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High School Lites Preview: Playoffs quarterfinals


High School Lites Preview: Playoffs quarterfinals

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest IHSA quarterfinal football playoff games across Chicagoland on High School Lites, Saturday at 10:30 p.m. In Class 8A, can Homewood-Flossmoor keep the Drive alive and beat Loyola Academy on the road? Naperville Central suffered its lone defeat against Waubonsie Valley. Can it get revenge on the Warriors in Saturday’s rematch? In 7A, can Cary-Grove take its ‘ground and pound’ on the road and win in Batavia? In 6A, does the final story of Lincoln-Way North's final season extend to the semifinals, or does Hinsdale South close the final chapter in Phoenix football history? Catch highlights from games in 4A through 8A on this Saturday IHSA playoff edition of High School Lites.

Class 8A

(8) Homewood-Flossmoor at (1) Loyola, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The 8A showdown that many fans across the state have wanted to see all season long is here. Homewood-Flossmoor (10-1) head coach Craig Buzea will look to his quick strike and explosive offense to counter the stout Loyola defense. Keep an eye on HF senior QB Bryce Gray (Notre Dame baseball commit) and senior twin running backs Devonte and Deante Harley-Hampton, who will be asked to dent one of the state's top defenses. Loyola Academy (11-0) head coach John Holocek will look to get his offense in gear behind senior QB Emmett Clifford, senior RB Dara Laja and a group of big and physical receivers, led by senior Eric Eshoo (Northwestern). Whose defense can rise to the challenge this week? Everyone will talk about the HF offense against the Loyola defense, but for me the key matchup is the Ramblers offense against the Vikings defense. 

EDGY's Pick: Loyola Academy 24, HF 21

(6) Naperville Central at (30) Waubonsie Valley, 1:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This game is a DuPage Valley Conference rematch from back in Week 4, a Waubonsie Valley 15-14 upset win over the visiting Redhawks (10-1). Waubonsie Valley head coach Paul Murphy will give the football to senior RB Max Irhy early and often. Irhy will run behind a solid Warriors offensive line, and QB Jack Connolly is more than capable of keeping the Redhawks defense honest with the playaction pass. Naperville Central went back to work after that loss to Waubonsie Valley (7-4) and hasn't looked back since. Senior QB Connor Joyce has been a huge part of the Redhawks' success since the loss to Waubonsie Valley. Paired with an already strong running game, the Redhawks are going to be tough to defend. Can Naperville Central slow down the Warriors running game this time around and get the football back to its offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Naperville Central 21 Waubonsie Valley 14

(5) Brother Rice at (13) Palatine, 2 p.m.

EDGY's Take: How about those Pirates? Palatine (9-2) and head coach Rick Splitt have won five straight games and are playing great football at the right time of the season. Palatine will rely on senior QB Zach Oles, who is a threat at all times with the pass and the run. Oles also has plenty of targets in WR Matt Lamm along with RB Josh Turner. The Pirates also have a knack of winning close games this season. Brother Rice (10-1) and head coach Brian Badke will look towards senior QB Cam Miller and a potent shotgun spread offense. Keep an eye out for junior WR Ricky Smalling for the Crusaders. Can Palatine slow down the Rice spread passing attack? Can the Crusaders defense get a handle on Zach Oles?

EDGY's Pick: Brother Rice 34 Palatine 31

Class 7A

(5) Cary-Grove at (4) Batavia, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Cary-Grove (10-1), coached by Brad Seaburg, was supposed to be in a reloading mode this season after making it to the 7A state title game a year ago, and obviosuly the Trojans didn't get the memo.  Cary-Grove junior FB/LB Ty Pennington is the main ball carrier in their power running game and he’s also a terrific defender. Batavia (10-1) and head coach Dennis Piron struck Simeon early with the big play in last week's 35-14 win. The Bulldogs are getting a big season from senior QB Kyle Niemiec who is a threat with the run and the pass. Batavia also has an impressive group of tall and speedy receivers including junior TE Glenn Albanese. Can the Batavia defense get the football back to its offense early and often? Can the Cary-Grove defense contain the Batavia balanced offense and also avoid giving up the big play? 

EDGY's Pick: Cary-Grove 27 Batavia 21

Class 6A

(13) Hinsdale South at (1) Lincoln-Way North, 6 p.m. 

EDGY's Take: This game could easily wind up being one of the top games across the state on Saturday. Mike Barry has his Hornets (8-3) are on a two year run. Keep an eye out for senior QB Sean McCormack along with senior RB Marcus Curry. The Hornets offense can hit teams equally well with the run and the pass, while the defense is anchored by senior four star ranked DE Josh King (Michigan State). Lincoln-Way North and head coach George Czart has directed the Phoenix well this season despite the closing of the school in the balance at the end of this school year. Lincoln-Way North (11-0) features a balanced offense behind QB Ryan Arthur plus WR Drew Slager, WR Jaylin Branch and RB Joe Peters. Can the Phoenix defense slow down  the multiple weapons from the Hornets offense? Can Hinsdale South's defense get a handle on the Phoenix passing game? 

