Preps Talk

Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA Playoffs Round 2

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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA Playoffs Round 2

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest IHSA second round football playoff games across Chicagoland on High School Lites, Saturday at 11:00 p.m. In Class 8A, can Loyola Academy get payback against Stevenson, who eliminated the Ramblers at the same playoff stage last year? Can Waubonsie Valley beat Neuqua Valley in one of the state's best rivalry games? In 7A, can Mount Carmel upset Glenbard West on the shores of Lake Ellyn? In 6A, can Richards upset Lincoln-Way North in Oak Lawn in the last meeting between these two rivals? Catch highlights from games in 8A through 3A on this Saturday IHSA playoff edition of High School Lites.

Friday’s Viewers’ Choice Game, Class 7A: 

Geneva (9-1) at Bradley-Bourbonnais (7-3), 7:30pm

EDGY's Take: Geneva and head coach Rob Wicinski will rely on senior QB Sean Chambers (Princeton) and a strong running game led by senior RB Justin Taormina. Bradley and head coach Mike Kohl got a huge win on the road last week over Glenbrook North, 60-59, in 2 OT. Bradley will give the football to junior RB Camron Harrell early and often here. Can the Bradley defense slow down a Geneva offense that has been strong all year? Can Geneva win on the road at Bradley, where the Boilermakers have been known to pull off a few playoff upsets over the years?

EDGY's Pick: Geneva 37, Bradley 20

Saturday’s Schedule:

Class 8A: 

#16 Stevenson (7-3) at #1 Loyola (10-0), 12:00pm

EDGY's Take: This is a rematch from a year ago when Stevenson eliminated Loyola Academy 24-21 en route to the 8A championship. The Patriots will rely on senior QB Jack Sorenson (Miami of Ohio), along with a deep group of offensive skill players including RB/DB Tyler Vincent. Loyola Academy has been strong all season long on both sides of the football. Senior QB Emmett Clifford runs the Ramblers no huddle shotgun spread offense, and their skill players provide a tough matchup for the opposition. But the Ramblers defense remains its calling card. Senior DT Ben Leroy (NIU) is just one of several impact players. Can the Patriots defense slow down the Ramblers offense here?

EDGY's Pick: Loyola Academy 41, Stevenson 14

[MORE: IHSA Football Playoffs Saturday at 1 p.m. on CSN, Live Extra]

#9 New Trier (9-1) at #8 Homewood-Flossmoor (9-1), 7:00pm

EDGY's Take: New Trier and head coach Brian Doll will hit the road and try to slow down one of the state's most explosive offenses in Homewood-Flossmoor. The Trevians will rely on junior QB Clay Czyzynski along with a solid group of skill players including junior WR Eric Nicholas and senior RB Max Rosenthal. H-F counters with senior QB Bryce Gray along with the Harley-Hampton twins, senior RB/LB Devonte and senior RB Deante. Senior WR/S Kendric Pryor (Wisconsin) is also a key in all three phases for the Vikings this season. Can New Trier slow down the Vikings? Can the Vikings defense get the football back from the Trevians offense?

EDGY's Pick: HF 38, New Trier 17 

#15 Oswego (8-2) at #2 Huntley (10-0), 2:00pm

EDGY's Take: Oswego will be the second straight Southwest Prairie opponent for Huntley. Oswego and head coach Brian Cooney features a D-1 quarterback recruit in senior Steven Frank; however, the Panthers always look to establish the running game as their top priority. Huntley, coached by John Hart, was able to outmuscle Minooka in last week's 49-7 romp as the Red Raiders ran for nearly 300 yards in the win. Keep an eye on senior QB Anthony Binetti and sophomore RB Eric Mooney. Huntley’s defensive line is also a strength. Can Oswego outmuscle the Red Raiders on both sides of the line? Can Huntley avoid turnovers and win time of possession? 

