2023 IHSA playoffs: Steve Soucie’s Class 3A second-round analysis

Byrpn's Caden Considine (37) runs for a big gain as Dixon's Eli Davidson (27) and Landon Knigge (25) try to catch him during first quarter action on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023 at Byron High School's Everett Stine Field.

What a difference a year makes in the northern half of the Class 3A bracket.

Last season, the second round saw the eight teams remaining combined for just seven losses. This year, four of the eight higher seeds fell in the opening round giving it a bit more of a wide-open feel.

The southern bracket, on the other hand, has largely evolved into a who’s who of Class 3A football power programs.

First round picks: 13-3

Second-round matchups

Byron vs. Peotone: The stats for Byron through the first 10 games of the season are simply astonishing. The Tigers are averaging nearly 400 yards rushing per games and have scored 80 rushing touchdowns and are averaging 60 points. Slowing that down is an imposing problem for Peotone, which like many opponents of Byron, might be best served trying to play an elaborate game of keep away.

Pick: Byron

Stillman Valley vs. Durand-Pecatonica: Stillman Valley narrowly avoided being upset by a Chicago Public League team in the opening round, Noble/Johnson and will have to regroup quickly to deal with an imposing Durand-Pecatonica squad. Despite playing a schedule with mostly 1A opponents, albeit very good 1A opponents, Du-Pec is more than capable of making noise in this 3A draw.

Pick: Durand-Pecatonica

Princeton vs. Monmouth: Princeton throttled Monmouth 40-0 to kick off the season back in August, one of six schools shut out by the Tigers this season. Princeton is second to only Kankakee state-wide in points allowed to opponents (49). Monmouth fought its way back from a 3-4 record to make the playoffs in the first place, but prior to last week’s win over North Boone, the Titans hadn’t beat a playoff team all season.

Pick: Princeton

Prairie Central vs. Montini: Prairie Central got a break with a CPL opponent in the first round, but the Hawks were likely going to be a sneaky 15th seed anyway. Montini really looks poised to be around for awhile in its return to the playoff fray as it cruised to a Round 1 victory and there’s not a team in Class 3A that’s played the quality of Montini’s schedule as its losses come at the hands of Providence, Brother Rice and St. Viator.

Pick: Montini

DuQuoin vs. Tolono Unity: DuQuoin started a little slow while stacking wins but appeared to be only playing stronger as the season went along. The Indians narrow victory over Monticello (28-21) does give a little pause though as DuQuoin’s opponent this week handled that same Monticello team rather easily back in Week 9 (47-23).

Pick: Tolono Unity

Mount Carmel vs. Sullivan: Mount Carmel’s method of the second half of the season appears to be simply to outscore foes. It might still be a sustainable plan moving forward as the Golden Aces as they are pretty solid on that side of the ball. Is this Class 3A field too much for Sullivan, who despite an opening round one-point win over Clinton, could have a problem with a premier 3A program as its played largely 1A competition all season.

Pick: Mount Carmel

Greenville vs. Stanford Olympia: Greenville is notorious for putting up a lot of points and while it hasn’t deviated from that, its defense has also been quite good as well. Only two opponents have scored more than two touchdowns on the unit. Olympia squeaked by Litchfield in the opening round of the playoffs, Greenville collected a two-touchdown win back in Week 4 over that same team.

Pick: Greenville

Roxana vs. St. Joseph Ogden: Roxana is 10-0 for the first time since 2003 and the Shells have been rolling through nearly every opponent it has seen. They’ve won every game on its schedule by at least 20 points. St. Joseph Ogden has canvassed a more difficult schedule to date and has a much richer pedigree of postseason success.

Pick: St. Joseph Ogden