Herald-News Prep Football First-Round Playoff Capsules

Joliet Catholic's Hunter Powell runs in a touchdown during a game against Benet Friday Oct. 14, 2022 at Joliet Memorial Stadium

Class 8A

Bolingbrook (6-3) at Maine South (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Raiders: Bolingbrook hasn’t lacked for offense, having finished the season with a flourish in a 63-point outing in Week 9. QB Jonas Williams has put up numbers that might rival any a freshman has ever produced in the state and has been utilizing an army of wide receivers at his disposal. Lately, the defense has been solid as well. The Raiders’ ability to combine the two will likely determine how long Bolingbrook’s season lasts.

About the Hawks: Maine South has two losses to quality opponents early this season, falling by two points to Warren and a point to Prospect. They now have won five straight games. Last year’s Class 8A state runner-up now has sophomore Michael Delumo and senior Andres Pinto sharing the load in Maine South’s backfield. Ryan Leyden was the starter at QB to start the season, was injured, and Jack DeFillippis took over. Leyden returned for a key drive in Week 9 against New Trier. Whoever plays QB won’t be shy in trying to find WR Maurice Densomore, a Homewood-Flossmoor transfer, who has emerged as Maine South’s leading receiving threat.

Friday Night Drive Pick: Maine South

Conant (5-4) at Lincoln-Way East (9-0)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Conant 41, Lincoln-Way East 7 (2001 8A Playoffs)

About the Cougars: Conant won its first four games of the season before losing its next four to put itself into a must-win situation in Week 9. The Cougars are heavily reliant on running the football, paced by fullback Dominic Mininni, who runs with strength that belies his size (5-9, 170). He scored three touchdowns in Conant’s Week 9 win over Schaumburg. For Conant to pull off the massive upset here, it better take care of the football, which is something that has been an issue in recent games.

About the Griffins: Lincoln-Way East lost its first playoff game in school history to Conant back in 2001. They didn’t let that discourage them, as they’ve gone 44-17 in the postseason since. This year’s Griffins have gone through their opposition with frightening precision, alhough the Week 9 win over Bradley-Bourbonnais was tighter than their first eight games. That might be a good thing as opponents will increasingly be more capable of giving them a better game.

FND Pick: Lincoln-Way East

Lockport (5-4) at Glenbard West (8-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Lockport 34, Glenbard West 0 (2021 Class 8A Playoffs)

About the Porters: The defending Class 8A state champions don’t enter the postseason on the same solid footing they did a season ago. It has been something of a roller coaster ride for Lockport, primarily because of injuries, particularly at the skill positions. Lockport is on its third QB and has no healthy running backs with more than 100 yards rushing on the season. The one offensive constant has been TE Hyatt Timosciek, who has corralled 38 passes for 687 yards.

About the Hilltoppers: Glenbard West appears to be getting healthy at the right time, unlike its opening-round opponent, . RB/DB Joey Pope is a threat who is rounding into form after an early-season appendectomy, while Julius Ellens also is an explosive offensive weapon. All of this goes without mentioning the typical bedrock of a Glenbard West team, a boneshaking defense that is living up to the programs standards.

FND Pick: Glenbard West

Minooka (6-3) at Glenbard East (8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Indians: It is hard to comprehend a team losing two of its final three games appearing to be in good position to make a playoff run, but that’s the case for the Indians. A one-point loss to Plainfield North in Week 7 followed by a 7-0 loss to Yorkville in Week 8 shows how capable Minooka’s defense can be against quality opponents. The 47-point outburst against West Aurora shows the offense is rounding into form at the right time. WR/DB Connor Christensen is making plays on both sides of the ball, scoring two touchdowns as a wide receiver and snaring two interceptions on defense in Week 9.

About the Rams: Glenbard East probably is relieved the draw gave them any opponent other than Marist. The Rams have lost playoff games the past two seasons by lopsided margins to Marist. Glenbard East has slid into the No. 2 spot in the Upstate Eight Conference behind South Elgin, but the league has historically not provided the challenges Minooka has faced on a regular basis. RB/DB Dimitri Hritz is a key performer for the Rams, and he is a playmaker on both sides of the ball.

FND Pick: Minooka

Rich Township (5-4) at Plainfield North (9-0)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Raptors: Rich Township is making its first playoff appearance as a consolidated program. Rich District schools used to compete as three individual schools: Rich East, Rich Central and Rich South. But now all three have merged, and the Raptors earned their first playoff berth this fall. Myrion Hogue engineers a solid offensive attack. The Raptors need maximum defensive effort, as DE Jeremiah Wright and DT Sirmaine Campbell will try to cause enough havoc to slow down Plainfield North.

About the Tigers: Plainfield North finished its undefeated season in impressive fashion, overwhelming Oswego East with yet another impressive defensive effort, its third shutout of the season. The Tigers have continued to diversify offensively, and RB John St. Clair has had a good run of late. The offense isn’t anchored in a way it may have been in year’s past. QB Demir Ashiru continues to make plays with his arm and feet.

