Suburban Life football preview capsules for IHSA football playoff quarterfinals

York’s Jake Melion carries the ball as he’s tackled by Lyons Township’s Luke Wehling during the Class 8A second round football playoff game in Western Springs on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

Here are previews and picks of the quarterfinal matchups for each Suburban Life area team.

Class 8A

No. 4 Edwardsville (10-1) at No. 5 York (10-1)

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

About Edwardsville: The Tigers flexed their muscle against Glenbard West on the road in the second round, winning 48-14 to capture their third straight victory. They have now scored 35 or more points eight times this season, averaging 41 points per game. Edwardsville’s lone loss is to East St. Louis, a 27-15 defeat in Week 8. The Tigers have made the playoffs each year under coach Matt Martin since 2011. They’ll try to reach their third state semifinal appearance during that span. Edwardsville’s defense is led by junior edge rusher Iose Epenesa, the top-rated junior prospect in Illinois according to both Rivals and 247Sports. He holds offers from schools like Miami, Michigan, USC, Auburn, Penn State and Iowa. The defense has allowed more than 14 points three times this season.

About York: The Dukes survived a second-round thriller against Lyons when Damian Glodz made a 30-yard field goal as time expired to help his team win 17-14. Running back Jake Melion rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Sean Winton threw for 154 yards and ran for another 45. York’s defense only allowed 42 total yards in the second half against Lyons. The second round game was the closest game the Dukes played this season — a 24-14 win over Lyons during the regular season was the closest game they competed in up to that point. York has now won four straight games and will try to return to the semifinals for a second straight season.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 1 Loyola (11-1) or No. 24 St. Ignatius (8-3).

FND Pick: Edwardsville

Class 7A

No. 1 Normal Community (11-0) at No. 9 Glenbard East (10-1)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About Normal: The Ironmen punched their ticket to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2015 by surviving a 31-30 overtime battle against Bradley-Bourbonnais. They stopped a two-point conversion pass in order to advance and reach 11-0 for the first time since 2007. Junior quarterback Kyle Beaty threw for 272 yards and receiver Mar’Quan Gary finished with eight catches for 115 yards. The Normal offense finished with 399 total yards in the win. The Ironmen have made the playoffs each season since 1996 and won the Class 6A state championship in 2006. Normal will try to make its first semifinal appearance since 2007.

About Glenbard East: The Rams reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1999 after a 28-13 win over Addison Trail. Running back Matt Larson carried the Rams into the third round, rushing for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Addison Trail’s 13 points was the third-most the Rams allowed this season — South Elgin scored 17 against Glenbard East and Glenbard South scored 14. The Rams held on to a 21-13 lead in the fourth quarter and forced a fumble to put the game away. They’ve now scored 38.1 points per game this season, clearing 24 points in all 10 of their wins. Glenbard East will focus on 1999 once again, trying to reach the semifinals for the first time since then.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 13 Downers Grove North (9-2)or No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (9-2).

FND Pick: Normal

No. 13 Downers Grove North (9-2) at No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (9-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About Downers Grove North: The Trojans overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit against Hersey in the second round in order to win 24-21. They earned their first trip to the quarterfinals since 2013. Sophomore quarterback Owen Lansu completed two long passes late in order to lead the comeback and threw 166 of his 187 yards in the second half. Downers Grove North has now won four straight games since losing back-to-back games to York and Lyons. The Trojans have outscored their opponents 133-46 during that winning streak. They’ll try to make their first semifinal appearance since 2004 when the Trojans won the Class 8A state title.

About Lincoln-Way West: The Warriors have found another gear in the postseason, having overwhelmed both Hoffman Estates and Collinsville to advance into the quarterfinals. It’s been an all hands on deck philosophy for the Warriors in getting to this point, but considerably better play by the defense has set the tone for this postseason run. RB Joey Campagna has fueled the offense. He had a monster effort in the win over Collinsville, finishing with five touchdowns and well beyond 100 yards rushing. Campagna is now closing in on 1,500 yards rushing on the season with 22 touchdowns. Lincoln-Way West is aiming for the school’s second-ever appearance in the semifinals with a the 2015 run to the Class 5A title game accounting for the first, the last and only time the program has reached such lofty heights.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 1 Normal Community (11-0) or No. 9 Glenbard East (10-1).

