October 20, 2021

Week 10 Game Previews: Joliet Herald-News


Joliet West (4-5) at Minooka (9-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Minooka 49, Joliet West 7 (2019)

About the Indians: Minooka claimed the Southwest Prairie Conference title it has coveted by knocking off the league's top dog for most of the decade, Oswego, in Week 9. But now it has set its sights on larger accomplishments. The Indians enter a loaded Class 8A field as the top seed, but the focus has to be laser like from the get-go. Minooka's offense has a number of capable weapons in quarterback Seth Lehr, running back Noah Ellens and wide receiver Trent Hudak but what it will ultimately come down to and often does is whether or not the Indians can control the trenches consistently.

About the Tigers: Joliet West performed a relatively rare trick in getting themselves into the playoffs. The Tigers started 0-4, and although they didn't make the field in the traditional fashion advancing to the postseason by winning a conference championship via winning a three-team tiebreak, the resolve displayed was very impressive. Trent Howland has proven to be a powerhouse, especially in the second half of the season, running for 300-plus yards in the regular season capper against Plainfield Central.

Pick: Minooka

Plainfield South (5-4) at Lincoln-Way East (9-0)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lincoln-Way East 35, Plainfield South 7 (2012 Class 8A Playoffs)

About the Griffins: Lincoln-Way East once again looks to be in playoff form as it enters the postseason. Quarterback Kyle Quinn certainly looks ready to go after throwing five touchdown passes in a Week 9 victory over Lincoln-Way West. In the postseason, though, focus shifts to defensive play and the Griffins appear more than poised to lock down opponents on a regular basis. Defensive lineman Adrian Wilson and Sean McLaughlin have anchored the unit in the trenches all season but the back seven have more than done their part as well, as no team has scored more than 14 points on them and six of nine foes have been held to single digit scoring.

About the Cougars: It's not exactly an ideal draw for Plainfield South, but the Cougars don't have a history of folding just because of an opponent's strength. Obviously, the biggest challenge will be directed at the Plainfield South defensive front who has the epic challenge of trying to rein in a Lincoln-Way East offense led by one of the more explosive offensive players in the Midwest, A.J. Henning. Odds are the Cougars might try to implement a ground-based grind-it-out attack behind running back Keith Bronson that will hope to limit the amount of opportunities Lincoln-Way East might get offensively. Regardless, it will take an almost impeccable effort for the Cougars to pick off the Griffins.

Pick: Lincoln-Way East

Bolingbrook (6-3) at Hinsdale Central (8-1)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Hinsdale Central 35, Bolingbrook 14 (2008 Class 8A Playoffs)

About the Red Devils: Hinsdale Central has typified itself as a team that seems to have the knack for pulling out wins. Starting with a surprise Week 1 victory over a talented Naperville Central squad, the Red Devils have continued to crank out win after win excluding a narrow overtime loss to undefeated Glenbard West. It has been a precise offensive attack for the Red Devils as quarterback Michael Brescia and wide receiver Braden Contreras accounting for a heavy portion of Hinsdale Central's offensive attack. Defensively, the Red Devils don't give up much, and has held opponents to single digit scoring in four games this season.

About the Raiders: Bolingbrook has been remarkably close to putting together quite the regular season, but a narrow one-point loss to Homewood-Flossmoor followed by an overtime loss to Andrew has taken some of the shine off the team's accomplishment to date. Jaquan Howard and Antonio King have proved to have explosive capabilities on the offensive side of the ball. But the defensive unit sets the tone and when they can control the trenches good things usually follow. If the Raiders can create a break or two for themselves, that could turn the tide in a matchup this close.

Pick: Hinsdale Central

Plainfield East (5-4) at Gurnee Warren (9-0)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Blue Devils: The first thing everyone talks about in regards to Warren, and rightfully so, as the unit has only allowed 21 points all season and no more than six points to any of the four teams that managed to score at all. Willis Singleton Jr., an Iowa State recruit, anchors that spectacular unit. But it isn't a one-sided show either, as senior running back Derrick McLaughlin spearheads an offensive attack that can roll up plenty of points as well. This team is built for a deep postseason run.

About the Bengals: Plainfield East has made great strides in the first year of Brad Kunz' leadership of the program. Quarterback Joey Morgan has been an extremely productive passer for the Bengals and has established several new single-season program records for passing. He's got plenty of talented targets to haul in passes. But the issue this week is will the Bengals be able to give him enough time to make plays. Plainfield East's defensive unit has gotten an extremely solid season out of linebacker Dale Dambek and others have chipped in as well, but both units will have significant challenges meeting the talent level that Warren possesses.

