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

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) is greeted in the end zone by fellow team mates after scoring a touchdown on a keeper against Morgan Park during a class 5A state quarterfinal football game at St. Francis High School in Wheaton on Saturday, Nov 11, 2023.

The Class 5A draw, now better known as the CCL/ESCC Invitational, is down to just four teams from the same league and both of the semifinal matchups feature games that were also contested during the regular season.

If those regular season results are replicated, the 5A final will feature Wheaton St. Francis playing Joliet Catholic for the state championship, but both Providence and Nazareth are different teams since those original losses and will likely have something to say about jumping to that conclusion.

First-round picks: 12-4

Second-round picks: 8-0

Quarterfinal-round picks: 3-1

Semifinal-round matchups

Wheaton St. Francis vs. Nazareth: St. Francis was 2-2 after four games, but is currently in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that features prominent wins over the likes of Joliet Catholic, St. Rita, IC Catholic and a 35-17 win over this week’s opponent in Week 9. The Spartans found another gear during the streak and will clearly be a tough out for Nazareth, which couldn’t solve the riddle the first time around when it was believed the Roadrunners were playing for their playoff lives. They have also been a different team since that loss, earning feather in their cap wins over Prairie Ridge and Carmel in reaching this point.

Pick: Wheaton St. Francis

Joliet Catholic vs. Providence: A little over seven miles separates these two schoolsm but they hadn’t played for several seasons until recently. All of the sudden it has become a regular ordeal as this will mark the fourth contest between the two in the last two years. Joliet Catholic has won two of the three previous matchups but doesn’t want the pattern to repeat itself again this year as it dominated the regular season matchup last year before losing the playoff encounter between the two. Providence looked overwhelmed in the regular season matchup between the two teams, but the Celtics have made a litany of adjustments since Week 2.

Pick: Joliet Catholic