FND Pick: Downers Grove North

Class 5A

No. 4 Morgan Park (10-1) at No. 8 St. Francis (9-2)

When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

About Morgan Park: The Mustangs forced a fumble late against Sycamore in the second round to secure a 27-21 win and return to the quarterfinals for the second straight season. They came back from an 18-7 halftime deficit thanks to strong performances from different playmakers. Quarterback Marcus Thaxton threw for 94 yards, Keshawn Lewis-Hunt rushed for two touchdowns and 85 yards. Illinois commit Tysean Griffin leads the offense at wide receiver. Morgan Park will try to make its first semifinal appearance since 2004.

About St. Francis: The Spartans won their seventh straight game and advanced to the quarterfinals after a dominating 49-8 win over Sterling. Ball State commit quarterback Alessio Milovojevic once again showed off his standing as one of the best in the state, throwing for 285 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for a score. St. Francis’ defense came away with five turnovers and has now allowed 22 points in its last two games. St. Francis won a share of the CCL/ESCC Orange title and has been dominant during its winning streak, besting playoff teams like Joliet Catholic, IC Catholic, St. Rita and Nazareth. The Spartans will try to reach the semifinals for a second straight season.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 15 Nazareth (6-5) or No. 6 Carmel (10-1).

FND Pick: St. Francis

Nazareth quarterback Logan Malachuk (1) leaves the last Glenbard South tackler, Shaun Aderholt (14), behind on his way to the end zone for a touchdown during a Class 5A second round game on Nov. 4, 2023 at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

No. 15 Nazareth (6-5) at No. 6 Carmel (10-1)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About Nazareth: The Roadrunners dominated Glenbard South 41-0 in order to reach the quarterfinals for the sixth time in a row. Quarterback Logan Malachuk threw for two touchdowns and rushed in for another as the offense scored 42 points for the second time this season. The Nazareth defense came away with its first shutout of the season, limiting Notre Dame commit Cam Williams to 45 yards on two receptions and finishing with six sacks. The defending Class 5A state champions will try to keep their playoff run going after entering the playoffs 4-5 and starting the season 0-4. All five of the Roadrunners’ losses came against playoff teams — Kankakee, York, Montini, IC Catholic and St. Francis. Nazareth will try to reach the semifinals for a seventh time since 2013.

About Carmel: The Corsairs return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010 after they dominated Antioch 50-7 in the second round. Donovan Dey ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns while Johnny Weber threw for 61 yards and three touchdowns. Carmel has averaged 33.5 points per game and has scored 24 or more points nine times this season. The Corsairs lone loss of the season came against Mount Carmel, a game they were competitive in for much of the matchup. Carmel’s defense now has three shutouts this season and has allowed more than 14 points once this season. The Corsairs will try to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2007.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 4 Morgan Park (10-1) or No. 8 St. Francis (9-2).

FND Pick: Carmel

Class 4A

No. 11 St. Laurence (8-3) at No. 7 IC Catholic (9-2)

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

About St. Laurence: The Vikings return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2017 after hanging on to beat Dixon 31-21 in the second round. Senior quarterback Evan Les showed off his ability as a dual-threat, throwing for 107 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 168 yards. St. Laurence has outscored Chicago Vocational and Dixon 95-21 in its two playoff games, regrouping after losing two straight to St. Rita and Montini to end the regular season. All three St. Laurence losses, including to St. Francis, were to playoff teams. The Vikings will try to extend their historic season by returning to the semifinals for the first time since 2016.

