Lots to mull over and break down from Saturday's release of the IHSA Football pairings, and here are some quick thoughts and observations.
My impressions for the next look Class 7A and Class 8A brackets? How can you not love first round matchups like No. 31 Minooka traveling to No. 2 Huntley? Or No. 26 Plainfield South going to No. 7 Barrington?
The overwhelming feedback I received from the coaches, both in Chicagoland and all across the state, was very positive in regards towards seeding Class 8A and Class 7A in a true 1-32 bracket as opposed to the old geographic pairings system.
"It's terrific," said one Chicagoland area 8A head coach. "We are playing a school that's pretty close to us but it's what the true seeding should be. I had our seed figured out by early morning on Saturday and no longer wonder about any real mystery or behind-the-scene things going on anymore."
If anything, the Class 8A and 7A seeding system now has coaches statewide (in particular in 6A and 5A) asking if the next step is bringing the 1-32 seeding process down to the smaller classes.
In the larger classes, the IHSA unfortunately seeded together a handful of conference teams against each other in the open round action. In Class 8A, No. 23 seed Marist will take on No. 10 seed Niles Notre Dame in an East Suburban Catholic Conference rematch. In Class 7A, No. 9 seed Rockford Auburn will host No. 24 seed Rockton Hononegah. Both hail from the NIC-10 conference. While these are true seeds, no one wants to play an opening round game against a conference opponent.
My solution? In this case, why not just swap the lower-seeded schools? In the case of No. 23 Marist, why not move the Redhawks up a seed to No. 22, swapping with Warren Township? In the case of No. 24 seed Hononegah, let them swap with No. 23 seed Bradley? With this, it avoids anyone from having to play a conference opponent in the opening round.
Here is one major issue that I've been hearing about from coaches comes from Class 5A: in the upper or ‘northern’ bracket, No. 12 seed Rich Central (6-3) was assigned to the north bracket while No. 9 seed Sterling (7-2) was sent to the south or lower bracket. If the dividing line to determine north vs. south was I-80 (which seems logical just looking at the released IHSA Class 5A map) why is Rich Central, which is located just south of I-80, sent North while Sterling, is located north of I-80 sent to the south bracket?
Here are my way-too-early most dangerous teams to watch in Class 8A thru 5A.
Class 8A: No. 23 Marist — the Redhawks can score points in bunches.
Class 7A: No. 17 Glenbard North — the Panthers just run the ball well and play serious defense.
Class 6A: No. 13 Hinsdale South — When the Hornets are "on" they can beat a lot of teams.
Class 5A: No. 5 St. Laurence — the Vikings path early on is favorable.