Matchup: No. 1 Loyola Academy (12-0) at No. 20 Glenbard West (10-2), Saturday 1 p.m.
Where to watch: Live broadcast on CSN and a live stream available on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app.
Overview: This Class 8A semifinal features two of the better programs in Chicagoland over the past several seasons. Head coach John Holecek's No. 1 seeded Ramblers are looking to repeat as Class 8A champions after capturing the second IHSA title in school history in 2015. Loyola Academy has also been the state's consensus top ranked team since the preseason. Head coach Chad Hetlet No. 20 seeded Hilltoppers are also looking looking to capture the program's second-straight state title after winning the Class 7A crown in 2015. The Hilltoppers lost two straight regular-season games to West Suburban Silver rivals Lyons Township (28-14) and Hinsdale Central (31-30) before firing off six straight wins.
When Loyola Academy has the football: The biggest question going into this game for Loyola is if senior quarterback Tommy Herion will return after reportedly suffering a concussion in last week's 24-0 win over Huntley. Herion has been a big key to the Loyola no-huddle shotgun-spread offense all season. The Loyola offense has weapons, including Duke verbal commit in wide receiver Jake Marwede who could take snaps under center. Marwede (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) played quarterback for Loyola up until last season and has been used as a Wildcat quarterback this season. The Ramblers will also rely on its very impressive senior led offensive line and running back Kyle Rock.
When Glenbard West has the football: The Hilltoppers want to establish the running game first and juniors' Ryan Diver and Dre Thomas have been a key, led by a strong offensive line. However, the real story for Glenbard West on offense this postseason has been its play-action passing game. Senior quarterback Cole Brady has been on fire all postseason and has some big targets in senior tight end Alex Pihlstrom (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and junior wide receiver (Alec Pierce 6-foot-4, 185 pounds).
Key matchups to watch: The Glenbard West running game against the Loyola defense. Both Loyola and Glenbard West boast first and foremost its defenses. Throughout the postseason Glenbard West has been able to set up its play-action passing game thanks to its running attack. When the Hilltoppers can get the running game going, good thing happen for them. Loyola also knows they need to take away the Glenbard West running game as its top priority this week.
Impact player for Loyola Academy: Marwede has simply been a very hard matchup for all comers this season. Marwede uses his size and length to out-position most defenders. Marwede is also very hard to stop under center running the Wildcat in short yardage situations. Opposing teams do not want to see Marwede with a 5-7 yard head full of steam.
Impact Player for Glenbard West: OLB/DB Jackson Goleash. While the Hilltoppers offense is no question important, the lifeblood is the defense. Goleash is an impact performer and leader on the Hitters defense, and if Glenbard West needs a big play or a big stop on defense? Look towards Goleash to be somewhere near the football.
Prediction? Glenbard West 21, Loyola Academy 14. Check the weather conditions on Saturday. If it's cold/rainy/windy as forecasted, Duchon Filed could be a potentially sloppy track. I like the Hilltoppers on its homefield in less than ideal conditions.