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way North 28 Hinsdale South 27 OT

Class 5A

(3) Joliet Catholic at (7) Nazareth, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: These two East Suburban Catholic Conference foes will square off in a game that will have a much bigger feel on Saturday in LaGrange Park. Joliet Catholic (10-1) took a 31-0 halftime lead then hung on for dear life to beat the Road Runners 38-35 back in Week 7. Joliet Catholic, who features big and physical offensive and defensive lines, will run the football early and often. Keep an eye out for JCA senior RB Michael Johnson, sophomore RB Ke'von Johnson plus QB Cade Earl. Nazareth Academy (9-2) brings plenty of talent to the table. Keep an eye on senior WR/RB/DB Julian Love (Notre Dame) and junior RB Ivory Kelly-Martin. Did Nazareth find something they can exploit from their Week 7 loss to the Hilltoppers? Will we see the ‘first half’ or ‘second half’ JCA team this time around against Nazareth?

EDGY's Pick: Joliet Catholic 35 Nazareth Academy 27

(3) Peoria (10-1) at (7) Lincoln-Way West, 3 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Peoria and head coach Tim Thornton has done a terrific job of bringing the Lions program to the forefront of Class 5A. The Lions have some serious firepower with sophomore QB Coran Taylor and with WR Jamir Whitelow. The injury list for Peoria (10-1), however, is growing and standouts RB Kenten Watkins and OL Jeff Scott remain questionable for the Lions on Saturday. Lincoln-Way West (9-2) and head coach Dave Ernst received good news last week when injured QB Connor Lowman returned from injury. That said, the Warriors want to run the football first with RB Gabe Montalvo and an NFL-sized offensive line anchored by senior OT Justin Witt (NC State) and senior OG Bryan Brokop (Nebraska). Can Peoria match up with the size of LWW? Can West slow down/keep up with the Lions explosive offense?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way West 31, Peoria 21

(8) Tinley Park at (5) St. Laurence, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Expect a ton of offense here as Tinley Park (9-2) and head coach Nick Johnston will look toward RB Lamont Brooks and QB Dan McCullough to lead a very potent attack. St. Laurence (9-2) also has some weapons on offense including QB Alex Martinez and junior RB Fayezon Smart. Both schools are making their deepest IHSA state playoff run since 1986, as Tinley Park in 1986 wound up winning the Class 4A state football title. Last possession wins here?

EDGY's Pick: St. Laurence 41 Tinley Park 38

Class 4A

(4) Geneseo at (1) Phillips, 7 p.m. at Gately Stadium

EDGY's Take: Phillips head coach Tim McAllister (11-0) has been looking hard at how to better defend Geneseo (10-1) and its power veer option attack. Geneseo and head coach Larry Johnsen has run the same offense --and has worn the same Green Bay Packers influenced uniforms-- for years with tremendous success. Phillips will look towards senior QB Quayvon Skanes (UConn) along with a team loaded with skills and speed. The Wildcats defense is also big, quick and physical. Watch out for senior DT Amir Watts. Can the Wildcats solve the Maple Leafs punishing running attack? Can the Maple Leafs run and stay with the Phillips skill players?

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 21 Geneseo 20

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley 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: Waubonsie Valley

Head coach: Paul Murphy

Assistant coaches: Ron Griffin, Tom Baumgarnter, Chris Genslinger, Brad Caldwell, Josh Cuttone, Noel Soto, Ryan Voitik, Duane Butts and Ken Anderson

How they fared in 2017: 4-5 (4-4 DuPage Valley Conference). Waubonsie Valley failed to qualify for the IHSA playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Oak Park-River Forest

Aug. 31 vs Libertyville

Sept 7 @ Neuqua Valley

Sept. 14 @ Edwardsville

Sept. 21 vs Naperville North

Sept. 28 vs Neuqua Valley

Oct. 5 vs Prairie Ridge

Oct. 12 @ Naperville Central

Oct. 19 @ Metea Valley

[MORE: 96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs]

Biggest storyline: It's all about the schedule. Can the Warriors survive a challenging lineup --which includes playing Neuqua Valley twice-- and make the playoffs?

Names to watch this season: WR Julian Cain and DL Avante Rogers

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will have several new faces on both the offensive and defensive lines in 2018. 

EDGY's Early Take: It's not often that veteran head coach Paul Murphy and his Warriors view the playoffs from home. But that's what happened last year. They were the first Waubonsie team since 2006 to do just that. Look for the Warriors to rely on a strong group of receivers to bounce back this fall. They also feature a good group of underclassmen ready to step up. Also, they will need to get used to life in the newly-realigned DuPage Valley Conference. The 2018 schedule includes two games against big district rival Neuqua Valley and a loaded non-conference slate which includes some heavy hitters. 

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs 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: Jacobs

Head coach: Bill Mitz

Assistant coaches: Bubba Smith, Mike Warren, Brian Zimmerman, JM Foote, Ryan Arndt and Bob Mackey

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (5-3 Fox Valley Conference). Jacobs made the Class 7A playoff field. The Golden Eagles lost to Lincoln-Way West in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 Hampshire 

Aug. 31 @ Huntley 

Sept. 7 Dundee-Crown 

Sept. 14 @ McHenry 

Sept. 21 Neuqua Valley 

Sept. 28 Prairie Ridge 

Oct. 5 @ Cary-Grove 

Oct. 12 Crystal Lake South 

Oct. 19 @ Crystal Lake Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Golden Eagles move up in the Fox Valley Conference pecking order in 2018?

Names to watch this season: OT Joacheim Price and OL Nick Zonta

Biggest holes to fill: The Golden Eagles will need to replace its entire starting linebacker group from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Year in and year out, Jacobs is always a factor in the rugged Fox Valley Conference (seven playoff appearances in the last eight years). The Golden Eagles return some starters in several key spots. If the underclassmen group can step up this summer, look for Jacobs to challenge for the FVC conference title and a higher seed in 7A come IHSA playoff time.