchdown or less on the season. Their balanced offense features Devante Toney, Nathan Marcus, Henry Haeffner and Scott Andrews.
No. 2 Boylan Catholic (11-0) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (9-2), 1:00 p.m.
This 7A tilt represents an intriguing rematch of last year's semifinal in Rockford, won by the Titans 16-10. They went on to win state and are looking to do the same in 2012. Slotback Danny Appino, nephew of former Boylan coach Dan Appino, is a threat out of the backfield. The Bears, traditionally tough on defense, are giving up a scant five points per game. Running back Connor Schrader has helped put a lot of points on the board.
No. 2 Benet (10-1) at No. 8 Downers Grove North (7-4), 1:00 p.m.
Just call this the "Cinderella Bowl." Both programs have experienced quite a renaissance in 2012. Benet's story might be a little more of a feat, considering this is their first winning season since 2006. Sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi and an opportunistic defense lead the Redwings. DGN, one of three teams still alive from the West Suburban Silver, has a defense that kept good offensive teams in Batavia and Thornton in check.
No. 2 Edwardsville (10-1) at No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (11-0), 6:00 p.m.
Edwardsville shredded five years of mediocrity with an impressive 10-1 campaign that includes last week's win over East St. Louis, the lone team that beat the Tigers in the regular season. The Griffins will have to keep tabs on lightning-quick running back Bennett Gray, a proven track star. LWE has plenty of defensive accolades and a dynamic offense with NIU-bound Tom Fuessel at quarterback and Nick Colangelo out of the backfield.
No. 4 Crystal Lake Central (9-2) at No. 1 Cary-Grove (11-0), 1:00 p.m.
The mission for the 9-2 Tigers is simple: find a way to stop --or mildly contain-- Cary-Grove's Kyle Norberg. The senior fullback piled up another 205 yards and three scores in last week's win over St. Patrick. The Trojans have two state berths since 2004 (won in 2009). The CLC program has rebounded very nicely over the last six years. Running back Matt MacAlpine has returned after a left leg injury sidelined him early this season.
No. 2 Ottawa (11-0) at No. 1 Crete-Monee (11-0), 6:00 p.m.
For the host Warriors to win, they will have to cut down on turnovers. Against Richwoods last week, they gave the ball away seven times but came back to secure a 35-32 victory. C-M will look for another strong game from their do-everything superstar Laquon Treadwell. Ottawa has an exceptional talent of their own in Illinois-bound slotback Miguel Hermosillo. Both schools are gunning for their first-ever 12-win seasons.
No. 3 Lemont (10-1) at No. 1 Oak Forest (10-1), 7:00 p.m.
It'll be back-to-back South Suburban Conference playoff games for Lemont, and this time it's a rematch from a September 21st game against the divisional foe Bengals. The Indians, who beat Oak Forest 17-14 in that game, clinched a win late in the game when LSU-bound lineman Ethan Pocic pounced on a fumble off a Bengals handoff. Both teams are averaging over 36 points per game, so the defenses have to step up once again.
No. 12 Joliet Catholic (7-4) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way West (8-3), 1:00 p.m.
The Hilltoppers are back. Namely, the ones in the backfield. Ty Isaac, Tyler Reitz and Mike Ivlow --all back from various injuries-- were on the field together for a complete game for the first time all year in a 42-21 victory over Tinley Park. But an interesting foe awaits. Lincoln-Way West proved they could hang with the big boys as they shocked Kaneland last week. The Warriors are led by Notre Dame-bound offensive tackle Colin McGovern.
No. 3 Montini (9-2) at No. 2 Marian Central Catholic (11-0), 5:00 p.m.
"We know state goes through Montini." That's what Marian coach Ed Brucker told the Sun-Times after last week's win over Woodstock North. And he's right. Montini has won three straight titles and will remain champs until proven otherwise. But this is a special year for the Hurricanes. Minnesota-bound quarterback Chris Streveler piloted a 49-24 victory over Montini in week seven. But Montini, with players like WR Joe Borsellino, will look for their fourth straight playoff knockout of MCC.
No. 1 Alleman (10-1) at No. 2 Coal City (10-1), 2:00 p.m.
This has potential to be a serious black-and-blue match. Rock Island's Alleman Pioneers can bring it on defense. They have kept seven opponents to a touchdown or less this year, including four shutouts. Coal City has solid defensive numbers on the year, but can they break through on offense? Coalers quarterback Brennen Shetina will have his work cut out behind center. The Coalers defeated Geneseo last week 12-10.
No. 5 Brooks (8-2) @ No. 7 Evergreen Park (8-3), 6:00 p.m.
Ahmad Bradshaw can play. Pay no mind to the New York Giants running back with the same name. Bradshaw, the Brooks quarterback, has D-1 potential and is one of the many reasons Brooks could represent the Chicago Public League in the semifinals and beyond. But to get there, the Eagles are going to have to beat a Mustangs team that is peaking at the right time. Road wins at North Chicago and Richmond-Burton are no fluke.
No. 2 Newman Central Catholic (11-0) at No. 11 Wilmington (9-2), 5:00 p.m.
Both schools are long-time football powerhouses. Newman Central Catholic has won four state championships since 1990, including a 14-0 season in 2010. Brian Bahrs is a solid rusher and contributor on defense for the Comets. Wilmington, making their 17th straight playoff appearance, is a juggernaut on offense. Running back Mike Wolfe had four touchdowns last week in a 48-8 victory over St. Joseph Ogden.
We'll have more on Brooks High School in our Muscle Milk Team of the Week segment. After close losses against playoff teams like Kaneland and Rock Island earlier in the year, the Eagles want to prove that they're for real. How far will this Chicago Public League team go in the IHSA playoffs? Plus, well also catch you up with Joliet Catholic in this weeks Drive segment, presented by Northern Illinois University. And well take a drive down Memory Lane in Flashback and bring you up-to-the-minute scores from across Chicagoland.
High School Lites streams this Saturday night on CSNChicago.com.
Follow CSNChicago.com preps writer Joe Collins on Twitter: @JoeCSN.
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