The Herald-News prep football capsules for Round 2 of the playoffs

Jacobs' Jayden Gaona tries runs the ball during a Class 7A first-round playoff game against Lincoln-Way Central on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, at New Lenox.

Class 8A

Minooka (8-2) at Lincoln-Way East (10-0)

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lincoln-Way East 35, Minooka 7 (2021 8A playoffs)

About the Indians: Minooka allowed Sandburg to draw first blood in the opening round, but its defense wasn’t about to let up more after that, as it allowed yardage but no more points. That was more than enough for a yeoman-like effort from the offense to gain some separation, and then the finishing touches were provided once again by the defense as Carson Johnson ran back a fumble for a score. QB Nathan Maul is the key to the offense. In the games where the Indians have thrived, he completes passes at a high percentage. He was 10 for 14 in the Sandburg win with a passing and rushing touchdown. But the Indians are also striving for offensive balance and like to get RB Joey Patridge steady work.

About the Griffins: Lincoln-Way East did what it has done to the majority of its competitors this season with an dominating win over Taft in Round 1 of the playoffs. Primary players got most of the game off, as the Griffins led 42-0 at halftime. Lincoln-Way East has sort of flipped the script offensively, switching from leaning a bit more on the passing game and Braden Tischer to looking to its running back tandem of Zion Gist and Nuri Muhammad. The defense remains the backbone of this team, however, with multiple players stepping into the spotlight. Junior defensive end Caden O’Rourke draws a lot of attention, but a secondary anchored by Stephon-Gardner Gist and JT Poynton makes life difficult for opposing passers, too.

Friday Night Drive Pick: Lincoln-Way East

Class 7A

Lincoln-Way Central (9-1) at Batavia (9-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Knights: The whatever-it-takes philosophy of Lincoln-Way Central paid dividends again for the Knights in their first-round win over Jacobs. The Knights were outgained and had to settle for three promising drives that ended in field goals. But PK Andrew Schiller is almost automatic from inside 30 yards, and those nine points ultimately accounted for the difference in the game. RB Anthony Noto was held to fewer than 100 yards for one of the few times all season, which made the contribution of three forced and recovered fumbles critical to Lincoln-Way Central’s fortunes. The stat sheet wasn’t pretty at the end, but the end result suited the Knights fine.

About the Bulldogs: One would be hard-pressed to find a team playing better football than Batavia, which overwhelmed Brother Rice in the opening round. QB Ryan Boe is in the midst of a spectacular senior season. He’s thrown for more than 2,100 yards and has 21 touchdowns against only two interceptions. He’s also run for 10 touchdowns. Five different Bulldogs have at least 20 receptions, led by Charlie Whelpley. Defensively, Charlie Osborne and Ben Fiegel lead the way, but this really is a team defense as 10 different players have recorded at least part of a quarterback sack, and a whopping 17 of them have recorded at least one tackle for a loss. Batavia carries a plus-14 turnover ratio into Week 11.

FND Pick: Batavia

Lincoln-Way West (8-2) at Collinsville (7-3)

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Warriors: The Warriors left little doubt in their playoff opener, jumping out to a substantial lead against Hoffman Estates before settling for a comfortable victory. Odds are the Warriors defense will get a bigger challenge from Collinsville in Round 2, but the Warrriors defense has largely come up aces when they’ve needed them most. Offensively, the Warriors do a nice job of spreading the wealth. RB Joey Campagna usually leads the effort, but Lincoln-Way West has demonstrated a propensity for moving the ball through the air if needed.

About the Kahoks: As an independent, Collinsville plays a hodgepodge of a schedule, but it required them squaring off against six playoff opponents [they went 2-4 in those games] before clipping Maine West after a long road trip in Round 1. QB Darren Pennell has undergone a successful transfer from the wide reciever position, throwing for about 2,000 yards and 18 scores and leading the team in rushing with nine more touchdowns. He spreads the ball around, as Khalil Thorps-Watt, Amari Rodgers-Parrot and Chase Reynolds are all capable of making a big play if Pennell sends the ball their direction.