EDGY's Pick: Huntley 28, Oswego 27

#30 Waubonsie Valley (6-4) at #19 Neuqua Valley (7-3), 6:00pm

EDGY's Take: Waubonsie Valley pulled off an impressive, 20-17, OT win last Saturday at Edwardsville to advance. The Warriors are guided by senior RB Max Ihry, QB Jack Connolly and a defense that has been consistently strong all season. Neuqua Valley also played well in beating Hinsdale Central, 29-26, last Saturday night to advance. The Wildcats have big play potential all over the field. Junior WR/S Isaiah Robertson had a big game back in the 28-7 win over the Warriors back in Week 3. Can the Wildcats get the big plays again in this rematch? I expect a very close game here.

EDGY's Pick: Neuqua Valley 21, Waubonsie Valley 14 

Class 7A: 

#16 Mt. Carmel (8-2) at #1 Glenbard West (10-0), 1:00pm

EDGY's Take: This could wind up being one of the top games in the entire state this weekend. Mount Carmel and head coach Frank Lenti looked like a state title contender in last week's 42-15 win over Glenbard North. The Caravan ran the ball effectively and senior QB Anthony Thompson (NIU) is a key. Head coach Chad Hetlet’s Glenbard West squad features one of the state's top players in senior RB Sam Brodner (Vanderbilt). The Hilltoppers always play very fast and physical on defense. Can both teams avoid the turnover monster -- and also limit the penalties? This has the makings of a down-to-the-wire type of finish. 

EDGY's Pick: Glenbard West 24, Mount Carmel 21 

[MORE: The good and bad from Round 1 of the playoffs

#12 Benet (8-2) at #5 Cary-Grove (9-1), 1:00pm

EDGY's Take: Benet Academy and head coach Pat New needed to go to the running game in beating St. Charles North last week. The Redwings got a big game from RB Alec McEachern; senior QB Jack Sznajder runs the football well to complement his passing attack. Cary-Grove and head coach Brad Seaburg doesn’t play around: they will run the football right at you and play tough defense week in and week out. Junior FB Ty Pennington has been a varsity starter for Cary Grove since his freshman year and is a name to watch here. Can the Benet defense handle the power running game from Cary Grove? The Redwings have fared pretty well against power running/option teams this season including beating Joliet Catholic 24-21 back in Week 8.

EDGY's Pick: Cary-Grove 27, Benet Academy 21 

#14 Lincoln-Way East (8-2) at #3 Libertyville (10-0), 1:00pm

EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East and head coach Rob Zvonar will travel to take on Libertyville and one of the state's top game-breaking players in senior QB Riley Lees. Lincoln-Way East’s offense is led by senior QB Brandon Bauer and a solid running game with backs Nigel Muhammad and Liam Morrissey. Libertyville and head coach Mike Jones will continue to run his offense through Lees, who is headed to Northwestern. On defense, the Wildcats are strong. They’re led by senior DE Ben Kimpler (Miami of Ohio). Can the Griffins defense contain Lees? Can the Libertyville defense take away LWE’s running game?

EDGY's Pick: Libertyville 20, Lincoln-Way East 14 

Class 6A: 

#5 DeKalb (8-2) at #13 Deerfield (7-3), 2:00pm

EDGY's Take: DeKalb has been strong all season. The Barbs have relied heavily on the arm and legs of junior QB Derek Kyler. Also, keep an eye on DeKalb senior OL Hayden LaPointe. Deerfield and head coach Steve Winiecki will look to senior QB Brian Ranallo and senior WR/DB Lukas Kerstein. Can Deerfield control the ball on offense, win time of possession and keep the DeKalb offense off the field? Can the DeKalb defense tighten up after giving up 44 points in last week's win over Hampshire?

EDGY's Pick: DeKalb 45, Deerfield 34

#1 Lincoln-Way North (10-0) at #9 Richards (7-3), 6:00pm

EDGY's Take: This game is a rematch from Week 1 as Lincoln-Way North beat Richards, 30-29. The Phoenix, coached by George Czart, feature a balanced offense led by QB Jake Arthur and standout athlete Jaylin Branch. North’s defense has also been solid all season. Richards and head coach Tony Sheehan has some serious speed on both sides of the ball. They will look to get the football into the hands of junior RB Pat Doyle. Richards has eliminated Lincoln-Way North from the state playoffs for the past three seasons.

