Preps Talk

Recruiting News and Notes: Thomas Schaffer sets up official visits


Recruiting News and Notes: Thomas Schaffer sets up official visits

Thomas Schaffer (OT), Lake Forest Academy

Schaffer (6-foot-7, 290 pounds) has begun to set up official visits following the season. Schaffer, who is the highest ranked Illinois Class of 2016 recruit left on the board, is also planning to take all five allotted official visits before making his decision. Schaffer has visit dates set for Oregon (11/7), Stanford (11/14) and Wisconsin (likely 10/31). Schaffer will also take his remaining two visits to either Kentucky, Vanderbilt, California or Purdue. Expect a late November, early December decision.

Jacub Panasiuk (DE), Lake Park

Panasiuk (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) added Illinois to his offer list — his first Big Ten offer. Panasiuk, who is the younger brother of Lake Park senior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk (committed to Michigan State), made an unofficial visit to Illinois on Saturday.

"It feels amazing to get a Big Ten offer," Panasiuk said. "I like the fact that Illinois is close to home. It's in-state and they also offer a great education. Staying closer to home is a big deal for me. If I find a school that's a great fit farther away from home I'd consider it, but I'd prefer to stay closer to home if I can."

Panasiuk has also drawn recruiting looks from Minnesota, Purdue, Rutgers, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State. Panasiuk also has an offer from Florida Atlantic.

[MORE PREPS: Week 6 AP Illinois preps football rankings]

Amir Watts (DT), Phillips

Watts (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) chronicled where he's at regarding his recruiting process. Watts, who decommitted from Western Michigan in the summer, has several favorites on the table.

"I had narrowed things down to a top five [with] Kansas, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse and Tennessee, but then Minnesota offered me," Watts said. "Minnesota is a really strong offer so I'm also looking harder at Minnesota now. Tennessee hasn't been in touch for a while now so I'm not sure where I stand with them to be honest. Both Ole Miss and Central Florida are new schools that are starting to reach out."

Expect Watts to make official visits after the season is over.

Steven Frank (QB), Oswego

The local quarterbacks are having a rough go of it this year. One of the prime examples is Frank (6-foot-4, 216 pounds). Frank, who had winter and early spring scholarship offers from the likes of Boston College, Illinois and several Mid American schools, is now searching for new options this fall.

"I'm still pretty open right now," Frank said. "It's been pretty frustrating for me no question about it. I wish I knew earlier how things would go for me. I would have definitely moved faster on some of the offers I had back in the winter and the spring. I'm still in touch with several coaches and I'm confident that I'll find a school to call home soon.

"I'm still waiting on a few schools to make a final decision and evaluation on me," Frank added. "Temple has been pretty interested. Iowa State is still interested and they said they would let me know over the next few weeks if they will offer me or not. Florida Atlantic is also interested. I talk to them a lot now and I'm going to try and go visit them soon hopefully over the next few weeks."

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

With the upcoming IHSA football playoff pairings announcement on Saturday night, here are some teams with modest win-loss records who opponents probably wouldn’t want to see in the early rounds of the postseason.

Loyola Academy (5-3): The Ramblers have struggled this season. But head coach John Holocek has, once again, led his team to the state playoff field. So what gives? Loyola has been inconsistent on offense and has turned the football over way too often. The team has also been dealing with various injuries. But the defense (minus a 35-3 loss to Brother Rice) has generally played well this season. If the Ramblers can clean up the turnovers and find a way to get their offense back in a rhythm, this team can undoubtedly surprise some teams along the way in Class 8A. 

Neuqua Valley (5-3): The Wildcats and head coach Bill Ellinghaus have dropped three tight games this season including a last possession, 21-14 decision to DuPage Valley Conference champion Naperville Central two weeks ago. If the Wildcats can continue to get steady production from a balanced offense, led by RB Will Cheviliar and QB John Gronowski, the defense is capable of keeping Neuqua Valley in every game this postseason.

Aurora Christian (5-3): Coach Dave Beebe’s Eagles have lost to three playoff-bound teams this season with a combined 21-3 record (IC Prep, St. Francis and Bishop McNamara). They have a potent spread-passing attack led by sophomore QB Ethan Hampton. Aurora Christian is also slated to wind up in the Class 1A bracket on pairings night. Their dynamic offense and passing game in general could be a tough matchup for opponents in, what usually is, Class 1A North bracket with teams that generally run the ball.