FND Pick: Plainfield North

Plainfield South (6-3) at Loyola (8-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Cougars: Plainfield South has strung together five victories to win the Southwest Prairie Conference East Division title, but they will have to crank it up to compete with Loyola. RB Brian Stanton is electric, and the hope is that he can break a few big gainers to open things up for the Cougars. Perhaps the even bigger challenge is on defense, where Plainfield South will need to slow down an offense that attacks with a military-like precision.

About the Ramblers: Loyola’s hopes to go undefeated came to an end with a loss to Illinois’ superpower Mount Carmel in Week 9. But the Ramblers will look to bounce back and start another winning streak. QB Jake Stearney is a highly effective signal caller for the Ramblers and seems to have a knack for knowing exactly where the ball needs to go. Defensively, Michigan recruit Brooks Bahr anchors from the defensive line, but Loyola has a number of other defensive players capable of causing fits for opposing offenses.

FND Pick: Loyola

Class 7A

Plainfield Central (5-4) at Pekin (9-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Wildcats: Plainfield Central wasn’t able to duplicate its conference championship of a year ago, but was able to extend its string of playoff appearances to two years with an at-large berth. Central has taken on a bit of a grinder mentality on offense and has gotten a second-half surge from sophomore Malik Jassim. The Wildcats tend to lean on the defense to set the tone. LBs Mason Smith and Phillip Carlton are constants, while sophomore LB Kaleb Argueta has shown a knack for making big plays.

About the Dragons: Pekin hasn’t been pressed much this season and currently has the third highest average margin of victory in 7A behind top-seeded Mount Carmel and second-seeded Hersey. Pekin’s defense has also put the clamps down, allowing only 50 points over the past five games. Offensively, the Dragons are likely to be labeled a run-exclusive offense, but that’s probably because opponents aren’t forcing them to do anything else. Kanye Tyler and Tanner Sprecher lead the rushing attack that averages more than 300 yards per game.

FND Pick: Pekin

Class 6A

Eisenhower (5-4) at Lemont (9-0)

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lemont 40, Eisenhower 0 (2012)

About the Cardinals: Eisenhower was the definition of a middle-of-the-pack team, never establishing a winning streak longer than two games nor experiencing a slide longer than two games. The Cardinals were competitive in their games this season, but also had losses they likely shouldn’t have. Lemont and Eisenhower are members of the South Suburban Conference but are in opposite divisions and haven’t met in a crossover in a decade.

About Lemont: Payton Soloman eclipsed the 2,000-yard passing mark and the 30-touchdown plateau with no interceptions as Lemont breezed to a 9-0 record with a win over T.F. South. Soloman’s having a great season, but he is not alone, as Lemont has demolished its past seven opponents and was only tested in a narrow Week 2 win over Nazareth.

FND Pick: Lemont

Class 5A

La Salle-Peru (5-4) at Morris (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Morris 49, La Salle-Peru 7 (Week 5 - 2022)

About the Cavaliers: La Salle-Peru has to feel as if it can’t get away from Morris. The Cavaliers lost 42-0 to Morris in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, then hung around for a half in this year’s regular-season matchup before falling 49-7. There’s a lot of bridging the gap that will have to be done for the Cavaliers to earn a victory here. In its four losses this season LP only scored 22 points while allowing 121.

About Morris: Morris enters the postseason against a familiar opponent. L-P was one of the few Morris victories where Morris didn’t build a huge lead almost immediately. Morris has excelled on special teams at times this season and has gotten plenty of points from areas other than traditional offensive means. That doesn’t mean the offense has struggled, however, as QB Carter Button (69 for 102, 924 yards) and RB Ashton Yard (662 rush yards, 11 TDs) have engineered a potent offensive attack.

FND Pick: Morris

Class 4A

Wood River/East Alton (5-4) at Coal City (6-3)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Oilers: Wood River, near St. Louis, is making the long drive north in search of the program’s first playoff victory. They are 0-9 in the Oilers’ previous postseason games. The key to the Oilers’ offense appears to be RB Seth Slayden, who rushed for a school-record 256 yards in a rare win over rival Freeburg in Week 7. Slayden has more than 1,100 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. After starting the season 4-0, Wood River lost its final two regular-season games.

About the Coalers: Aside from being overwhelmed against Morris and Reed-Custer, Coal City has been pretty much what it has been for some time: a program with a foundation in good, solid defense and an offense that typically does enough to keep them in the win column. RB Landin Benson is approaching 1,000 yards rushing this season, and the Coalers have gone to the air a bit more effectively than in season’s past with QB Braden Reilly throwing for 10 touchdowns.

FND Pick: Coal City

Phillips (5-4) at Joliet Catholic (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Wildcats: Phillips isn’t at the level of Chicago Public League powerhouse status as it was only a few years ago. As such, the program no longer is playing up a level in classification and is building up behind a core of younger players hoping to restore themselves to the conference elite. The Wildcats survived a brutal nonconference slate where they were beaten soundly by Batavia, Mount Carmel and Morgan Park before rattling off five consecutive wins to claim a conference title. They lost to Kenwood in the regular-season finale. Very few four-loss teams have as much strength of schedule as Phillips.