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way North 35, Richards 34 OT 

Class 5A: 

#6 Marian Central Catholic (8-2) at #3 Joliet Catholic Academy (9-1), 1:00pm

EDGY's Take: This game is a rematch from Week 5 as Joliet Catholic beat Marian Central Catholic, 41-3. Marian Central Catholic head coach Mike Maloney played for JCA’s current head coach Dan Sharp. Both are very familiar with each other. Can the Hurricanes get their running game on track this time around against a very strong JCA defensive line? Could we see Marian Central Catholic open things up a bit more in the passing game with senior QB Joe Budmayer? Can Joliet Catholic continue to pound opposing teams with its power running game? The Hilltoppers are more than capable with the passing game -- if needed-- with QB Cade Earl.

EDGY's Pick: Joliet Catholic 35, Marian Central Catholic 20

Class 4A: 

#7 Plano (8-2) at #2 Marengo (10-0), 3:30pm

EDGY's Take: Plano and head coach Brad Kunz have been very balanced on offense this fall behind junior QB Tyler Ward and junior RB/DB Michael Marshall. Marengo has been beating teams with a strong passing attack, led by QB Zach Knobloch. Their defense has been stingy, limiting Coal City to just 138 yards of total offense in last week’s 28-10 win. Can the Reapers offense dent the Indians defense? Weather permitting, can Marengo throw the football on the Plano defense?

EDGY's Pick: Marengo 28, Plano 16

Class 3A: 

#6 Elmwood-Brimfield (9-1) at #3 IC Catholic Prep (9-1), 4:00pm

EDGY's Take: Immaculate Conception is always a dangerous team come state playoff time. The Knights feature one of the top running back recruits in the Class of 2017 in Jordan Rowell, but their play action passing game is also capable behind sophomore QB Luke Ricobene. Elmwood-Brimfield, out of the Peoria area, ran the ball all game long in its 45-7 win over DePaul Prep. Keep an eye on RB Jackson Harkness. Can Elmwood-Brimfield find a way of slowing down the Knights? 

EDGY's Pick: Immaculate Conception 42, Elmwood-Brimfield 14

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The IHSA playoffs are finally here for all of boys basketball as regionals begin this week in the Class 3A and 4A. Since Class 2A only has one team in the top 25, defending champion Orr, most of the focus on the Power Rankings falls on teams in the Class 3A and 4A fields. 

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- The heavy favorites in Class 4A, the Wolverines start the playoffs against Hubbard or Reavis before potentially facing Sandburg or Crete-Monee for a regional title.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- The Spartans won a regional in Class 2A as they move on to play Uplift in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. The Titans might be the toughest team Orr faces in its quest to repeat as 2A champions. 

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The No. 1 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional of Class 4A, the Condors could face York or Riverside-Brookfield for a regional title as that could be a tough matchup. 

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- The defending Class 4A champions are the No. 2 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could face St. Joseph or St. Ignatius for a regional title next week. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) -- The Mustangs will try to repeat in Class 3A as they might face Vocational or Perspectives/Leadership for a regional title. Now that Ayo Dosunmu is healthy and back, Morgan Park should be the favorites once again.

6. Fenwick (19-7, 8-0) (6) -- Catholic League champion Fenwick is up in Class 4A this year as they're a No. 4 seed in a loaded Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. The Friars might have a showdown with Proviso East for a regional title if both teams win earlier in the week. 

7. Evanston (21-5, 8-2) (8) -- The Loaded Maine East Sectional will be tough but Evanston is the No. 1 seed. The Wildkits could have a tough regional title game ahead of them as Maine West and Notre Dame are both capable of making it a close game.

8. Oak Park-River Forest (22-5, 12-0) (9) -- Knocking off Hinsdale South for the West Suburban crown, the Huskies have a lot of positive momentum entering the Class 4A playoffs. OPRF is the No. 3 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could play Lincoln Park for a regional title.

9. Benet (23-4, 8-1) (10) -- With a 14-game winning streak entering the playoffs, the Redwings are red hot. Benet is the No. 2 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional in Class 4A as they could match up with Naperville Central or Glenbard West for a regional title. 