FND Pick: Lincoln-Way West

Class 5A

Morris (10-0) at Sacred Heart-Griffin (7-3)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Sacred Heart-Griffin 43, Morris 35 (2019 5A playoffs)

About Morris: Morris has trampled about everything in its path this season, almost doubling opponents in total yardage through its first 10 games. RB Jacob Swartz has been on a tear as of late with 22 touchdowns to go along with almost 1,600 yards rushing. And if teams try to key on that powerful running game, Morris can seamlessly shift to the aerial attack. QB Carter Button has thrown for 25 touchdowns with only three interceptions. But full appreciation probably has not been granted to the Morris defense, particularly the secondary, which has allowed only five touchdowns through the air all season.

About the Cyclones: Sacred Heart-Griffin was the Class 4A state champion last season, and trophies in two consecutive state tournaments led to the implementation of the success formula for the Cyclones, forcing them up to the Class 5A ranks. The Cyclones had a few bumps in the road, some of which could probably be sourced from making the transition from long-time and all-time winningest coach in Illinois football, Ken Leonard, who retired at the conclusion of last season. This is still a talented group, however, now led by Leonard’s long-time assistant John Allison. Ethan Hagele was expected to be the main offensive component, but a broken hand in Week 1 caused the Cyclones to switch gears to Christian Pollard. Pollard grew into the role, and Hagele now is back from injury, giving Sacred Heart a potent one-two punch.

FND Pick: Morris

Triad (7-3) at Joliet Catholic (7-3)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Joliet Catholic 48, Triad 7 (2009 Class 5A playoffs)

About the Knights: It’s been a strange season for Triad, which started 1-2 including a loss to Alton which turned out to be Alton’s only win of the season. The Knights have won six of their past seven, including a pair of one-point wins over Collinsville and Mahomet-Seymour the past two weeks. Issac Ackerman seems to be the key to slowing the Knights down. He has accounted for more than 2,500 yards of total offense with 18 passing TDs and six rushing touchdown. Tashon Cockerell is another focal point of the offense with 36 catches for 738 yards on the season.

About the Hilltoppers: Joliet Catholic went back to basics with great results in its opening-round win over Peoria, sustaining drives almost exclusively with its ground attack. HJ Grigsby shouldered a heavy workload in the win and surpassed the 100-yard mark in the contest. The biggest difference for the Hilltoppers was only settling for one field goal when they got into the red zone, instead turning multiple scoring chances, thanks in part for Peoria giving the Hilltoppers excellent field position by attempting onside kicks each time, into touchdowns. A strong running game coupled with a staunch defensive front is a pretty good recipe for postseason success, especially when the weather turns, which it did Friday with a persistent rain.

FND Pick: Joliet Catholic

Providence (6-4) at Hillcrest (7-3)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Celtics: The Celtics took a bizarre path to an first-round win over Morton, seemingly having about everything go wrong in the second half but somehow keeping the Potters out of the end zone. In all, Providence forced six turnovers, using a few of them to flip field position enough to help an offensive attack that was rather sparse overall but effective when Providence needed it to be. The Celtics did not get a defensive or special teams score – a hallmark for Providence when it has had some success on the scoreboard – in the Morton victory. It doesn’t seem like the most equitable plan to continue advancing, but it seems to be working so far.

About the Hawks: Talk about a team that’s difficult to figure out. Hillcrest is a prime example. The Hawks appeared to have themselves heading in the right direction with a five-game winning streak in the middle of the season, collecting a win over longtime nemesis Lemont along the way. But the back end of the regular season was a bit confounding. T.F. North clipped them by a point, which was at least understandable as the Meteors ultimately finished the regular season with seven wins. But a Week 9 loss to Bremen that not only would have sewn up a conference title but also afforded them an opening-round home playoff game ended up giving them a long road trip that could have made things difficult. Instead, Hillcrest played one of its better games of the season beating Carbondale in the first round.

