The group of teams expected to be the favored in Class 6A all advanced with relative ease and it won’t be long before that group begins to run into one another.
First-round picks: 12-4
Cary-Grove (10-0) at Grayslake Central (8-2): Cary-Grove flexed its muscles early and coasted to an easy win over Rockford East in Round 1. Grayslake Central copped its first playoff win since 2010 in beating Belvidere North. If Grayslake Central could manage a win here it would be their first advancement past the second round in program history.
Deerfield (9-1) at Crystal Lake Central (7-3): Deerfield does own a flashy record, but honestly hasn’t played a schedule with much depth to it and it lost to the lone playoff bound team it played this season. Crystal Lake Central doesn’t have the same issue, but will need to put some clamps down on defense if it wants to continue in the 6A bracket much longer.
Pick: Crystal Lake Central
Prairie Ridge (8-2) at Wauconda (10-0): Wauconda has absolutely blasted its way through the regular season but there’s still some reluctance to accept the Bulldogs as a big threat to get through the Class 6A bracket as they’ve only reached the quarterfinal round once in program history (1992). Prairie Ridge does not have the same troubled lineage and these are the types of games that the Wolves tend to find a way.
Pick: Prairie Ridge
Lake Forest (8-2) at Machesney Park Harlem (9-1): Lake Forest actually did a convincing job of showing its mettle in a loss, fighting highly regarded Warren down to the wire before succumbing. Harlem’s only loss came at the hands of Hononegah, but even in that contest, one thing has been consistent about the Huskies, points go up on the board in bunches.
Pick: Lake Forest
Lemont (10-0) at Springfield (7-3): Springfield put up nearly 100 points in its round one victory over Rock Island and the Senators would be more than happy to get into another game that would allow them to unleash their offensive explosiveness. The problem for Springfield is that Lemont isn’t likely to allow them to do it as it boasts a defense that has been extremely strong in taking away the things opponents like to do.
Richards (8-2) at East St. Louis (8-2): Richards, who has re-emerged as a postseason factor, draws the assignment of trying to rein in the most explosive program in the state. East St. Louis’ two losses came to teams outside the borders of Illinois and in-state teams haven’t come remotely close to the Flyers in six games this year.
Pick: East St. Louis
Crete-Monee (7-3) at St. Ignatius (9-1): Speed up or slow down? Crete-Monee is an extremely capable team despite its three losses (to teams that are a collective 28-2) and the Warriors have the ability to break big plays at any second. St. ignatius has had a breakthrough season largely due to its ability to impose its will and its tempo on opponents. Which one wins out?
Pick: St. Ignatius
Washington (8-2) at Centennial (6-4): Washington’s track record this season doesn’t have a lot of flash, but it has the substance of a team that has played a solid schedule and finds a way to win more often than not. Centennial has also shown that knack and has had to grind its way to wins after falling behind early only to rally to grab necessary wins.