Pick: Gurnee Warren

Plainfield North (6-3) at Fremd (7-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Vikings: After a 1-2 start for the Vikings with two more than respectable losses to Maine South and Hersey, few teams have played better football over the last six week of the season. Fremd has won all of the games during that stretch and won the Mid-Suburban West Conference to boot. Part of the turnaround has to do with the return of junior defensive lineman Jack Walsh from an early season injury. Walsh is drawing interest from multiple Division I schools such as Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa State. Run-pass threat junior quarterback Ryan Saxe runs the show for the Vikings and when he throws he often finds his brother Andrew in the receiving core.

About the Tigers: When Plainfield North gets things rolling offensively its a really impressive thing to watch. Quarterback Adam Smith has plenty of offensive weapons to choose from in Marcellus Moore, Jaylon Tillman, Nathan Simpson and Tobenna Enyi, but the unit has had some ups and downs. Ideally, they'll find their groove quickly against Fremd because they clearly have some matchup advantages they can exploit. Defensively, Plainfield North needs to find a way to allow the offensive unit have as many opportunities as they can get.

Pick: Fremd


Lincoln-Way West (5-4) at Chicago Phillips (7-1)

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Wildcats: Phillips ability to have even play this game has been in question all week as the Chicago Teacher's strike, at the time of this writing, was still keeping the Wildcats from getting in the necessary practice time in to be eligible to play. Phillips has been conducting player-led workouts during the strike in attempt to stay sharp, but not having organized team events for going on two weeks would almost certainly lead to a bit of rust to have to be knocked off.

About the Warriors: Lincoln-Way West has battled its way to the playoff field and have quite a few scars to prove it. Injuries have taken a big toll on the roster, most recently a season-ending injury to two-way standout Caleb Marconi. But the Warriors will keep grinding and try to put themselves in a position to win this game. That might mean trying to play keep away from Phillips and possessing the ball for as much as possible, but at this time of year, you do what you have to.

Pick: Phillips


Springfield (7-2) at Lemont (7-2)

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Indians: Lemont has been very solid this season on both sides of the football and as such were able to secure this opening round playoff game as a consequence. Both units will have to be up to the task to insure that Lemont can advance beyond the opening round as Springfield brings an offense to town that averages just over 40 points an outing. The defense has done a good job of stifiling other high-powered offensive teams this season, but Springfield might not be as easy to deter. Offensively, Lemont will look to the same players they usually do, particularly explosive wide receiver Anthony Sambucci to provide the offensive firepower.

About the Senators: Springfield's offense has posted some epic numbers this season and that's largely due to the skill set of the Senators spectacular sophomore quarterback Rashad Rochelle. Rochelle's dual run-pass ability has given opposing teams fits all season and he'll certainly provide a problem for Lemont to try to contain. Taryn Wallace is another weapon for Springfield as his conversion from wide receiver to running back can be deemed a success. Defensively, Lemont does like to move the ball through the air particularly to Sambucci, but Lemont needs to be careful of Springifield's secondary, specifically Erin Bentley, as they have a knack for creating turnovers.

Pick: Lemont

Providence (6-3) at Normal West (7-2)

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Providence 33, Normal West 7 (2017 Class 6A Playoffs)

About the Wildcats: Normal West has a run-pass quarterback somewhat similar to what Providence brings to the table. South Dakota commit Carson Camp, who has thrown for 1,625 yards and 24 scores. Camp has also chipped in about 400 yards rushing as well to the cause. Providence also has to concern themselves with senior rangy wide receiver Cole Hernandez who has 44 receptions and eight scores on the year. In the trenches, Normal West leans heavily on Skyler Hufeld (6-2, 280) as he plays on both sides of the football regularly.

About the Celtics: Providence's season has been a series of ups and downs, but there's an opportunity for the Celtics brutal schedule to pay dividends in the postseason. A healthy Kevin Conway can certainly help in getting the Celtics offense in the right place to make a postseason run. Aaron Vaughn has been a productive runner for Providence, and now in the 6A playoff field, the Celtics should have an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned from playing a power-packed regular season schedule. Defensively, Providence has had moments where they appear to be a unit that can shut down an opponent, but those moments will need to occur more frequently at this time of year.

Pick: Providence


Joliet Catholic (6-3) at Morton (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Potters: It appears the key to slowing down the Morton offense is figuring out where Seth Glatz is and making sure he doesn't dismantle your defense. The last four Morton opponents haven't had much luck on that front as he's combined for over 1,000 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns in just those four games. Glatz has been a monster offensively, but the Ptters as a whole have been surging as of late too. The Potters have been averaging 51 points per game during a four-game winning streak to close the season and the only team that has had any luck slowing them down is Pekin who held the Potters to just six points in Week 4.

About the Hilltoppers: The South Bracket proved to be a friendly path to the Hilltoppers last season and now they are hoping they can duplicate the impressive feat of last year of riding a momentum wave back to the state title game. To make that happen it looks like the Hilltoppers can hope to also duplicate last year's potent 1-2 punch in the backfield. This time they will try to do it with Jordan Anderson and Kenyetta Williams assuming those roles and both have been especially potent at times. Joliet Catholic also might be able to sprinkle in a few more passes as they've showed that element a bit more than they have in past seasons.

