Here are five lower-seeded teams in Classes 8A thru 4A that shouldn’t be overlooked heading into this weekend's first round of the IHSA state football playoffs.
No. 23 seed Palatine (6-3): First-year head coach Corey Olson had an up-and-down regular season. But don't let the Pirates’ record fool you. Palatine lost to three state playoff teams in Stevenson (14-7 in Week 1), Maine South (17-14 in Week 4) and Barrington (26-24 in Week 6). The combined record of all three opponents was a stout 23-4. Palatine will rely on senior QB DJ Angelaccio, senior WR Johnny O'Shea and senior WR Jack Orlando. The defense is led by senior LB Cortez Hogans (NIU), senior DE Bryant Smith and versatile senior DB Jake Moertl.
No. 29 seed Glenbard North (5-4): Yes, the Panthers struggled at times this season. Yes, they needed to beat Neuqua Valley last Friday just to make the 7A playoff field. That said, when this team is on they can hang with anyone and everyone in their class. The Panthers have gotten a big season from senior RB/LB Jayleen Fitzpatrick, senior QB Lee Rady and a veteran offensive line anchored by senior Jose Vazquez. GBN’s defense is the program’s calling card. Their secondary, featuring senior Tyrik Henderson (Minnesota), is just one of several names to watch on the defense.
No. 13 seed Providence Catholic (5-4): The Celtics also stumbled to the finish line in regular season play, losing their last two games. But Providence, whose four losses came to opponents with a combined 30-6 record (East St. Louis, Missouri’s Vianney Prep, Loyola Academy and Mount Carmel) are undoubtedly playoff tested. Their running game, featuring senior RB De'Shon Gavin (Western Illinois) and their big, experienced offensive line are included in their many strengths. Providence Catholic, who plays mainly 8A/7A level competition most of the regular season, will have an old-school battle in the opening round against Richards (7-2). Should Providence win that game, the Emerald Isle could go on a deep run.
No. 14 seed Marian Central Catholic (5-4): Head coach Mike Maloney's sideline at times resembled more of a MASH unit than a playoff-ready team. The Hurricanes have survived that storm of injuries and could be primed for a nice run in 5A. Marian Central Catholic has gotten some key names back to the lineup including former QB Gavin Scott, who has been moved to running back. The Hurricanes are also battle-tested coming off an East Suburban Catholic Conference schedule.
No. 14 seed Geneseo: The Maple Leafs are one of the state's traditional power football programs. They have struggled at times but were able to upset state-ranked Morris 21-17 to become playoff eligible. Geneseo also played a tough schedule and posted losses to bigger enrollment playoff names Quincy (6-3), Sterling (9-0), Rochelle (6-3) and Kaneland (6-3). Geneseo is a power running offense built for playoff football. Keep an eye on senior RB Drew Rapps and junior RB Zac Olson.