No. 29 Maine West (5-4) at No. 4 St. Charles North (8-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
About the North Stars: The North Stars are back in the postseason for the first time since 2018, when they were the Class 7A state runner-up. St. Charles North is riding an eight-game winning streak and wrapped up the DuKane Conference title outright (7-0 record) with a thrilling double overtime victory over Batavia last Friday. Headlined by two-way standout RB/LB Drew Surges, the North Stars have rolled since their Week 1 loss to Palatine. Starting quarterback Will Vaske is back and healthy after missing time with a shoulder injury. Vaske has numerous pass catchers to pick apart defenses, including Jake Mettetal, Zach Priami, Anthony Taormina and Jake Furtney.
About the Warriors: After beginning the season 1-3, Maine West surged and reached the postseason with a win over Highland Park in Week 9. The Warriors had three consecutive Class 7A playoff appearances from 2017-2019. Quarterback Tommy Delaney ran for two touchdowns last week and was 12-of-16 passing for 159 yards, per Journal and Topics. Isaac Pittman ran for 105 yards and had one interception defensively.
Up Next: The winner faces either No. 13 Elk Grove or No. 20 Hoffman Estates in the second round.
FND Pick: St. Charles North
No. 18 Batavia (6-3) at No. 15 Rockford Guilford (7-2)
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
About the Bulldogs: Losing in double overtime to St. Charles North to miss out on a share of the conference title wasn’t the way that Batavia planned to end the regular season. The Bulldogs’ conference losses to St. Charles North and Wheaton North were by a combined four points. Batavia boasts a solid defense and has enough offense from quarterback Ryan Boe, running back Ryan Whitwell and others to potentially make a run. Defensively, the Bulldogs feature a difficult front seven that really limits the rushing attack, headlined by Jack Sadowsky and Tyler Jansey. The status of two-way standout Drew Gerke, who suffered an apparent injury last Friday, is unknown.
About the Vikings: Rockford Guilford had a four-game winning streak snapped by Rockford Boylan in Week 8, but bounced back to beat Belvidere North last Friday. In their previous four wins, the Vikings scored 42, 44, 47 and 52 points. Junior running back Jayvon Jones is a highly potent option out of the backfield while quarterback Skyler Wolf is just two yards shy of 1,000 yards passing, per the RJ Star.
Up Next: The winner faces either No. 2 Hersey or No. 31 Argo in the second round.
FND Pick: Batavia
No. 21 Geneva (6-3) at No. 12 St. Rita (7-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
About the Vikings: This is a rematch of last season’s second-round matchup. The Mustangs prevailed 28-7 last season. Geneva started off hot at 4-0 this season, but tripped a bit with losses to St. Charles North, Batavia and Wheaton North. The Vikings are headlined by Nate Stempowski at quarterback. He’s flanked by Troy Velez in the backfield. Sophomore wideout Talyn Taylor has been reliable all year. Defensively, Tommy Diamond, Charlie Morrison, Jackson Reyes and Charlie Winterhalter are others to watch.
About the Mustangs: St. Rita has qualified for the playoffs each season since 2000 with the exception of 2012, 2015 and 2018. The Mustangs will try to win a state title after losing in the Class 7A state title game in the last two playoffs. St. Rita earned a No. 4 rating in the latest Class 7A AP poll. The Mustangs’ two losses came to arguably the two best teams in the state. St. Rita fell to Mount Carmel, 35-3, and Loyola, 34-14. St. Rita’s defense is led by Illinois commit Pat Farrell on the defensive line. There is strong senior leadership with Matt and Joe Kinsbury at linebacker and Johnny Schmitt in the secondary. This season is coach Todd Kuska’s last after 25 seasons.
Up next: The winner advances to the second round to meet the winner of No. 5 Prospect or No. 28 Reavis.
FND Pick: Geneva
-- Michal Dwojak contributed to this preview
No. 10 Riverside-Brookfield (6-3) at Kaneland (6-3)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
About Riverside-Brookfield: The Bulldogs are making their third straight playoff appearance, this time under first-year coach Sam Styler, but they last won a playoff game in 2015. R-B bounced back from rough losses to IC Catholic Prep and St. Francis to beat Bishop McNamara 42-7 in Week 9. Junior QB Diego Gutierrez makes the Bulldogs’ offense go. Drew Swiatek is a player to watch defensively. The Bulldogs have losses to quality opponents – St. Francis, IC Catholic and to Wauconda, the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A bracket, in Week 2.
About Kaneland: The Knights have given up less than half as many points as they did a year ago, surrendering less than 16 points per game this year. They haven’t given up more than one score in a game since a 28-7 loss to Sycamore (9-0) in Week 6. Kaneland is in the postseason for the fifth straight year. Junior QB Troyer Carlson, who threw for nearly 3,000 yards as a sophomore, is in his third varsity season. WR Aric Johnson is his top target.
Junior quarterback Troyer Carlson has completed 119 of 194 passes for 1,698 yards and 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. Junior wide receiver-defensive back Aric Johnson has 37 catches for 720 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has two interceptions on defense. Junior defensive lineman-running back Josh Mauthe has four touchdowns to his credit, and has 68 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 5 sacks on defense.
“R-B is a lot like us,” Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. “They are multi-dimensional on offense and they play tough defense. They seem athletic on both sides of the ball. For us to be successful, we have to continue to play good defense. Our defense has been playing really well in the second half of the season. We need to be able to stop the run and not get beat deep. That has been our mantra this year.”
Up next: The winner advances to the second round against the winner between No. 15 Crystal Lake South (5-4) and No. 2 Prairie Ridge (8-1).
FND pick: Kaneland
-- Eddie Carifio
No. 13 Marengo (5-4) at No. 4 St. Francis (8-1)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
About the Indians: Marengo defeated Plano 32-7 last week. … The Indians won their last two games to reach the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. … QB Josh Holst is a big-time playmaker for Marengo with 706 yards rushing and 1,535 yards passing. He has rushed for 13 touchdowns and thrown for 25. … WRs Logan Miller (34 receptions), Greg Baker (27) and David Lopez (19) are the leading receivers.
About the Spartans: The Spartans lost to IC Catholic 25-14 last week. The Knights are No. 1 in Class 3A, St. Francis is No. 3 in Class 4A. … The Spartans are in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. They beat Peoria Notre Dame in the first round last season, then lost to Genoa-Kingston in the second round. … OL-DL TJ McMillen, coach Bob McMillen’s son, is committed to Illinois. … Junior QB Alessio Milivojecic has offers from Mississippi and Nebraska and was 18 of 27 for 191 yards and a touchdown last week. … WR-DB Dash Dorsey recently committed to Kent State.
Up next: The winner advances to meet the winner between No. 11 Chicago Noble/Comer (6-3) at No. 6 Evergreen Park (7-2) in the second round.
FND pick: St. Francis
-- Joe Stevenson