Preps Talk

Five teams you can't overlook come IHSA playoff time

taft_0_mt._carmel_53_640x360_1032952387505.jpg

Five teams you can't overlook come IHSA playoff time

With the IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show just days away, here are five teams that you need to keep in mind when the brackets are announced. They could cause big matchup problems once the postseason begins. You can catch show live this Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago+ with live streaming at nbcsportschicago.com/IHSAPairingShow and via the NBC Sports app.

Class 8A

Edwardsville: The Tigers (5-3) got off to a rough start and lost their first three games, including an opening week stunner, 53-49, to Naperville North. It was a game that the Tigers led 42-0 in the second quarter. However, coach Matt Martin and company are riding high with a five-game winning streak. They feature an explosive offense led by junior QB Kendall Abdur-Rahman and a deep group of backs. Keep an eye on freshman RB Justin Johnson. 

Naperville North: The afforementioned Huskies (5-3) have lost two of their last three games but don't be fooled. Naperville North can trade offensive punches with everyone in the 8A field behind QB Drake Davis, WR Nick Calcagno and a deep group of receivers. Senior LB Ryan Marrano leads the Huskie defense. The team has marquee wins over Edwardsville, Wheaton North, Lake Park and Naperville Central.

Class 7A

Mount Carmel: The Caravan (5-3) will wind up starting the state playoffs on the road.  And trust me: every opponent will not be excited to see this tradition-heavy program come to town. Mount Carmel will look towards its running game with QB Alek Thomas (a TCU baseball and football commit) along with a big offensive line led by senior Jeremy Cooper (Cincinnati). 

[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week 9 Power Rankings]

Class 6A

Providence Catholic: The Celtics (5-3) are coming off a tough Week 8 loss to Loyola. Don't let the three losses fool you. The combined record of the three teams Providence lost to is 22-3. Keep an eye on senior RB Deshon Gavin (WIU commit), a big and physical offensive line and a strong group on defense. Providence has won five of its last six games.

Class 5A

Rochelle: It is the last season for Hubs' veteran head coach Kevin Crandall. Rochelle (5-3) will look to run the football early and often. They also have a fast, physical defensive unit. Rochelle's three losses this season come to the likes of Sterling (8-0), Morris (7-1) and Johnsburg (8-0) and this team will be a tough out for every opponent in 5A. Rochelle is 157-95 under Crandall, including three 12-win seasons.

Power Rankings: #11 - Stevenson

Power Rankings: #11 - Stevenson

NBCSportsChicago.com 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 July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Stevenson

Head coach: Josh Hjorth

Assistant coaches: Brent Becker (OL/Assistant Head Coach), Tom Baumann (DBs), Brian Burja (DC), Chris Caballero (OL/DL), Jason Ford (LBs), Pat Grady (WRs/Special Team Coordinator) Erik Jensen (Quality Control Coach), Redelle Lawrence (DBs), Joey Weber (QBs)

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (5-2 North Suburban Conference). Stevenson made the 8A state playoff field and lost to Hinsdale Central in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Palatine

Aug. 31 @ Neuqua Valley

Sept 7 @ Libertyville

Sept. 14 @ Zion-Benton

Sept. 21 vs Lake Zurich

Sept. 28 @ Mundelein

Oct. 5 vs Waukegan

Oct. 12 @ Warren Township

Oct. 19 vs Lake Forest

[MORE: 29 Days to Kickoff - Palatine]

Biggest storyline: Can the Patriots, under second-year head coach Josh Hjorth, make another run at the North Suburban title --and beyond-- this season?

Names to watch this season: RB JM Eitenne and LB Maema Njongmeta

Biggest holes to fill: The Patriots welcome back 15 returning starters from a season ago including nine back on offense. On defense, they'll be looking to fill holes on the defensive line and in the secondary. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Patriots went young in 2017 as then-first year head coach Josh Hjorth was able to get varsity experience to several key players. That should pay dividends this fall. Stevenson, led by three returning offensive lineman, will look to establish their running game early in the season. Senior QB Cole Okmin will have a deep and experienced group of backs and receivers to utilize. The key in the first few weeks will be the development of the defensive line and secondary. Defensive team leaders such as senior OLB Maema Njongmeta will play a big role in bringing along a younger but very talented group. 

Power Rankings: #12 - Hinsdale Central

Power Rankings: #12 - Hinsdale Central

NBCSportsChicago.com 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 July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Hinsdale Central

Head coach: Dan Hartman

Assistant coaches: Ray Mankowski Todd Koehler Matt McNiff Brian Griffin Preston Letts Tom Dorrance Tim Lambert

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (5-1 West Suburban Silver Conference), Hinsdale Central made the Class 8A state playoff field, defeated Stevenson then lost to Loyola Academy in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Naperville Central

Aug. 31 @ Willowbrook

Sept. 7 vs Oak Park-River Forest

Sept. 14 @ Downers Grove North

Sept. 22 vs York

Sept. 28 @ Proviso West

Oct. 5 vs Glenbard West

Oct. 12 @ Lyons Township

Oct. 19 vs Hinsdale South

[MORE: 33 Days to Kickoff - Benet]

Biggest storyline: Can the Red Devils, a perennial playoff candidate, make the postseason and play into November? Can they also challenge for the West Suburban Silver conference title?

Names to watch this season: QB Matt Rush and RB Luke Skokna (WIU)

Biggest holes to fill: The Red Devils will welcome back 16 returning starters (eight offense, eight defense) but will need to develop some depth in a few key areas to make a deep run in Class 8A. 

EDGY's Early Take: Dan Hartman might have his best Red Devils team since taking over the football program back in 2014. Keep an eye on Central's offense, led by senior QB Matt Rush and WIU commit RB/WR Luke Skokna plus. They also boast four returning starters on the offensive line. The Red Devils' defense is also experienced. Senior DE Sean Kelly, senior LB Vincent Zelisko and senior DB Aiden Cruickshank are names to watch. The Red Devils will need to come firing out of the gates this early season opening. Two big challenges are on deck in August, first on the road at Naperville Central and then at Willowbrook.