10. West Aurora (21-4, 10-0) (11) -- Winners of 13 straight, West Aurora is the No. 2 seed in the Romeoville Sectional. The Blackhawks could face Andrew or Plainfield North for a regional title at Plainfield South. 

11. Marist (24-4, 7-2) (12) -- An impressive 24-win season has Marist as the No. 2 seed in the Thornton Sectional as they host a Class 4A regional. The RedHawks might play Thornwood or Bloom to win that regional on Friday night. 

12. Niles North (24-4, 6-4) (13) -- The Vikings took down New Trier to pick up a great win right before the loaded Maine East Sectional in Class 4A. Niles North, a No. 3 seed, might have to face ESCC champion St. Viator for a regional title, which would be one of the most-anticipated matchups in Class 4A. 

13. New Trier (22-5, 8-2) (7) -- Dropping two games during the week, New Trier is limping into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Maine East Sectional. It won't get any easier for the Trevians as they might face Mid-Suburban champion Prospect for a regional title.

14. Naperville North (24-2, 15-1) (15) -- The top seed in the Glenbard East Sectional, Naperville North hosts its own regional in Class 4A. The Huskies might play Geneva or Downers North for a regional title. 

15. DePaul Prep (21-6, 5-3) (16) -- The No. 1 seed in the North Chicago Sectional, DePaul Prep hosts its own regional in Class 3A. The Rams could face Foreman or Sullivan for a regional title as DePaul Prep has a winnable sectional. 

16. Loyola (22-6, 5-3) (17) -- Loyola is the No. 4 seed in the Maine East Sectional. The Ramblers could have a tough regional final against host and No. 5 seed Maine South as that would make for a great matchup.

17. Marian Catholic (20-5, 5-4) (14) -- A No. 1 seed in the Pontiac Sectional of Class 3A, the Spartans will be one of the teams to watch in that field. Marian Catholic could potentially take on Thornridge or Rich Central for a regional title during the week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (18) -- The Hawks are a No. 2 seed in the Pontiac Sectional in Class 3A as they try to make another deep run in March. Hillcrest could face Rich East or Oak Forest for a regional title.

19. Homewood-Flossmoor (19-6, 9-1) (20) -- The Vikings had some close wins during the week preparing for the Class 4A field. Homewood-Flossmoor could play Oak Lawn for a regional title at T.F. South this week. 

20. St. Viator (23-5, 9-0) (22) -- The unbeaten champs in the ESCC, the Lions are on a six-game winning streak. A No. 6 seed in the Maine East Sectional, St. Viator could have a major test against Niles North for a Class 4A regional title. 

21. Bolingbrook (19-6, 7-3) (23) -- Top seed in the Romeoville Sectional, the Raiders have been a major threat in the postseason the past few years. Bolingbrook might play Lemont or Plainfield East for a regional title.

22. Maine South (21-7, 6-4) (24) -- The Hawks have the recent win over Niles North as they're the No. 5 seed in the Maine East Sectional. As the host in the regional, Maine South could get a home game against No. 4 seed Loyola.

23. Hinsdale South (20-6, 10-2) (21) -- Hinsdale South dropped a close one to OPRF right before the postseason. The Hornets might face Willowbrook for a regional title as the No. 4 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional as the two teams split the season series. 

24. Willowbrook (23-5, 9-3) (25) -- The Warriors had an outstanding season as they are in the tough Glenbard East Sectional. A No. 5 seed, Willowbrook could face Hinsdale South for a regional title, which could be the best title game of the entire week. 

25. Jacobs (24-3, 16-0) (NR) -- Winners of the Fox Valley for the fourth straight year, the Golden Eagles are on a roll as they're a No. 2 seed in the Jacobs Sectional in Class 4A. If Jacobs gets senior Ryan Phillips back from hand injury they could be dangerous. 