About the Hilltoppers: This tends to be where Joliet Catholic’s difficult schedule pays dividends, as Class 4A opposition rarely brings anything more trying than what the regular season does. The Hilltoppers’ two losses come from teams that look like players in Class 6A and 7A, and the experience gained from that should come in handy. JCA’s stable of running backs seems to have developed a leader over the past few weeks in HJ Grigsby, who had a huge game in the regular-season capper against Montini. Those kind of efforts coupled with the defense should be enough to catapult JCA to a deep postseason run.

FND Pick: Joliet Catholic

Providence (5-4) at Wheaton Academy (8-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Celtics: Providence played one of the strongest schedules in the state, facing three teams that won state championships a season ago. Instead of allowing that to be a deterrent, the Celtics seemed to use it as fuel. Providence is relying on a relatively young core of players who seem to be gaining confidence. RB Jamari Tribett has been an explosive offensive weapon for Providence even though he’s been slowed by injury, while Mason Santiago has contributed heavily on both sides of the ball.

About the Warriors: Wheaton Academy played a schedule lacking a lot of quality opponents, with the eight teams they beat combining for only 23 victories. To their credit, they did not play down to the level of competition, outscoring those teams 364-24. A Week 6 matchup with IC Catholic didn’t go well, as IC Catholic breezed to a 42-20 victory. But the Warriors got right back to the business at hand, finishing off the season with three comfortable wins. QB Belay Brummel is a legitimate threat.

FND Pick: Providence

Class 3A

Carver (5-3) at Reed-Custer (9-0)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Challengers: Carver never has won a playoff game in nine tries. The Challengers appear to be out of their depth here, having defeated only one playoff team all season in Corliss, a fellow 5-4 team. Its lone exposure to a non-CPL team this season ended in a lopsided loss to Class 4A qualifier Evergreen Park and a no-contest game against T.F. North where a light failure didn’t allow the game to be completed [which is the reason that Carver has only eight results for the season].

About the Comets: Reed-Custer already has scored more points in a season than any other team in program history and hopes to play several more games to increase that total. The dominance has been clear, with Reed-Custer invoking the running clock in every game this season. The Comets were the only school to do that this season, possibly ever. QB Jake McPherson has had a direct hand in 27 touchdowns this season (20 pass, 7 rush), an impressive number considering he’s rarely much of a factor in the second half of the runaway games Reed-Custer is a part of.

FND Pick: Reed-Custer

Peotone (5-4) at Princeton (9-0)

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Peotone 20, Princeton 14 (2003 Class 4A Playoffs)

About the Blue Devils: Peotone’s blueprint is clear. If the Blue Devils’ running game is productive, things are going well. If not, things could get problematic for Peotone. The Blue Devils have notched about 2,000 yards on the ground led by a trio of runners who have all eclipsed 500 yards rushing this season, but the passing game doesn’t generate much. Peotone is averaging about four completions per game. The ideal in this game would be long, clock-eating running drives to limit Princeton’s opportunities.

About the Tigers: Princeton has been an offensive juggernaut all season, having scored 58 touchdowns via pass or run. QB Teegan Davis is the catalyst for the Tigers, having thrown for 15 TDs and run for 14 more. While Davis is the offensive leader, others are capable of a big offensive game. The Princeton defense has allowed only 14 points over its past five games while maintaining a plus-15 turnover ratio on the season.

FND Pick: Princeton

Winnebago (5-4) at Seneca (9-0)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About the Indians: Winnebago is in the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. They will look to attack Seneca in much the same fashion Seneca plans to attack them. Winnebago is a run-heavy team, and any success it is likely to have will almost have to come from its ground attack. Logan Olson is Winnebago’s primary scoring threat.

About the Fighting Irish: Seneca has had a potent offense in its first undefeated regular season in two decades. They have been utilizing the efforts of RB Braden Ellis and QB Nathan Grant. But perhaps even more impressive has been the defense, which recorded its sixth consecutive shutout (one by forfeit) while allowing none of its Vermilion Valley North brethren to score a single point on its way to the conference title.

FND Pick: Seneca

Class 2A

Chicago Christian (5-4) at Wilmington (8-1)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Wilmington 28, Chicago Christian 7 (2003 Class 3A Playoffs)

About the Knights: Chicago Christian looked nothing like a playoff team when mired in a four-game losing streak Weeks 2 through 5, where it was outscored 152-7. But the Knights pieced themselves back together and rattled off four consecutive wins including shutouts over Phalen Leadership (Ind.) and Ridgewood in Weeks 8 and 9 to hit the five-win standard required for playoff qualification. Although the Knights do own wins over two playoff-bound teams this season (RIdgewood and Chicago Sullivan), they were taken apart by the other four playoff qualifiers on their schedule.

About the Wildcats: Wilmington prepares to defend its Class 2A state championship with its house in order. The Wildcats’ running game led by Colin James (1,248 rush yards, 15 touchdowns) appears primed, and the defense still is a strong unit that regrouped after its Reed-Custer misstep to allow only 12 points to the final three opponents. Wilmington should have some momentum on its side.

FND Pick: Wilmington