Preps Talk

Edgy: The IHSA 8A playoffs are going to be loaded

Edgy: The IHSA 8A playoffs are going to be loaded

With the IHSA state playoffs nearly upon us, I fully expect several storylines, upsets and a few surprises to arise over the next handful of days.

What could be one of the most talked about subjects on the IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show, live on CSN and from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday night?

Class 8A. And how stacked it is.

Need proof?

Start with the Week 9 power rankings. Of the top 25 ranked teams, the top six are undefeateds in Loyola, Homewood-Flossmoor, Brother Rice, Palatine, Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale Central. Want to go deeper? Add to the potential 8A field with Marist (8-0), Naperville North (7-1), the perennial 8A/7A bubble team Glenbard West (6-2), Lincoln-Way East (6-2), Stevenson (7-1), Oak Park-River Forest (7-1), Lyons Township (6-2), Barrington (7-1), St. Charles East (8-0) and Oswego (8-0).

In case you didn't do the math, that's potentially half of the 8A IHSA state playoff field (16 teams), Their current combined record is 118-10.

Yet we also all know rankings and high seeds seldom tell the whole story when it comes to the state playoffs. While it would be easy to just go with the higher seeds/ranked teams, you might also want to consider at least a handful of teams with lesser records heading into the IHSA Class 8A state playoff field.

Some examples?

Edwardsville (7-1) seems to be left out of the 8A discussion at times, simply because of the lack of 8A teams south of I-80. Yet the Tigers, led by the state's top Class of 2017 name in four star-ranked A.J. Epenesa (Iowa), features a terrific defense and trust me, the Southwestern conference teams handle travel as well as anyone in the state come playoff time.

Or how about New Trier (6-2)? All the Trevians did was snap Maine South's 77-game Central Suburban South winning streak. Would you want to draw Maine South (5-3) in the first round, with an offense that is capable of putting up 40-plus points against some of the state's top defenses?

Anyone still remember a team like Waubonsie Valley (4-4)? The Warriors playoffs begin this Friday hosting Wheaton North (4-4) in what could be one of the state's top regular season finales. All Paul Murphy and his Warriors did last season was sneak into the 8A state playoffs as a 5-4 team and wound up making it to the 8A semifinals. Could Waubonsie Valley be this year's, well, Waubonsie Valley all over again?

The overall depth and quality in this 8A field will be as strong --or even stronger—than ever this playoff season. Throw in the second year of the IHSA’s true 1-32 seeding system, and the 8A playoffs will be incredibly fun and nerve-wracking to watch starting in the opening round.

13 Days to Kickoff: Phillips

13 Days to Kickoff: Phillips preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Phillips

Head coach: Troy McAllister

How they fared in 2018: 9-3 (5-0 CPL Illini Land of Lincoln Conference). Phillips made the Class 6A state playoff field and defeated Lake Forest and Prairie Ridge. They advanced for the quarterfinal round and lost to Cary-Grove.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 31 @ Cass Tech (MI)
Sept. 7 vs St. Mary (MO) at East St. Louis
Sept. 13 vs Taft
Sept. 20 vs Raby
Sept. 27 @ Morgan Park (Gately Stadium)
Oct. 5 @ Simeon (Gately Stadium)
Oct. 11 vs Lane Tech
Oct. 19 @ Westinghouse
Oct. 25 @ Lincoln Park (at Lane Tech)

Biggest storyline: Phillips has gone from a Public League also-ran to a program with annual state title aspirations. Can the two-time state champion Wildcats get back into the 6A playoff field and make a deeper run this November?

Names to watch this season: S Robert Pledger (Sr., Western Michigan) OL/DL Demerick Morris (Sr., Temple)

Biggest holes to fill: The Wildcats will bring back an experienced team this season after playing a ton of underclassmen in 2018. The biggest hole is more from a leadership standpoint with the graduation losses of WR/DB Fabian McCray (NIU) and DB Joseph Thompson (Illinois), both of whom were long time varsity starters. 

EDGY's Early Take: Phillips (4A-sized enrollment) and head coach Troy McAllister volunteered to "move up" to Class 6A level last season and also this season. The Wildcats will bring back big group of returning starters who saw significant playing time last season.

While they came up short last season with a 6A quarterfinals loss to Cary-Grove, look for the Wildcats to again challenge everyone who comes their way in the Chicago Public League. They’ll have to be road warriors the first two weeks, as they take on marquee competition from out of state. The Oct. 5 date vs. Simeon is a must-see. The 6A playoff field will have to be wary of Phillips.

14 Days to Kickoff: Montini Catholic

14 Days to Kickoff: Montini Catholic preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Montini Catholic

Head coach: Mike Bukovsky

Assistant coaches: Brian Casey, Mark Placey, Kyle Petros, Joe DiCanio, Thomas McLaurin, Ted Fleckles, Larry Sheppard, Roosevelt Holiday, Joe Consalvo and Jack Bruscianelli

How they fared in 2018: 12-2 (3-1 CCL Blue Conference). Montini made the Class 5A state playoff field and defeated Woodstock North, Sycamore, Evergreen Park and Sterling. They advanced to the state title game where they lost to Joliet Catholic.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 31 @ Hudson (WI)
Sept. 6 vs Collins
Sept. 13 @ Mount Carmel
Sept. 20 vs St. Rita
Sept. 27 vs St. Viator
Oct. 4 @ (Niles) Notre Dame
Oct. 11 @ St. Joseph
Oct. 18 vs De La Salle
Oct. 25 vs Providence Catholic

Biggest storyline: Finishing. Can the Broncos get to DeKalb for the 5A state title game and walk away with a championship trophy?

Names to watch this season: WR/TE Nate Muersch (Sr., Miami OH), OL Jeremiah Banks Wall (Sr.), QB Deontay Bell (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Broncos welcome back 12 starters (five offense, seven defense) from last season's squad but they will have new faces at receiver, running back and defensive back. 

EDGY's Early Take: Montini Catholic has been chomping at the bit to get back on the field. They had a great run last season and fell short in Champaign against JCA. Several key names return this season, including quarterback Deontay Bell and a sure-handed, tall receiver in Nate Muersch. The offensive line brings back three starters as well.

The Broncos defense has speed and experience on the line and at linebacker. Senior defensive back CJ Bufkin is a name to watch this fall. The newly-realigned CCL/ESCC schedule is strong but the Broncos should be well prepared after playing in the old CCL Blue the past few seasons.