Barrington (5-3): The Broncos, under head coach Joe Sanchez, have also been dealing with a rash of mid-season injuries; that said, it looks like Barrington is getting healthy at the right time. Junior QB Tommy Fitzpatrick is back from injury and is a key catalyst for any Barrington postseason run. Fitzpatrick has weapons in junior WR EJ Darlington and senior RB Michael Curran. 

Lake Zurich (5-3): The Bears made a starting quarterback change last week as Jack Moses took the reins. He promptly led the Bears to a 42-0 win over Mundelein. If the Bears can limit turnovers and continue to get strong production from their offense, the L-Z defense is more than capable of making life very difficult for any higher seeds that they could draw in the 7A state playoff field. 

Edwardsville (5-3): The Tigers hit a rough patch starting the season with a 1-3 record. But they currently boast a four-game winnings streak heading into Friday night’s tilt at Collinsville. Edwardsville is led by senior QB Kendall Abdur Rahman (Notre Dame) and is a gamebreaker every time he touches the football. Sophomore RB Justin Johnson (and the team in general) possesses a ton of speed. There are athletes and playmakers on both sides of the football. 

Here are some more lower seeds who could wreak havoc:

Providence Catholic (5-3): If the Celtics can get their running game going, beware. 

Raby (5-3): The Raiders could be a handful in 4A.

St. Charles East (4-4): The Saints’ power-option game is always tough to defend. 

Joliet Catholic (4-4): IF the Hilltoppers can beat Notre Dame on Friday, they could be a very tough out in 5A.

Crystal Lake South (5-3): A huge offensive line leads the way for the Gators. 

Zion-Benton (4-4): The Zee-Bees can put as much talent on the field than most of their opponents. 

Lemont (4-4): Needs a win Friday over rival Oak Forest. If the offense can keep the chains moving, the Indians’ defense can do the rest. 

Crete-Monee (5-3): They are the Southland conference champs. Their first two losses in 2018? Lincoln-Way East (8-0) and Brother Rice (8-0).

Thornton (4-4): The Wildcats will need to upset Lincoln Way Central Friday. Thornton always has talent.

NBC Sports Chicago to air "IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show" on October 20

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to air "IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show" on October 20

Bloomington, IL/Chicago, IL (October 17, 2018) -- The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to NBC Sports Chicago for its eighth season in 2018. NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – will air the show live on NBC Sports Chicago+ on Saturday, October 20 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM CT. Viewers are urged to visit NBC Sports Chicago’s “Channel Finder” page ( for exact NBC Sports Chicago+ channel locations in their area.

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show, which will reveal the brackets and first round match-ups of all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes, can also be viewed via Live stream beginning at 8:00 PM on Saturday at, on Facebook Live (, and will also be accessible for viewing to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers via the brand new MyTeams by NBC Sports app (NOTE: MyTeams is available on iOS and Android devices, at no cost, to fans anywhere in the U.S. and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store).

"The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show' continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn't be prouder to once again showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage across all platforms on Saturday night," said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago.  

NBC Sports Chicago anchor Leila Rahimi hosts the show and will be joined by a panel of experts on-set, including long-time IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard and Illinois high school football bracketologist Steve Soucie. IHSA TV veteran Camron Smith will breakdown each class with media members from around the state, including NBC Sports Chicago prep football expert “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the show and ask questions to be answered during the program by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #IHSAbrackets

The program will once again feature highlights, coaches interviews and media analysis from all over the state. In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will be gathering teams & fan reaction moments throughout the “Land of Lincoln” on Saturday from numerous school playoff pairing parties taking place that evening.

“This is one of the most anticipated nights of the year on the IHSA calendar,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Student-athletes, coaches and communities around the state have put their hearts into the last nine weeks, and for 256 teams, it’s an amazing chance to celebrate their accomplishments, while looking ahead to the path to the IHSA Football State Finals. We appreciate the time and effort that our partners at NBC Sports Chicago put into making this night so special.”

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show kicks off NBC Sports Chicago’s playoff coverage of IHSA Football, which culminates with all eight state title games being televised and streamed by NBC Sports Chicago on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-24), live from Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.