2023 IHSA playoffs: Steve Soucie’s Class 7A first-round analysis

Batavia quarterback Ryan Boe looks to throw the ball during a game at Wheaton Warrenville South in Wheaton on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023.

Although the Class 7A bracket features five undefeated teams, there’s a lot of intrigue in some of the lower seeds in this classification.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see some double-digit seeds make some serious noise, which would be compounded by the fact that some of the consensus favorites such as Mount Carmel and Batavia enter the fray with a loss already on their ledgers.

First-round matchups

Normal Community vs. Argo: The Ironmen have simply taken a path of complete destruction through their regular season schedule with only Peoria providing any sense of resistance. The Ironmen closed the campaign on a trio of shutouts where they outscored their foes 158-0. Argo played a fairly light schedule and didn’t defeat a single playoff-bound opponent in its wins as the five teams it beat combined for just 15 victories on the year.

Pick: Normal Community

Bradley-Bourbonnais vs. St. Charles North: An interesting battle of two teams led by strong-armed quarterbacks in Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Ethan Kohl and St. Charles North’s Ethan Plumb. This contest could very well come down to which defense manages to get a few stops and possibly giving their offenses a few more opportunities to flourish.

Pick: Bradley-Bourbonnais

Lincoln Park vs. Addison Trail: A perplexing battle of two teams that don’t have much playoff pedigree to speak of. Addison Trail did win a playoff game in its last playoff appearance, but that was all the way back in 2014. Lincoln Park has never won a playoff game in nine tries and hasn’t really been remotely close to pulling off a win in any of those contests.

Pick: Addison Trail

Glenbard East vs. Harlem: Glenbard East earned a piece of a three-way share of the Upstate Eight Conference title and rode a very strong defense to that accomplishment as it allowed 31 of the 71 points to the teams it shared the conference title with. No other opponent managed double digit scoring. Harlem scuffled its way to a fourth place finish in the NIC-10 beating just one other playoff bound team along the way.

Pick: Glenbard East

Hersey vs. Wheaton Warrenville South: After a relatively moderate 18-point win over New Trier in the season opener, Hersey has rambled past every other obstacle on its schedule. The Huskies didn’t exactly have the hardest slate with only two other playoff bound teams on it, but you can only beat who is put in front of you. Wheaton Warrenville South collected a pivotal win over Wheaton North in Week 6 to guide them into the postseason and have grappled well with the DuKane Conference’s top teams.

Pick: Hersey

Downers Grove North vs. Kenwood: Downers Grove North started the season very strong picking up impressive early wins over St. Francis and Glenbard West, there was a bit of a rough patch in Weeks 6 and 7 but the Trojans appear back on track. Kenwood has elite talent and it won’t be unprepared for whatever the Class 7A playoffs throw at it as its three losses this season came at the hands of Lincoln-Way East, St. Rita and Morgan Park.

Pick: Downers Grove North

Maine West vs. Collinsville: Maine West is undefeated but still enters the postseason as a bit of a unknown wildcard. On paper the Warriors defense looks legit, but it does have to be considered that the Maine West schedule didn’t provide a single opponent that amassed more than six wins. Collinsville, on the other hand, saw plenty of quality competition and wasn’t really kept off the scoreboard by any of it.

Pick: Collinsville

Lincoln-Way West vs. Hoffman Estates: Lincoln-Way West has simply found a knack for playing its way through close games. They’ve gone 4-1 in games decided by 10 points or less this season which puts them in good position to play with teams like this week’s opponent who looks fairly equal to them on paper. Hoffman Estates has little trouble scoring points, but they’ve also had issues at times keeping foes from doing the same against them.

Pick: Lincoln-Way West

Hononegah vs. Rockford Auburn: These two don’t have to search their memory banks for how things shape up between them as this is a repeat of a Week 9 game. Hononegah won that matchup comfortably and should be a heavy favorite to do it again against an Auburn team that didn’t defeat a single playoff bound team during the campaign.

Pick: Hononegah

Willowbrook vs. Yorkville: Willowbrook played one of the weakest schedules in the state and while that doesn’t necessarily discount them from postseason success it does show that the Warriors will need a step up in level of play if they hope to make a move here. Yorkville’s been in just win mode for several weeks and its defensive play gives it the flexibility to still be in games without expecting too much production from its offense.

Pick: Yorkville

Batavia vs. Brother Rice: This is an absolute doozy of a first round matchup between two teams that think they have a legitimate chance of making a run to Normal. Batavia is a successful two-point conversion attempt away from entering the postseason with a perfect record while Brother Rice showed its mettle by running away from a strong St. Rita team in the second half of a Week 9 game that determined its postseason fate.

Pick: Batavia

Lincoln-Way Central vs. Jacobs: Lincoln-Way Central accounts one of the bigger turnarounds of the season after going 3-6 last season. The Knights seem to have found a recipe that works for them, something that Jacobs can certainly relate to as the Golden Eagles have done the same after starting the season with a 1-3 record and have now ripped off five straight victories.

Pick: Lincoln-Way Central

Quincy vs. West Chicago: Quincy was one of a very short list of schools that posted more than 400 points this season as it season-low production offensively was 34. The Blue Devils will hope to get some early postseason momentum going after moving up to the 7A postseason this year. West Chicago has already had a substantial break through as it has qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2002.

Pick: Quincy

Whitney Young vs. Wheaton North: After dropping to the .500 mark after six weeks, Wheaton North found its stride down the stretch especially in the last two weeks where they held foes to just 14 points. Whitney Young is in the midst of a six-game winning streak, but hasn’t beat a winning team during that stretch. In fact, the Dolphins saw only two winning teams all season and lost comfortably to both.

Pick: Wheaton North

Mt. Carmel vs. St. Rita: Both of these teams enter the playoffs trying to rebound from a Week 9 loss, a circumstance not extremely common to either. Mt. Carmel’s loss to Loyola knocked them off the No. 1 seed line and moved them down to a rematch with the Mustangs who they breezed to a 38-7 win over in Week 4.

Pick: Mt. Carmel

Prospect vs. Buffalo Grove: Prospect dominated Buffalo Grove in Week 7 in a 63-28 win. It doesn’t look like there’s much evidence that the Bison can flip the script against the Knights especially considering Buffalo Grove surrendered 140 points in its three losses this season.

Pick: Prospect