Preps Talk

Every team's biggest difference-maker in the semifinal round of the IHSA football playoffs

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Every team's biggest difference-maker in the semifinal round of the IHSA football playoffs

In anticipation of Saturday's semifinal round of the IHSA state playoffs, here are some difference-makers on each team in Class 8A through Class 5A. In some cases these are high-profile names, while others are just key players you can't ignore come game day.

Class 8A

Maine South running back Fotis Kokosioulis: Kokosioulis, who is verbally committed to Northern Illinois, has been a mainstay in the Hawks offense for the past three season. Kokosioulis was held in check in the Hawks' Week 2 loss to Lincoln-Way East. I fully expect Maine South to find ways to get Kokosioulis much more involved in this rematch.

Lincoln-Way East quarterback Brendan Morrissey: Morrissey, a converted running back, has been one of the most consistent players on the Griffins this season. Morrissey, a high-honors student, is a dangerous runner who has also been very efficient when asked to throw the football this season.

Loyola Academy lineman Marty Geary: Geary, who started the season strictly as a defensive linemen for the Ramblers, has now added playing on the Loyola offensive line in the postseason due to various injuries. Geary has been an impact player on the defensive line all season and is huge for the Loyola offense to slide him over when needed on the offensive line.

Edwardsville quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman: Abdur-Rahman is the key to the Tigers offense and has had a big-time season. Abdur-Rahman has exceptional speed and quickness, and his open-field running ability is top notch.

Class 7A

Benet Academy linebacker Devin Petersen: Petersen is one of the leaders of the Redwings defense this season, a defense that has limited playoff opponents to just over a touchdown a game. Petersen, who has 50 solo tackles and counting, is a big-time finisher and tone-setter for the Redwings.

Batavia quarterback Riley Cooper: Cooper, who split playing time as a junior in 2016, has taken full advantage of his senior season and has provided a passing threat to go along with an already solid Bulldogs run game. Cooper, who has thrown for 1,885 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, will be asked again to step up big against Benet Academy.

Mount Carmel lineman Jeremy Cooper: Cooper, who is verbally committed to Cincinnati, is a rare two-way starter for the Caravan. Cooper is a force on both sides of the football and must be accounted for in any game plan.

Lake Zurich running back/linebacker Joey Stutzman: Stutzman is a speedy, 110-percent effort guy who just never slows down on either side of the football. Stutzman is a great mix of speed and power carrying the football for the Bears offense and is a sure tackler and defender for the Lake Zurich defense.

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge lineman Jeff Jenkins: Jenkins, an Iowa commit, has played both ways all season long. Jenkins is key upfront in opening holes for the Wolves' running game while also acting as a run-stuffer on the Wolves' defensive line.

Hoffman Estates wide receiver/linebacker Jaylan Alexander: Alexander, a Purdue commit, is a rare athlete who has the speed to play receiver and has the size, frame and strength to play linebacker, as well. Alexander, who is also one of the Hawks' senior leaders, seems to always be around the football whenever a big play is needed.

Nazareth Academy running back/defensive back Devin Blakely: Blakely, who is one of several underclassmen who is drawing Power Five recruiting looks, has been key on both sides of the football. Blakely has terrific speed and quickness and also has good strength and toughness as an inside-the-tackles runner while also being a lock-down defender.

Providence Catholic running back De'Shon Gavin: Gavin, a Western Illinois commit who played defensive back a season ago, made the adjustment to running back quite well this fall. Gavin has good speed and power and has been a reliable, consistent 100-yard rusher for the Celtics offense.

Class 5A

Phillips running back/linebacker Craig Elmore: Elmore, who started last season at linebacker and some running back, has taken on full-time duty at both positions this fall. Elmore is a gritty, hard-nosed inside power back while also being one of several top-notch hitters on the Wildcats defense.

Sterling lineman Tyler Willman: Willman, who is also slated to play baseball in college, is the lifeblood on both lines for the Golden Warriors. Willman has terrific speed and athleticism and will be asked to lead the Warriors again on Saturday.

Dunlap tight end/linebacker Charlie Mangieri: Mangieri, who is verbally committed to Northwestern, has been key for the Eagles over the past few seasons. Mangieri has been a devastating blocker on the offensive side of the football while also a leader on the top-notch Dunlap defense.

Washington running back Sam Walters: The Panthers feature several backs in their power running game, but Walters is capable of breaking a big play on every touch. Walters, who also plays defensive back for Washington, will be needed in a big way on Saturday.

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995. 

Check out the AP boys basketball polls as regular season winds down

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NBC SPORTS

Check out the AP boys basketball polls as regular season winds down

Here is the latest AP boys basketball polls. The girls basketball polls are done with the playoffs underway in all four classes.

Class 4A

School                                 W-L       Pts   Prv

1. Simeon (9)                      25-3      90    1

2. Belleville West                23-2      75    3

3. Curie                                22-3      74     2

4. Danville                           23-2      67      4

5. Whitney Young               22-7     52     T5

6. Normal West                   21-6     28     T5

7. Quincy                              19-4      21     T10

8. Bloomington                   18-7      15     8

9. Evanston                          20-5      14     7

10. New Trier                       22-3       12     NR

Others receiving votes: Moline 11, Niles North 10, Lisle (Benet Academy) 10, St. Viator 5, Naperville North 4, Maine South 2, Rockford Jefferson 1.

Class 3A

School                                            W-L          Pts    Prv

1. Morgan Park (7)                       18-9         88     2

2. Springfield Southeast (2)        22-3         82     1

3. Marian Catholic                        20-4         67     4

4. Hillcrest                                      21-5         57     5

(tie) Springfield Lanphier             22-3         57     3

6. Alton Marquette                       28-0         44      6

7. Centralia                                    21-4          32      7

8. DePaul College Prep                20-6          31      8

9. Champaign Central                  17-7          13      10

10. Decatur MacArthur                 18-8         9        NR

Others receiving votes: Lincoln 6, Burlington Central 6, Bogan 3.

Class 2A

School                                       W-L          Pts     Prv

1. Orr (11)                                 23-4         110     1

2. Warsaw West Hancock      22-2         83       3

3. Pinckneyville                       25-3         76       T4

4. Winnebago                          24-2         75       2

5. Monticello                            22-1         69       6

6. Leo                                        19-5         65       T4

7. Bloomington Central Catholic       21-6         42   8

8. Effingham St. Anthony                    25-3         23   7

9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley               24-3         12   NR

10. Trenton Wesclin                             24-4         9     NR

Others receiving votes: Eldorado 7, Corliss 6, St. Joseph-Ogden 6, Bureau Valley 5, Uplift 5 Teutopolis 4, Williamsville 3, Quincy Notre Dame 2, Farmington  2, Casey-Westfield 1

Class 1A

School                                      W-L          Pts      Prv

1. Aurora Christian (9)            22-1        108      1

2. DePue (1)                              24-2        85        2

3. East Dubuque (1)                26-3        80        4

4. Annawan                              25-3        75        5

5. Payson Seymour                 26-2        68        3

6. Sterling Newman                 23-4       57        6

7. Colfax Ridgeview                  24-4       48        7

8. New Berlin                             25-3       33        8

9. Cairo                                       21-5       22        9

10. Nokomis                              21-7         9        NR

Others receiving votes: Newark 8, Quest Academy 5, Milford 4, Cissna Park 2. Okawville 1.