I always find it interesting to see how Chicagoland’s high school football conferences fare in the opening round of the IHSA playoffs. When you take a look at how some conferences fared after last week’s action, it's pretty evident that we are seeing a shift in the balance of power.
Five conferences that fared well ...
Northern Illinois Big 12 (5-1): The East division posted a perfect 3-0 record with wins from DeKalb (Class 6A), Morris (5A) and Sycamore (5A), while the West saw wins from Sterling (5A) and Rochelle (5A). The only team not in the win column was Geneseo (5A), which lost to Triad.
Upstate 8 River (3-0): Both St. Charles East (8A) and Batavia (7A) rolled to impressive opening-round wins. St. Charles North (7A) needed double overtime to beat Carmel 31-24.
Fox Valley (4-1): This conference also was impressive. Prairie Ridge (6A), Cary-Grove (6A), Huntley (8A) and Jacobs (7A) picked up wins. The only team to lose was McHenry (7A), which fell to Batavia 42-12.
Mid-Suburban West (3-1): The strength of this conference was undoubtedly one of the biggest stories this season. Palatine, Barrington and Fremd all advanced in Class 8A, while Hoffman Estates (7A) gave Benet Academy everything it could handle in a 29-23 loss. The most impressive win — possibly of the entire state playoffs in the opening round — was 25th-seeded Fremd's 45-42 win over No. 3 Brother Rice. The Mid-Suburban conference was 4-2 overall when you add in the East portion of the league. Rolling Meadows (7A) picked up a win, while Wheeling (7A) lost to to Cary-Grove.
Southwest Prairie (3-1): Outside of traditional power Oswego, the SW Prairie has struggled to get much traction in the IHSA playoffs over the past several years. But so far in 2016, the league is in a groove. Wins by Oswego (8A), Oswego East (8A) and Plainfield North (7A) have the Joliet-area conference headed in the right direction. The only loss was Joliet West (8A), which succumbed to Southwest Prairie rival Oswego 10-9.
... and three conferences that struggled
Chicago Catholic League Blue (1-2): Not having Providence Catholic and Mount Carmel in the postseason is a stunner on its own. Round 1 losses from 7A’s St. Rita (to Rockford Auburn), along with 8A’s Brother Rice’s upset at the hand of the aforementioned Fremd Vikings, leaves the 8A No. 1 seed, Loyola Academy, as the sole survivor from the CCL Blue.
DuPage Valley (2-2): The DVC also saw some upsets last weekend, including 8A’s No. 13 seed Neuqua Valley. It fell 31-28 to No. 20 Glenbard West, while No. 14 seed Naperville North dropped a 25-23 decision to No. 19 Lyons Township. Both games were as well played and as close as any games all weekend long. Teams that are still alive representing the DuPage Valley include Glenbard North (7A). They beat Pekin 34-0. 8A’s No. 31 seed Waubonsie Valley moves on after stunning Hinsdale Central 33-23 on Saturday afternoon.
West Suburban Silver (2-2): Both Glenbard West (8A) and Lyons Township (8A) defeated DuPage Valley teams to advance. Oak Park-River Forest (8A) lost in overtime to St. Louis-area power Edwardsville 23-20, while Hinsdale Central (8A), as mentioned, was stunned by No. 31 seed Waubonsie Valley.