Pick: Joliet Catholic

Sacred Heart Griffin (6-3) at Morris (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Morris 30, Sacred Heart Griffin 20 (2012 Class 5A Playoffs)

About the Redskins: Morris probably deserved a much better fate than being forced to host one of the state's more storied programs in the opening round, but the Redskins are prepared to play the hand they have been dealt. Fortunately, Morris has played very good football in the second half of the season and appeared primed to make a very strong run at the Cyclones. Quarterback Zach Reddinger has had a very good season, while Brandon Phelps and John Landers have both had very solid seasons.

About the Cyclones: Sacred Heart Griffin finds itself in a various curious to them lower seed this season. Its three regular season losses marked the first time since 1999 that SHG has dropped that many in the regular slate, which was the last time the Cyclones missed the playoffs. The Central State Eight has improved but some of the regular season miscues can be attributed to the team's youth. But with youth comes promise and there's plenty of it on this roster, including the junior trio of quarterback Isaiah Thompson, running back Alex Sweetland and tight end Kadinn Morris.

Pick: Sacred Heart Griffin


Chicago Phoenix (3-4) at Coal City (9-0)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Coalers: It appears Coal City received a draw befitting of a top seed, as the first round opponent here doesn't appear to pose much of a threat. The Coalers can probably get away with not expecting a full workload for their top players, a break they might feel fortunate to have in later rounds of the playoffs when the competition gets much sterner.

About the Firebirds: Phoenix will make history as the only three-game winner in state history to qualify for the postseason in the eight-class system if they end up getting the chance to play. Odds are they won't match up too well with the Coalers here considering one of their three wins came via forfeit against Clemente and they've actually been outscored by opponents, by a somewhat substantial margin in the games they did play.

Pick: Coal City


Lisle (5-4) at Wilmington (8-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Wilmington 27, Lisle 6 (2019)

About the Wildcats: If given their druthers, Wilmington would run the ball on every single play. In fact that's what they did in the previous matchup between the two teams. Wilmington's offense netted nearly nine yards a rush in the 27-6 victory and it was one of multiple games this season where the Wildcats posted some seriously gaudy rushing numbers. Jake Rodewald leads the rushing attack but Trey Shaw has been surging over the second half of the season giving the Wildcats a punishing rushing duo.

About the Lions: The Lions can't be too eager to have to try to topple the Wildcats again as things didn't go all that well in the first meeting between the two schools. Lisle averaged less than four yards a play in the matchup back in Week 5, that was actually started on a Friday and finished on a Monday in a wacky weather week. Lisle will need to figure out a way to break a big play or two against a Wilmington defense that seems averse to such things.

Pick: Wilmington

Spring Valley Hall (6-3) at Peotone (6-3)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Spring Valley Hall 47, Peotone 6 (1998 Class 3A Playoffs)

About the Blue Devils: Peotone's has been in grind it out mentality for much of the season and moreso since losing leading rusher Ben Balmer. Peotone's offense has sputtered without Balmer, managing to grind out a narrow win against Lisle in Week 8 to secure their playoff eligibilty before being shut down almost entirely in a shutout loss to Wilmington without Week 9. Balmer may be able to return for the playoffs and its a return they could definitely use as it would reduce some of the workload of Sam Biedron, who while he's the teams second leading rusher he's also the team's leading tackler.

About the Red Devils: There are some distinct similarities between these two teams particularly in their reliance on the ground game. Hall has a nice tandem of productive running backs in Austin Heinicke and Marshall Wall, both of the duo have had huge games this season and when the offense gets rolling the Red Devils can play keep away with the best of them. Hall's defense also has the skills to put teams into a deep freeze. They have tossed three shutouts and have held half of their opponents to two touchdowns or less in five of their games this season.

Pick: Peotone

Seneca (5-4) at Farmington (7-2)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Farmers: Farmington has quite a few things going for them, but it appears that the standout unit resides on the defensive side of the ball. The Farmers have surrendered 105 points this season, which on the surface doesn't appear that impressive but when you consider that 66 of those points were surrendered to the two undefeated teams on their schedule (Kewanee Wethersfield and Lewistown), the strength of the defense comes into focus. In their other seven games they allowed no more than a solitary touchdown to any of those foes.

About the Fighting Irish: Seneca has locked horns with five playoff bound teams this season, and excluding a 28-0 loss to Bismarck-Henning they've been in every single oneof those games, collecting one win over Watseka. The Fighting Irish are a dangerous team as an underseed here as witnessed by the close games they've played against teams such as Paxton (22-18) and led the state's No. 1 ranked Class 2A team, Clifton Central, at halftime before succumbing 28-15. If Seneca can get its ground game rolling, and they have in several games in the second half of the season, they will be a hard team to shake.

Pick: Farmington

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.