Here are previews of the second-round playoff games for all the teams from around the Suburban Life coverage area.
No. 12 Glenbrook South (9-1) at No. 5 Glenbard West (9-1)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
About the Titans: Glenbrook South is coming off an impressive 40-7 first-round win over Homewood-Flossmoor. The Titans’ only loss was to Maine South, 23-16 in Week 6. Glenbrook South’s lone regular-season win over a team with a winning record was a good one, 43-42 over Palatine in Week 4. The Titans this season had 11 returning starters back from a 2021 team that went 9-3 and made the quarterfinals in the program’s deepest playoff run since 2009. Like Glenbard West, Glenbrook South’s strength appears to start up front with an offensive line led by three-sport star Drew Duffy at guard. Fellow lineman Jacque Gariepy holds an offer from Drake.
About the Hilltoppers: Glenbard West had it all going last week in a 38-7 win over Lockport. Senior QB Korey Tai threw for three touchdowns, two to Filip Maciorowski, and ran for a score, and Julius Ellens also ran for a TD. Defensively, the Hilltoppers forced three turnovers. Tai’s 7-for-8 passing for 164 yards and the three scores adds another dimension to a Glenbard West offense that is hard to contain on the merits of its ground game alone. That run game, with Ellens and Joey Pope running behind a big line anchored by Wisconsin recruit Chris Terek, is hard to stop once it gets revved up. The Hilltoppers also played a much cleaner game from a penalty perspective last week, a trend they’ll want to maintain as the games continue to get tougher. Glenbard West seeks its first quarterfinal appearance since 2016, recent history not lost on the Hilltoppers.
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 13 Maine South (8-2) and No. 4 South Elgin (10-0).
Friday Night Drive pick: Glenbard West
No. 2 York (10-0) at No. 18 Marist (7-3)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
About the Dukes: York’s historic season didn’t miss a beat with the playoffs starting. The Dukes last week beat Oswego East 31-10 for the program’s first playoff win since 2010. Jake Melion rushed for 128 yards and three TDs, QB Matt Vezza threw for 165 yards and rushed for 54 and York’s defense held Oswego East to three first downs until its final drive. Now the Dukes get another opportunity to build their pedigree at a CCL/ESCC power with recent playoff success. York head coach Mike Fitzgerald knows the opposing program well. He was offensive coordinator at Marist from 2008-2013 and helped the RedHawks take second in Class 8A in 2009. York has two components that seem to translate to success on the road: a stingy defense and a talented, veteran QB in two-year starter Vezza. York seeks its first quarterfinal appearance since 2006.
About the RedHawks: Is Marist the best three-loss team in the state? Based on the quality of the RedHawks’ losses, perhaps. Marist lost to Glenbard West 33-31 in Week 1, and its other two losses are to Mt. Carmel and Loyola, arguably the state’s two best teams. Marist comes in off a solid 42-28 first-round win at Naperville North. Quarterback Dermot Smyth threw for 171 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 113 yards and two scores. Chris Lofgren rushed for 208 yards and three TDs. Jamel Howard, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive lineman, is committed to Wisconsin and picked up a recent offer from Michigan. Marist defensive back John Nestor is committed to Iowa. Marist has a recent history of deep playoff runs as a low seed. In 2021 the RedHawks made the 8A semifinals as a No. 18 seed and in 2019 they made the semifinals as a No. 23 seed
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 7 Palatine (9-1) and No. 23 Minooka (7-3).
FND pick: York
No. 14 Lyons Township (8-2) at No. 3 Plainfield North (10-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
About the Lions: Lyons comes in off a 26-17 win over Naperville Central in the first round. Junior QB Ryan Jackson threw TD passes to Travis Stamm and Graham Smith to stake the Lions to a 24-7 halftime lead. Then Jackson had a key pooch punt late downed by Stamm that set up a game-clinching safety. Danny Pasko ran for 83 yards and a TD. The Lions, leaning on a strong defense, have shown that they can compete against elite opponents. They were within one score in the fourth quarter of their only losses, to York and Glenbard West, and their defense played huge in key regular-season wins over Hinsdale Central and Downers Grove North. Jackson is a quarterback who can make make plays spreading the wealth among multiple receivers, or with his legs. But he’ll be tested against a Plainfield North defense that allowed just 7.3 points per game during the regular season, tied for second-fewest with York in the 8A bracket. Lyons seeks its first quarterfinal appearance since making three straight from 2010-2012.