About IC Catholic: The Knights qualified for the quarterfinals for a seventh straight season after taking down Boylan Catholic 35-7 in the second round. They had 21 points with 5:30 left in the second quarter and created two turnovers to take control of the game. IC Catholic has averaged 34.5 points per game and scored 34 or more points nine times this season. The Knights are led by a wide array of skilled players, including quarterback Dennis Mandala, Iowa commit wide receiver, secondary player K.J. Parker and CCL/ESCC Orange Offensive Player of the Year Joey Gliatta as a top rusher. The defending 2022 Class 3A state champions have shown they can compete in the CCL/ESCC in their first year, beating teams like Nazareth, Marist and Fenwick. IC Catholic has won four state titles since 2016 and will try to reach the semifinals for a sixth time since then.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 8 Sandwich (8-3) or No. 4 Wheaton Academy (10-1).

FND Pick: IC Catholic

Sandwich (8-3) at Wheaton Academy (10-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

About the Indians: As Friday Night Drive’s Eddie Carifio asked on the FND Illinois Valley podcast, “Who had Sandwich in the 4A quarterfinals on their playoff bingo card?” Probably not many around the state after the Indians did not field a varsity team in 2022, but here Sandwich is, one of the final 64 teams still playing after surviving Ridgewood 49-34 in the opening round before cruising past Chicago Dyett 54-6 in Round 2. Expect this one to be more in line with the Ridgewood game than the Dyett one, with Sandwich hoping to slow down a high-scoring Wheaton Academy offense and/or keep up with it using its own run-first attack led by RBs Simeion Harris (four first-half TDs last Saturday) and Nick Michalek (95 yards rushing vs. Dyett). The Indians have scored three or more touchdowns in all but two of their games this season – both of those losses, to Richmond-Burton in Week 4 and Rochelle in Week 7 – meaning a low-scoring game, like Wheaton Academy won last Friday, probably does not favor them. This is Sandwich’s first quarterfinal appearance since going 9-3 in 2011. The Indians made the 4A semifinals in 2010.

About the Warriors: Wheaton Academy is back in the Class 4A postseason for the third consecutive season and sixth time over the past nine years. The Warriors had last won a playoff game in 2021 and have never made it to Week 12. This year’s Warriors have have bucked that trend while also setting a school record for wins in a season. The tri-champions of the Chicagoland Christian Conference suffered their lone loss to Chicago Hope Academy 30-29 back in Week 4. Its been seven wins since, including a 68-0 thrashing of Chicago Phoenix to open the postseason followed by last Friday’s 12-3 slugfest win over St. Viator in which the Warriors held dynamic St. Viator QB Cooper Kmet – Chicago Bears TE Cole Kmet’s younger brother – to 96 yards passing and 16 rushing. QB Brett Kasper and RB Brandon Kiebles are dangerous runners for Wheaton Academy, while kicker Ethan Head has a big leg and can turn stalled drives into three points, although he did have two field goals blocked last Friday. This is the only game in the state being played Friday and not Saturday.

Friday Night Drive pick: Wheaton Academy

-- JT Pedelty

Class 3A

No. 6 Montini (8-3) at No. 2 Princeton (10-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

About Montini: The Broncos return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 after beating Prairie Central 44-20 in the second round. Alex Marre, the CCL/ESCC White Offensive Player of the Year, showed off his big-play potential by returning the opening kickoff 82 yards. Montini has now won three straight and outscored St. Laurence, Eureka and Prairie Central 116-43. The Broncos’ lone three losses came against playoff teams — Providence, St. Viator and Brother Rice. Montini made the playoffs each year from 1993 to 2019, winning six state titles during that span. The Broncos will try to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2018, when they finished runner-up in Class 5A.

About Princeton: The Tigers qualified for their fourth straight quarterfinals after dominating Monmouth-Roseville 35-0 in the second round. Casey Etheridge rushed for 225 yards and three touchdowns as the offense has scored 35 or more points eight times this season. Junior lineman Cade Odell had six tackles and two sacks to lead Princeton’s defense to its seventh shutout of the season. The defense limited Monmouth-Roseville to 174 total yards in the second round. Princeton has allowed more than seven points twice this season and more than 14 points once. The Tigers will try to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2019.

Up next: The winner faces either No. 1 Byron (11-0) or No. 5 Durand/Pecatonica (9-2).

FND Pick: Montini