Analysis | Friday Night Drive

2022 football playoff pairings: First-round information for Sauk Valley area teams

Sterling’s Antonio Tablante celebrates a touchdown against Rock Island Friday, Oct.7, 2022.


No. 12 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 5 Sterling (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About St. Viator: The Lions return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. St. Viator qualified for the postseason by winning its last regular season game against St. Patrick. The team also picked up a share of the CCL/ESCC Purple with the win. … St. Viator started the season 3-0 before dropping four of its next five games. Three of those losses came against teams ranked in their respective classes, including Niles Notre Dame, St. Ignatius and Loyola. … The Lions’ 24 points it scored against St. Patrick in Week 9 was the most it scored since 42 in Week 3.

About Sterling: The Golden Warriors finished the season with a 63-33 win over United Township last Friday night to finish 6-1 and take second place in the Western Big 6; their only losses came to St. Francis and Moline, both playoff teams. … Sterling is in the playoffs for the eighth straight season – and 19th time in the last 20 years – and finished 5-4 the only time they missed the postseason in that stretch. … Sterling’s quarterback platoon has produced good results this season, as senior Kael Ryan has run for 981 yards and 18 touchdowns on 111 carries while going 23 for 47 through the air for 261 yards and a TD, and senior JP Schilling is 35 for 54 for 517 yards, 6 touchdowns and an interception through the air, and has rushed 85 times for 424 yards and 10 TDs. … Antonio Tablante has run for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns on 88 carries, with AJ Kested adding 283 yards and 6 scores on 37 rushes. Cale Ledergerber has 36 carries for 181 yards and 2 TDs. … Isaiah Mendoza leads the receiving corps with 12 catches for 217 yards and a touchdown, while Ledergerber has 10 catches for 104 yards and a score, and Justin Null has 9 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs.

Dixon's Ethan Hays runs the ball for a gain against Genoa-Kingston on Friday Oct. 7, 2022 in Genoa.


No. 10 Dixon (6-3) at No. 7 Rochelle (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

About Dixon: The Dukes bounced back from a Week 8 loss to Byron with a 49-0 shutout of Rock Falls at A.C. Bowers Field last Friday night to secure a guaranteed playoff berth. … Dixon is in the playoffs for the eighth straight season, after making it to the postseason just five times in program history prior to the current run. … The Dukes have outscored opponents 249-174 this season. … Tyler Shaner leads Dixon in rushing and passing, with 149 carries for 913 yards and 8 TDs, and 60-for-111 passing for 818 yards, 10 TDs and 12 INTs. … Aiden Wiseman has been a workhorse in the backfield next to Shaner, with 133 rushes for 906 yards and 12 TDs. … Ethan Hays is the Dukes’ top receiver with 23 catches for 358 yards and 4 TDs, while Rylan Ramsdell (12 catches, 192 yards, 3 TDs) and Jath St. Pier (12-143, 3 TDs) are also favorite targets for Shaner.

About Rochelle: The Hubs will host this first-round matchup of former NCIC foes whose rivalry goes back to 1913; the two teams haven’t played regularly since the breakup of the NCIC in the late 2000s. … The Hubs play a ground-and-pound style of offense, and have an aggressive and physical defense. … Rochelle finished 4-1 and in second place behind Richmond-Burton in the Kishwaukee River/Interstate Eight Conference’s Blue Division, and outscored opponents 341-199 this season. … Garrett Gensler has rushed 152 times for 1,453 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, an average of 9.6 yards per carry. Trey Taft has 813 yards and 10 TDs on 88 carries (9.2 yards per carry), and fullback Erich Metzger has rushed for 444 yards and three TDs on 65 carries (6.8 yards per carry). … QB Hayden Inman is 20 for 27 for 404 yards, with 4 TDs and 3 INTs. Taft (7 catches, 185 yards, 2 TDs) and Dave Gerber (7 catches, 176 yards, 2 TDs) are his top targets.

Newman’s JJ Castle looks for space Friday, Oct. 14, 2022 against Mendota.