About the Tigers: Plainfield North and Lyons have a common opponent as the Tigers upended Naperville Central 19-9 back in Week 2. It’s not the only thing that these two teams have in common either. Both subscribe to the notion of doing whatever they have to do to reach an end goal and both are pretty confident that their defense will play well enough to give them a chance to win against almost any opponent. Plainfield North may have the advantage on the offensive side of the football though with talented QB Demir Ashiru’s unflappability allowing the Tigers to be inventive and at times risky in moving the ball down the field. If teams designate that the passing game must be the component to try to stop, the Tigers have demonstrated time and time again that they can switch gears to a bruising running game to keep the chains moving.
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 6 Loyola (9-1) and No. 22 Edwardsville (7-3).
FND pick: Plainfield North
No. 1 Mount Carmel (10-0) at No. 17 Downers Grove North (7-3)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
About the Caravan: Mount Carmel staked its claim as the state’s No. 1-ranked team with a 42-37 Week 9 win over Loyola, and is the overwhelming favorite in the Class 7A bracket. A high-powered Caravan offense averaged nearly 42 points per game during the regular season and kept it rolling with a 49-3 first-round win over Buffalo Grove. Senior QB Blainey Dowling completed a staggering 77% of his passes during the regular season for 1,900 yards and 28 TDs, and ran for five scores. Junior running back Darrion Dupree holds 18 scholarship offers including Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Defensively, senior lineman Asher Tomaszewski is committed to Kansas State and edge rusher Danny Novickas to Ohio.
About the Trojans: Downers Grove North gave the West Suburban Silver a perfect 4-0 mark in the first round by virtue of its 46-0 win at Lincoln Park. Now the Trojans brace for an enormous challenge with No. 1 Mount Carmel. A defense led by senior defensive end Ben Bielawski has been the backbone of the Trojans’ team all season, and get its biggest test with arguably the most potent offense in the state. It wouldn’t hurt Downers Grove North to hit on a few big plays to score points it will need to hang with the Caravan, and that usually means senior wide receiver Ethan Thulis is getting touches. The Trojans would also be served well to control the ball with the running of Noah Battle. As good as Mount Carmel is, Downers Grove North can take confidence in the fact that it took unbeaten York to overtime, and was within one touchdown in the fourth quarter against Glenbard West.
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 8 Collinsville (9-1) and No. 24 Brother Rice (6-4).
FND pick: Mount Carmel
No. 11 Lake Zurich (9-1) at No. 6 Wheaton North (9-1)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
About the Bears: Lake Zurich, a mainstay in the playoffs and the 2017 Class 7A runner-up, has won eight consecutive games since a 21-10 Week 2 loss to St. Charles North. Coincidentally, Wheaton North’s only loss also came at the hands of St. Charles North, by one point in Week 4.
Lake Zurich handled business last week against Larkin (48-6) and now faces defending Class 7A state-champion Wheaton North, a team that plays in a notoriously tough DuKane Conference. “We are excited about the opportunity to play the defending state champions,” Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. “They are a very disciplined, well-coached team that knows how to win. They know what it is like to make a run in the playoffs. It is going to be a fun challenge for us. We have to play our game and be mistake-free to be successful.” Planz liked how the Bears played hard, fast and physical last week against Larkin. “We need that type of play every week if we are going to make a fun. We were pretty efficient on offense. We scored on four of our first five drives, and the one punt we had flipped field position by downing it at the 1-yard line.” Planz said the word focus is being, for lack of an alternate term, focused on this week. “The playoffs are a new season and a unique experience with different schedules and game times,” he said. “We need to make sure our focus is there in all aspects, including meetings, practice and gameday.”
