The biggest question that always seems to surround the Class 6A bracket is where is the behemoth that is East St. Louis located in the bracket.
Since declaring to “play up” to Class 6A (East St. Louis actual enrollment number makes them a 5A school) the road to the 6A title seems to be going directly or indirectly through wherever the Flyers are in the draw.
Wauconda vs. Schurz: Wauconda was tripped up in Week 9 and denied an opportunity to complete the regular season undefeated. It was also a rare defensive lapse for the Bulldogs as it surrendered 31 points in the loss. Schurz followed up a 1-8 season with a playoff qualification but it requires a much bigger step for them to be in the mix to win this game.
Niles Notre Dame vs. Antioch: Notre Dame played five playoff bound squads this season but it felt like more in a gauntlet like schedule for the Dons. They beat three of those schools in their way to playoff qualification. Antioch got more comfortable once it left the nonconference portion of its schedule where it started 0-2.
Pick: Niles Notre Dame
St. Ignatius vs. Deerfield: After a season-opening loss to St. Patrick, some questioned if St. Ignatius was capable of producing at the level it had during last year’s breakout season. But the Wolfpack bounced back losing only once the rest of the way, to Mount Carmel. Deerfield dug itself a 1-3 hole out of the gates but then swept all five of its Central Suburban North matchups to qualify.
Pick: St. Ignatius
Belvidere North vs. Grayslake Central: Belvidere North was tracking toward a very high seed after winning its first seven games including a surprising win over Rockford Boylan. But the Blue Thunder dropped their last two games tumbling down the draw a bit. Grayslake Central took just one win in four contests against playoff bound opponents.
Pick: Belvidere North
Prairie Ridge vs. Crystal Lake South: It wasn’t a regular season marked by heavy dominance for the Wolves this year in a very wild season in the Fox Valley Conference including a hard-fought win for them over their first round opponent in Week 8 (48-41). Crystal Lake South enters the postseason on a two-game slide and didn’t beat a playoff bound opponent all season, but knowledge can sometimes lead to powerful upsets in the postseason.
Pick: Prairie Ridge
Kaneland vs. Riverside-Brookfield: After starting 1-2 on the season, Kaneland has settled in nicely, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where it allowed more than two touchdowns only once in its final six games. Riverside-Brookfield’s outcomes tended to go one of two ways, easy wins over average to below average squads or losses to higher-end caliber competition.
Grayslake North vs. Senn: Grayslake North put a real feather in its cap by toppling previously undefeated Wauconda in Week 9 and that catapulted them up the seed draw in 6A North. Since a Week 5 loss to Antioch, Grayslake North has outscored foes 185-34 in finishing the season. Senn hasn’t made the playoff field since 2010 and have lost all six of its previous postseason contests.
Pick: Grayslake North
Harlem vs. Amundsen: Harlem found itself at just 2-2 through four games, but picked up the pace considerably over the course of the second half of the season. Winning four of its last five showed it is definitely playoff worthy, but a lopsided loss to Rockford Boylan in Week 7, leads to questions of how long they can stay. Amundsen crushed all of its Red North Central division foes, allowing just 22 points in seven games.
Lemont vs. Blue Island Eisenhower: Lemont has been an absolute force in South Suburban Conference play led by the spectacular play of its QB Payton Salomon. These two schools are both in the South Suburban Conference but in different divisions and haven’t met in a crossover contest in a decade, a streak that ends now.
Glenwood vs. Quincy: Glenwood once again found itself a step behind the front runners in the Central State Eight Conference, Rochester and Sacred Heart Griffin but it still is a rather potent team particularly on offense. Quincy surged in the second half but a playoff win here would be just the second in school history.
Perspectives/Leadership vs. Kenwood: Perspectives/Leadership has one of the best defenses in the class by the metric of points allowed. But even though both of these schools are Chicago Public League brethren, Kenwood talented core makes it looks much more likely that the Broncos make a bit of a run in this tournament’s bracket.
Bremen vs. Washington: Bremen has two running backs in the backfield that are averaging almost 14 yards a carry, but the Braves have been gouging less than spectacular defensive fronts in its league. Washington will come to this battle considerably more battle tested as has looked very strong during a five-game winning streak to close the season, outscoring foes 173-14.
Simeon vs. Oak Forest: Simeon looks like one of the more legitimate threats that the Chicago Public League has had in the postseason fray in some time. The offensive has explosive WR Malik Elzy, who recently reopened his recruitment after committing to Cincinnati and bruising running back Andre Crews pacing their efforts. Oak Forest is one of the few qualified playoff teams that have actually been outscored by opponents this season.
Crete-Monee vs. Centennial: Crete-Monee took back its Southland Conference title after ceding it to Kankakee last season. After avenging that loss, the Warriors have a postseason run on its mind and might have the tools to get that done. Flexible offensive weapons like Josh Franklin make the Warriors tough to plan for. Centennial started the season 7-0 but faltered twice down the stretch.
Normal West vs. Danville: Normal West’s only regular season loss came in a game it didn’t have to play. After Urbana announced it was forfeiting its season, the Wildcats picked up a game with Richmond-Burton who handed them their only loss. Despite being in the same conference, the Big Twelve, these two teams did not meet during the regular season.
Pick: Normal West
East St. Louis vs. Oak Lawn Richards: The powerful Flyers look as good as usual taking a pair of losses to nationally ranked opponents early in the season. Since then, they’ve stacked up points at alarming rates with most of their contests easily in hand before halftime. Richards has seen its last two postseasons end at the hands of the Flyers.
Pick: East St. Louis