2023 IHSA playoffs: Steve Soucie’s Class 5A quarterfinal-round analysis

Joliet Catholic Academy's running back Hiram J. Grigsby III (7) runs for a big gaind during the class 5A second round playoff game against Triad on Saturday, Nov. 04, 2023, at Joliet. (Dean Reid for Shaw Local News Network)

Class 5A isn’t the CCL/ESCC Invitational, but it certainly has the appearance of one.

Five of the eight teams remaining are from the powerhouse conference and the bracket design allows for the possibility that the semifinal round could feature a CCL/ESCC team in all four positions.

The other three teams are more than capable of breaking up the party, though.

First-round picks: 12-4

Second-round picks: 8-0

Quarterfinal-round matchups

Wheaton St. Francis vs. Morgan Park: St. Francis’ incredibly taxing schedule (five of its 11 opponents are still alive in the postseason) is starting to pay some dividends. The Spartans have cruised to a pair of playoff wins thus far. Morgan Park’s schedule may not quite have the overall thunder that St. Francis’ does, but they have experienced what it takes to topple talent as its lone loss came to Mount Carmel.

Pick: Wheaton St. Francis

Nazareth vs. Carmel: Nazareth pushed over the .500 mark for the first time all season and is clearly playing solid football. All five of the teams that Nazareth lost to are still playing. Carmel was one of the few teams that actually didn’t play all that rigorous of a league schedule as just three of its conference foes qualified for the playoffs. This does not mean that Carmel isn’t poised to respond to a challenge as it has showed in two playoff wins it is more than ready to go.

Pick: Carmel

Morris vs. Joliet Catholic: A long-time rivalry is renewed here. Morris has flown through the regular season but got a stern test in Round 2 from Sacred Heart Griffin but the win may have come at great cost as key Morris players suffered injuries in the game. Joliet Catholic has really found its groove in the postseason combining a stingy defensive front with an offense that is largely ground based and capable of controlling game tempo.

Pick: Joliet Catholic

Providence vs. Highland: Providence seems to be changing form on a week-to-week basis. After struggling on offense in a win over Morton in Round 1, the Celtics had no such problems in Round 2 as it overwhelmed Hillcrest with 42 first-half points. Highland features a more consistently high octane offense as other than a shutout in its only season loss to Mahomet-Seymour in Week 2, Highland is averaging 40-plus points per game.

Pick: Providence