No. 13 Newman (5-4) at No. 4 Rockridge (8-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

About Newman: The Comets come in off a 10-7 loss to Kewanee in Week 9 that snapped a two-game winning streak. Newman has still won three of its last five games. … The Comets are in the playoffs for the 21st straight season, and 28th time in the last 29 years, and hasn’t had a losing season since finishing 4-5 in 1991. … Newman has relied on its defense all season, having allowed less than 20 points per game. … The Comets are 3-1 in one-score games. … Nolan Britt leads Newman with 408 yards rushing, while Hunter Luyando has 325 yards, Carter Rude has 237 yards, JJ Castle has 171 yards, and Gabe Padilla has 130 yards. … Castle has thrown for 404 yards, and Ayden Batten (240 yards) and Britt (112 yards) lead the receivers.

About Rockridge: The Rockets won the last matchup between the teams, defeating Newman 33-8 in a Week 2 game at Roscoe Eades Stadium. … Rockridge went 6-0 and won the Three Rivers Rock title, and has won eight straight games since a 41-22 loss to Princeton – the TRAC Mississippi champ – in Week 1. … The Rockets have outscored their opponents 297-157 this season. … Alex Zarlatanes leads the Rockridge ground game with 105 carries for 590 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Peyton Locke has 66 rushes for 571 yards and 6 TDs. Jacob Bayne (64-286, 3 TDs) and Jacob Freyermuth (37-237, 2 TDs) have also rushed for more than 200 yards. … Connor Deem is 21 for 35 passing for 394 yards and 6 TDs – without an interception – after replacing Bayne (62 for 104, 982 yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs) in Week 7 after Bayne was injured against Sherrard. … Kameron Bohnsack has 29 catches for 643 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Locke has 23 receptions for 432 yards and 7 scores. Deem had 10 catches for 120 yards and a TD before moving to QB.

Fulton's Ethan Price makes a tackle against Dakota Friday, Oct 21, 2022.


No. 13 Aurora Christian (5-4) at No. 4 Fulton (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About Aurora Christian: The Eagles won three out of their last five games, but come in off a 24-3 loss to Wheaton Academy on Friday night. … Head coach David Beebe is the brother of former NFL wideout and special teamer Don Beebe, and served as Don’s defensive coordinator at Aurora Christian for 10 years before taking over the head coaching duties in 2014. … The Eagles have outscored opponents 247-152 this season.

About Fulton: The Steamers have a 320-169 scoring edge on their opponents this season, and have won four straight games after back-to-back losses in Weeks 4 and 5. … Fulton is in the playoffs for the sixth straight season, and seventh time in the last eight years. The Steamers advanced to the quarterfinals last year for the first time since 2016. … Ryan Eads leads Fulton with 104 rushes for 505 yards and 8 TDs, while Lukas Schroeder has 97 carries for 493 yards and 10 TDs, and Joel Ford had 42 rushes for 263 yards and 4 scores. … Brayden Dykstra is 112 for 185 through the air for 1,240 yards, 14 TDs and 6 INTs. … Baylen Damhoff has 41 catches for 547 yards and 8 TDs, and Eads has 35 catches for 325 yards and 3 TDs.

Morrison's Logan Baker (4) rushes upfield with Jason Hall (55) moving in to provide blocking space on Friday in Kewanee. Kewanee won 16-14.

No. 14 Morrison (5-4) at No. 3 Ottawa Marquette (8-1)

When: 1 p.m Saturday

About Morrison: The Mustangs defeated Erie-Prophetstown 27-14 last Friday night to win a battle of 4-4 teams looking to become eligible for the playoffs. … Morrison has been in playoff mode since a Week 6 loss to Rockridge dropped the Mustangs to 2-4. They have since won three straight games, outscoring their opponents 138-34 in that stretch. On the season, Morrison holds a 256-188 scoring edge. … Brady Anderson leads the Mustangs with 640 yards and nine touchdowns on 85 rushes, while Carson Strating has 147 carries for 532 yards and 7 TDs. Chase Newman (34-300, TD) and Logan Baker (40-230, 3 TDs) also have run for more than 200 yards on the season. … QB Danny Mouw is 58 for 95 through the air for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns, with just one interception. He threw for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Week 9 win over E-P. … Newman (24 catches, 523 yards, 6 TDs) and Daeshaun McQueen (21-453, 5 TDs) lead the receiving corps.

