The north bracket of Class 4A is shaping up as an absolute gauntlet for those that survived into Round 2, while the south bracket had a few upstarts enter the second round mix.
First-round picks: 13-3
Wheaton Academy (8-2) at Joliet Catholic (10-0): Joliet Catholic is the largely unquestioned favorite in Class 4A and continues to show the skillset required of a team with such a high billing. Wheaton Academy has put together a solid season, but the Warriors will have to make a dramatic step forward to put a threat toward JCA.
Pick: Joliet Catholic
Wheaton St. Francis (8-2) at Genoa-Kingston (9-1): Wheaton St. Francis had to work pretty hard to fend off Peoria Notre Dame in the first round, but a very difficult schedule prepared it well for adversity. Genoa-Kingston has been stacking up points over the second half of the season and will likely need everything it can muster to trade points with this week’s opponent.
Pick: Wheaton St. Francis
Stillman Valley (8-2) at Richmond-Burton (10-0): This game used to be a regular occurrence when both teams were members of the Big Northern Conference. Richmond-Burton’s winning streak has now reached a state-best 30 games and the Rockets look determined to stretch that as far as possible. Stillman Valley has been a solid team all year, but the offense has to be considerably better than it was when it was shut out in each of its two losses this year.
Phillips (8-2) at Kewanee (9-1): Phillips looked pretty strong out of the box in its return to the ranks of Class 4A playoffs, while Kewanee really had to grind to outlast Plano in its opening-round clash. Phillips looks like the favorite here, but Kewanee has routinely collected wins this season that most didn’t think it could collect, so underestimating the Boilermakers might be a mistake.
Rochester (9-1) at Paris (7-3): Rochester has been a terror to teams in the southern bracket in 4A for years and it looks like this year’s version of the Rockets might be capable of doing so again. Paris comes into this game as something of a wildcard. The Tigers had a very inconsistent track record in Little Illini Conference play but earned a pretty solid playoff win over Mount Zion in round one.
Carterville (8-2) at Freeburg (8-2): Carterville is a typical fixture in the postseason and has made some deep runs in the draw before. But a defense that has had trouble at times could have its hands full with Freeburg, a team that typically kept opponents down on the scoreboard and done just enough to collect wins.
Murphysboro (7-3) at Breese Central (9-1): Breese Central’s only loss came at the hands of crosstown rival Breese Mater Dei, but a mismatched schedule still doesn’t reveal that much about the potential of this squad. Murphysboro has faced a much more challenging schedule, but even with those advanced challenges, Murphysboro still feels like a team that can’t exactly be credited for being that consistent.
Pick: Breese Central
Sacred Heart-Griffin (9-1) at Civic Memorial (7-3): Few programs take it up a notch quite as seamlessly as Sacred Heart-Griffin does as the postseason calendar arrives and the Cyclones are once again apparently holding to that form. Civic Memorial will try to continue its run through the bracket as an underdog, having already toppled Quincy Notre Dame.
Pick: Sacred Heart-Griffin