Tyler Erkman had two catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, returned two punts for 110 yards and a touchdown and made two tackles and had a pick on defense. He did not play in the second half. “Tyler had a great first-round playoff game,” Planz said. The Lake Zurich defense held Larkin to 102 yards of total offense and caused 3 turnovers. The Bears’ offense gained 327 yards and had no turnovers. Chris Pirrone ran for 93 yards on 18 carriers last week. “Chris has been great at running the ball lately,” Planz noted. Planz explained the Lake Zurich offensive line has helped its backfield average 216 yards rushing per game over the last 3 games, which includes the Larkin postseason win. That unit includes Richie Marmol, Trevor Scheutz, Bryce Sanders, Collin Byrne, Jim Stronly and Nick Panico. “Our offensive line has been good,” he said. Cal Grabowski has stepped it up throughout the season. He leads the team in tackles despite missing 2 games due to injury. “Cal has been a great two-way player all year,” Planz said. Grabowski has rushed for 254 yards on 40 carries with four touchdowns (6.35 yards per carry) and has 56 tackles (31 solos) with eight tackles for loss and two sacks.
About the Falcons: Wheaton North started its Class 7A title defense with a 35-14 win over Willowbrook last week. Karsten Libby had two of the Falcons’ three interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown. Wheaton North held Willowbrook to one first down and eight yards of offense in the first half in building a 35-0 lead. The Falcons’ defense has remained stout despite losing Holy Cross recruit and three-year starting linebacker Ross Dansdill to a season-ending injury. Wheaton North’s offense, meanwhile, seems to do enough to get the job done whether it’s Luke Beedle or Walker Owens running the ball, Max Howser throwing it or Tyler O’Connor running it from under center.
Libby has three interceptions and is North’s second-leading tackler. He also has 20 catches for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Tyler O’Connor has eight interceptions and is the third-leading tackler and has also run for 500 yards and 13 touchdowns. Beedle has run for 600 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also has 30 tackle.
“Lake Zurich is an extremely well-coached team that went undefeated in the always tough North Suburban Conference,” Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. “Offensively, they have a lot of weapons and can make plays on the ground and through the air. The line appears to work very well together and is an athletic group. The quarterback is as talented as any we have seen this year. On defense, they are aggressive and tackle very well. They appear to limit big plays with their discipline and ability to run to the football.” Wardynski said the Falcons’ success this season “has been the result of our seniors providing strong leadership for our younger players,” he said. “Up to this point, we have played a lot of close games and have been able to come out on top in most of them. Our kids like to compete and enjoy playing in big games. Lake Zurich will likely be as tough of a challenge as we have faced all year.”
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 3 Pekin (10-0) and No. 19 Normal Community (7-3).
-- Mike Miazga contributed to this preview
FND pick: Wheaton North
No. 1 Lemont (10-0) at No. 9 Quincy (8-2)
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
About Lemont: Lemont continued its trend of absolutely pummeling South Suburban Conference foes as after breezing through league play in the regular season it drew yet another SSC team in the opening round of the playoffs in Blue Island Eisenhower. The Cardinals were unable to break the string of SSC teams not being able to stay remotely competitive with Lemont, falling 55-14. That now makes eight consecutive contests since Lemont has been challenged at all stretching back to a Week 2 non-conference win over Nazareth. Lemont QB Payton Salomon continues to be spectacular, completing 80 percent of his passes and connecting for his 30th touchdown without an interception. He has three more touchdown passes than he has incomplete passes.
About the Blue Devils: Quincy might be arriving about a year earlier than expected with a number of underclassmen producing at a very high level. Leading that pack is sophomore quarterback Bradyn Little who set a school record with 428 yards passing to go along with four touchdown passes in the Blue Devils opening round win over Glenwood. On the season, he’s thrown from 2,617 yards and 24 scores. His leading receiver is Gregory Quince, who has latched on to 49 passes for 781 and more members of the Quincy sophomore class add more explosiveness to the Quincy offense in WR Tykell Hammers (40 catches, 630 yards) and RB Jeraius Rice (97 carries, 875 yards, 16 touchdowns). Quincy has given up a fair amount of points, but it looks like are extremely comfortable playing games at a fierce pace.