About Marquette: The Crusaders have allowed just 91 points all season – just over 10 points per game – while scoring 277 (30.8 ppg). … Marquette coach Tom Jobst coached the Mustangs to a 50-28 mark from 1980-87, then coached against them in 2010 and ‘11, his first two seasons at Marquette when both were in the Big Rivers Conference. ... The second-smallest playoff school in the entire state (Madison at 156.5 to MA’s 163), the Crusaders under Jobst have been a postseason machine, earning 11 straight berths in going 108-37. Their only loss this season was to 1A No. 2 seed Chicago Hope Academy 40-25 back on Sept. 23. … Tommy Durdan ran for 203 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 7 carries in a 40-7 win over Sherrard on Friday night, and Logan Nelson had 5 rushes for 106 yards and 2 TDs, and also caught a touchdown pass. … Durdan has 88 rushes for 887 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Jurnee Reed has 109 carries for 553 yards and 4 scores. Nelson has run 22 times for 252 yards and 4 TDs. … Alex Graham is 32 for 58 passing for 652 yards, 13 TDs and 1 INT, while Durdan (8 catches, 96 yards, TD), Nelson (7-263, 5 TDs), Caden Eller (7-185, 5 TDs) and Charlie Mullen (7-108, 2 TDs) lead the receivers.

Forreston's Johnathen Kobler tuns for yards during Oct. 21 action against against Lena-Winslow.

No. 10 Forreston (5-4) at No. 7 St. Bede (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About Forreston: The Cardinals’ four losses came to playoff teams with a combined 27-8 record, and are by a total of 32 points. … Forreston is averaging 35.6 points per game while allowing 21.7 points per game. … The Cardinals have advanced to the second round or further in seven consecutive seasons, including state titles in 2014, ‘16 and ‘19. … Johnny Kobler leads a balanced rushing attack for Forreston with 127 carries for 951 yards and 16 TDs, while Kaleb Sanders has 84 rushes for 736 yards and 9 TDs, and Micah Nelson has 49 carries for 513 yards and 7 TDs, though he didn’t play in Week 9′s loss to Lena-Winslow. … Quinten Frederick (52-274), McKeon Crase (47-281, 4 TDs), Brock Smith (33-260, 4 TDs) and Owen Mulder (38-201, TD) all have run for more than 200 yards this season.

About St. Bede: The Bruins are in the playoffs for the second season in a row, and will be hosting a first-round game for the second year in a row. Last year, St. Bede defeated Chicago Hope in its playoff opener. … The Bruins started 6-0 for the first time since 1987 before losing back-to-back games. St. Bede ended the regular season with a 39-20 win at Mendota. … QB John Brady has thrown for 1,273 yards and 13 TDs, and also has 918 yards and 16 TDs on the ground. … Ben Wallace is Brady’s favorite target downfield, with 34 catches for 505 yards and 6 scores, while Tom Makransky has 22 catches for 182 yards and 2 TDs, and Connor Brown has 12 catches for 224 yards and 3 TDs. … Four-year starter Ryan Migliorini anchors the offensive line, while safety Ryan Brady – John’s twin – leads the defense.

Amboy's Brennan Blaine catches a pass as Hiawatha's Cole Brantley defends on the Clippers' opening drive for a touchdown on Friday. Sept 30.


No. 12 Farmer City-Blue Ridge (6-3) at No. 5 Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio (7-2)

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

About Farmer City: The Knights have won four straight since a three-game losing streak in Weeks 3-5, and come in off a 44-34 win over Galva on Saturday afternoon. ... Farmer City has scored at least 38 points in all six wins, and has allowed more than 22 points only twice all season. … The Knights hold a 287-208 scoring edge on opponents this season.

About Amboy: The Clippers have win streaks of three and four games this season; their four-game streak was snapped last Friday night in a 68-30 loss to No. 2 seed West Central. … Amboy has outscored opponents 370-204 this season; the 204 points are the second-fewest allowed in the I8FA North 2 Division. … Landon Whelchel (102 rushes, 915 yards, 9 TDs) and Quinn Leffelman (70-502, 10 TDs) have provided a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield, and Eddie Jones has been solid at QB since taking over from injured starter Tucker Lindenmeyer early in Week 4. … Brennan Blaine has 31 receptions for 804 yards and 14 TDs.

Polo's Brock Soltow runs for yards against River Ridge on Friday, Oct. 7.