FND Pick: Providence

Class 4A

Coal City (8-2) at Rochester (10-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: first meeting

About the Rockets: Rochester is averaging more than 50 points per game. Crazy thing is the Rockets defense is better than the offense. They’ve allowed less than than 10 points per game, and considering Rochester scores so often, the Rockets give opponents extra possessions that they still have a hard time scoring with. Offensively, there are plenty of people to worry about. Parker Gillespie returned from a knee injury that caused him to miss the first six games of the season. Gillespie is capable of playing several roles for the Rockets. RB Nolan Mrozowski passed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier for the season with 19 TDs, while QB Bryan Zulauf has thrown for more than 1,700 yards with 24 touchdowns.

About the Coalers: Coal City was dominant in its first-round win over Normal University, as the Coalers tossed their second shutout of the season and seventh game holding opponents to a touchdown or less. That unit is going to have to bring its best effort to give Coal City a fighting chance, but it is a capable group that could make things interesting. Offensively, the Coalers’ ability to run the ball should give them a chance at controlling tempo, especially if Landin Benson runs with authority like he did against Normal University, where he scored five times and rushed for 162 yards. Coal City might be able to play an effective game of slow down.

FND Pick: Rochester

Class 3A

Peotone (7-3) at Byron (10-0)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Blue Devils: Peotone faces a difficult task here after earning the program’s first playoff victory since 2017 with a win over Chicago Crane in the opening round. Peotone’s offense is reliant on running the football with running backs Jayden Rodriguez and Chase Rivera, who are averaging more than 100 yards per game. Logic would indicate Peotone might want to try to control the clock if the Devils can get the running game going and keep the ball away from the potent Byron offense. But obviously, that’s been attempted and failed by a lot of other teams this season against Byron, so it is probably going to take some creative solutions and mistake-free football for the Blue Devils to have a chance.

About the Tigers: Byron is averaging more than 60 points and about 400 rushing yards per game and it has scored 80 rushing touchdowns this season. Caden Considine leads Byron in rushing yards with 842 and has 19 touchdowns. Byron has 11 runners who have accumulated at least 100 yards rushing. But as striking as the offensive numbers are, the defensive totals might be even more concerning to opponents. Byron has held opponents to 776 yards of total offense and allowed one rushing touchdown while allowing an average of 1.8 rushing yards per attempt. Byron also plays nearly mistake-free football, having turned the ball over three times and only allowing one quarterback sack all season.

FND Pick: Byron

Class 2A

Wilmington (9-1) at Tri-Valley (10-0)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Tri-Valley 28, Wilmington 21 (2022 Class 2A playoffs)

About the Wildcats: After Wilmington suffered a mildly surprising loss to a very good Seneca team in Week 1, it quickly regrouped and has been a total wrecking ball since. With most of its games clearly decided by halftime, Wilmington’s power running game and tenacious defensive attack is far too much of a one-two combination punch for opponents to try to endure. RB Kyle Farrell leads Wilmington’s ground game with some help from others, an attack that is so potent the Wildcats almost never seem to face situations where they are forced to throw the football. Since the Seneca loss, no team has posted more than 14 points against them, and many of those points that have been scored have been posted well after the outcome of the contest was already in Wilmington’s hands.

About the Vikings: Tri-Valley lost some significant pieces to graduation after last season, where Tri-Valley finished runner-up in the state, but apparently the Vikings laid a repeatable foundation, because they haven’t skipped a beat in 2023. Defense has been the calling card of Tri-Valley, as it has allowed more than two touchdowns to a foe just once all season. It’s been a gritty, defensive matchup the previous two times these teams played in the last two playoff seasons, including last year’s 28-21 win by the Vikings in last year’s second round. There’s no reason to anticipate anything different here.

FND Pick: Wilmington

Wilmington’s Ryan Kettman sheds a Mercer County tackler in round 1 of the Class 2A playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023 in Wilmington.