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

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USA TODAY

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

About this time a year ago the Bears were setting up for the annual NFL beauty pageant in Indianapolis, sitting with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft and with myriad roster decisions to address with both that draft and free agency. Because of the Bears’ lofty draft position, even more scrutiny and attention swirled around the college prospects (Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Solomon Thomas, not enough on Mitch Trubisky as it turned out, a testimonial to GM Ryan Pace’s ability to keep a secret).

But what was developing in free agency was arguably of even greater significance in what was then the short term, at least for John Fox, as it turned out. And the changed landscape this year bodes considerably better for Pace and the Bears. At least in one important respect.

First, a perspective from last year’s pre-Combine period...

Because of the unsettled quarterback situation – the Bears were working toward Mike Glennon and cutting Jay Cutler two weeks later – and concerns about a possible lame-duck situation for Fox, free agents and their agents were willing to look at the Bears but only if the Bears would pony up excessive guaranteed dollars. The worry any time a coach is heading into a tipping-point year is that if things go badly, the coach and staff are gone, and the resulting changes will alter the job situation of that particular veteran player.

So the likes of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye or Stephon Gilmore opted for less total money from Jacksonville and New England, respectively, because the Bears weren’t offering higher guarantees to compensate for the uncertainty.

(One of the reasons then-President/CEO Michael McCaskey stated to this reporter for firing Mike Ditka after the 1992 season was a concern over the negative pall Ditka cast over playing for the Bears as the NFL prepared for the 1993 start of free agency. A quarter-century later, Pace didn’t fire Fox because of free agents’ aversion to Fox, but the overall wasn’t making Pace’s job any easier.)

Would Alshon Jeffery have stayed if...

On a slightly different tack: Would Alshon Jeffery have given the Bears a more receptive look had the quarterback position been addressed sooner in the Fox/Pace tenure? Jeffery took less from the Eagles in a one-year prove-it deal, not because Philadelphia was so much warmer than Chicago, but in large part because of where the offensive arrow was pointing in Chicago with Fox, Dowell Loggains and an unsettled quarterback situation.

Not insignificantly in the Jeffery case: Jeffery had four choices – Bears, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia. The Colts weren’t sure about Andrew Luck, coming off shoulder surgery and ultimately missing all of ’17. The Vikings were resting then on brittle Sam Bradford, whose knee broke down early, and Case Keenum wasn’t CASE KEENUM at that point. The Bears with Loggains and Glennon? Jeffery didn’t go with Philadelphia, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz only for the money, which did come anyway.

The Bears have “fixed” all of those issues in the year that’s played out since Jeffery signed with the Eagles almost concurrent with the Bears moving on from Cutler. None of that matters now in the least with Jeffery, Bouye, Gilmore or any other options that demanded too much guaranteed money or spurned the Bears back then, but it does matter going into the run-up to free agency over the next couple weeks.

Why this in fact matters more than the draft is that, while sound organizations are grounded in quality drafting, the reality is that in virtually every offseason, more starters for that season are acquired via free agency than the draft. Last year’s draft centerpiece was Trubisky, though he wasn’t supposed to start last season. But free agents Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Quintin Demps and Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were.

The money pit

Longtime Bears and NFL personnel chief Bill Tobin once remarked back in the beginning of free agency, “Just because you pay a guy $2 million doesn’t make him a $2-million player.” That still applies, adjusted for inflation. And that could make this free agency dicey for the Bears.

Because price isn’t always determined solely on quality; it’s a matter of supply and demand. And while the Bears are among those with the greatest estimated space under the projected cap of $178 million, the others way up on the list include Cleveland, Indianapolis, the Jets, Houston and Tampa Bay – all teams with five or fewer wins in ’17 and expected to be the most aggressive in using free agency to fix gaping holes. The Bears have a lot of money to spend, but so do a whole lot of others.

Meaning: A lot of dollars will be chasing a select few players, which will make some of them overpaid, not unlike Glennon was last offseason (how many apparently better options were there?) or a couple of others, who will be paid like $2 million players even if they aren’t, adjusted for inflation.

The result is another offseason of brinksmanship for Pace, this time in need of better results than his first three free agencies if the outcome for his second head coach is to be better than it was for his first.