No. 11 Hiawatha (6-3) at No. 6 Polo (7-2)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

About Hiawatha: The Hawks started the year 4-0. In each of their five on-the-field victories, they scored at least 56 points and reached 60 points four times. The team is in the 8-man playoffs for the second straight year under coach Nick Doolittle. Before that, they reached the 1A playoffs in three seasons between 2016 and 2019. That 2016 berth was the first postseason trip since 1987. … Their 56-28 win in Week 9 at Alden-Hebron continued a familiar pattern for the Hawks – more than 55 points scored in wins, less in losses. Doolittle said that when his team starts fast it’s at its best, and that was not the case at Polo last time, with the Hawks falling down three scores early. … “The biggest thing for us is coming out and having success in the first half, especially defensively and limit damage as much as possible to take over in the second half,” Doolittle said. “We’ve been a second-half team all year. As long as we give our kids the opportunity to win the game in the second half, we’ll be successful.”

About Polo: The Marcos have started fast the last two games, scoring 56 points in the first quarter against Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland in Week 8, and 46 in the opening quarter a win over Aquin last Friday night. … Polo’s 418 points scored and 164 points allowed are both the top marks in both I8FA North Divisions. … Brock Soltow has 144 rushes for 1,656 yards and 25 TDs, while Avery Grenoble has 107 carries for 897 yards and 13 TDs. Both went over 1,400 yards last season to lead the Marcos to their second straight I8FA state title.

Milledgeville's Bryce Aude sets his sights on the end zone as he scores during second half action against St. Thomas More in 8-man football on Saturday, Oct. 22. The Missiles won the game 46-6.

No. 10 Sciota West Prairie (6-3) at No. 7 Milledgeville (6-3)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

About West Prairie: The Cyclones have won five straight games after a three-game losing streak, and have scored 39 or more points in each of the last four contests. … West Prairie has allowed more than 18 points just once during the current winning streak, in a 49-26 win over Peoria Heights in Week 7. … The Cyclones have outscored opponents 295-276 this season, but that margin has been 181-70 the past four weeks.

About Milledgeville: The Missiles have won two straight games heading into the postseason, and have outscored River Ridge and St. Thomas More 112-20 in those two games. … On the season, Milledgeville holds a 406-252 scoring edge, with its three losses coming to teams with a combined record of 25-2 – including the only two undefeated teams in I8FA this season, Decatur Lutheran & West Central. … Connor Nye had touchdowns rushing, passing and on defense in last Saturday’s win over St. Thomas More, as he returned a fumble 82 yards for a touchdown. … Kolton Wilk had 20 rushes for 154 yards and a TD in that game. … Nye has 64 rushes for 739 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, and is 69 for 136 for 1,201 yards through the air, with 22 TDs and 3 INTs. … Wilk has 89 rushes for 694 yards and 7 TDs, and 13 catches for 133 yards and 4 scores. He also has a 75-yard kickoff return TD. … Kacen Johnson has 36 catches for 678 yards and 10 TDs, to go with 3 punt-return TDs and a kickoff return for a score. Konnor Johnson has 190 yards rushing, 199 yards receiving, and 8 total TDs.

AFC's Zane Murphy looks for hole in the line as Auden Polk( 19) blocks Polo's Tyler Meridian.

No. 13 AFC (6-3) at No. 4 Milford-Cissna Park (7-2)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

About AFC: The Raiders are in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. … A season after playing just four games before canceling the final four games due to low numbers and injuries, AFC has advanced to the I8FA playoffs in its first full season playing eight-man football. … The Raiders’ 34-32 win over Alden-Hebron in Week 3 was their first win in five years. … Carson Rueff threw for 212 yards and 5 TDs in AFC’s Week 9 win over Christian Life last Thursday, and also ran for 48 yards and a score. … Lane Koning had 98 yards receiving and 4 TDs, and also had an interception on defense. Zane Murphy had 122 yards receiving and a score, and also picked off two passes.

About Milford: The Bearcats started 6-0, but have lost two of their last three games; both losses are to I8FA playoff teams (St. Thomas More in Week 7 and top-seeded Decatur Lutheran in Week 9). … The 54-40 loss to Decatur LSA was the first time all season MCP has allowed more than 34 points in a game; the Bearcats have held opponents to 26 points or fewer six times. … MCP has outscored opponents 405-216 this season, and won the I8FA Central 1 Division title. … The Bearcats won the first Illinois 8-Man Football Association state championship in 2018. … Tyler Neukomm leads MCP with 151 rushes for 1,520 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Sawyer Laffoon has 89 carries for 823 yards and 10 TDs, while also going 60 for 110 through the air for 837 yards, 14 TDs and 4 INTs. … Justin Tillman (32 catches, 475 yards, 9 TDs) and Carter Borgers (16 catches, 193 yards, 3 TDs) are the top receiving targets.