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 5 Bremen (9-1) and No. 13 Kenwood (7-3).
-- Steve Soucie
FND pick: Lemont
No. 3 Rockford Boylan (9-1) at No. 11 Nazareth (6-4)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
About the Titans: Boylan, champions of the NIC-10, easily dispatched of Hillcrest in the first round 31-0. The Titans’ only loss came to Belvidere North, 31-28 in Week 3. Junior QB Connor Dennis has thrown a school record 24 TD passes this season. Mekhi Glover ran for 108 yards and two TDs in the win over Hillcrest. Boylan’s pass defense appears to be a team strength, and the Titans had seven sacks against Hillcrest. Boylan has had recent playoff success to draw on. The Titans reached the Class 5A semifinals in 2019 and the quarterfinals in 2018. Both Boylan and Nazareth lost to eventual Class 5A champ Fenwick in the postseason last year, Boylan in the second round.
About Roadrunners: Nazareth had to scramble to get to the playoffs, winning its last three regular-season games. Now that they’re here, the Roadrunners have the look of a dangerous opponent. Nazareth looked the part in the first round, a 48-22 win over Glenbard South. Wisconsin recruit Justin Taylor ran for two long TDs, as did sophomore QB Logan Malachuk. Alexander Angulo, another sophomore on a young Nazareth team, ran for 111 yards and a TD. Nazareth has averaged just a tick under 42 points per game during a four-game winning streak. Now the Roadrunners are back home for the first time since Week 7.
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 7 Payton (8-2) and No. 2 Morgan Park (9-1).
FND pick: Nazareth
No. 6 Evergreen Park (8-2) at No. 3 St. Francis (9-1)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
About the Mustangs: Evergreen Park competes in the South Suburban Conference Red Division where five of the seven teams made the playoffs, including conference-champion Richards, which was dispatched 71-0 in the first round by East St. Louis. “St. Francis is an excellent team,” Mustangs coach Jerry Verde said. “They are well-coached, have good size and good speed. In order to be successful, we must be able to execute on offense and defense. That includes identifying and aligning correctly to what they are giving us. We have a talented group with a highly committed core. Regardless of the successes or difficulties, we have approached each week of practice with focus and effort.” Junior quarterback Deijon Feliciano is a two-year starter, while senior linebacker Asael Rubalcava leads the team in tackles and interceptions. Junior defensive end-tackle Eduardo Antunez, Verde noted, has been consistent on both offense and defense and also is a two-year starter.
About the Spartans: “Evergreen Park is a very athletic and physical team,” St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said. “We have to be able to match the physicality and play disciplined football. Their quarterback and running back are very quick and can make people miss in space.” The Spartans soundly defeated Marengo last week 63-0. “I thought we executed in all three phases,” McMillen said. “We had very little mental mistakes in the game. Our kids were playing at a very high level flying to the ball.”
Quarterback Alessio Milivojevic passed for 267 yards and five touchdowns, needing only eight completions to do so. Zach Washington, in his first start as a freshman, had two catches for 47 yards with both grabs going for scores. Dash Dorsey had an 80-yard touchdown run, plus caught two passes for 114 yards and a score. Offensive lineman Jack Anderson “is playing as well as anyone on our line,” McMillen said. “He’s physical and smart.” Running back Brady Piper “is running the ball with power and vision,” McMillen said. “He’s breaking a ton of tackles.” McMillen added wide receiver Liam Kolinski is making big plays when needed, plus has been a huge asset to the St. Francis running game. Antonio Guiterrez, a 6-3, 325-pound offensive and defensive linebacker “is a road-grader moving people all over, plus is starting to do a good job on defense clogging up the middle,” McMillen said. “People need to start taking notice.” Wide receiver Deshaun Williams has been hurt most of the season, “but came on strong last week and is looking more healthy every week,” McMillen said. “He could help us out being that big, physical wide receiver (6-1, 205) that we have been needing.”
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 7 Rochelle (8-2) and No. 15 Johnsburg (6-4).
-- Mike Miazga, Daily Herald Media Group
FND pick: St. Francis
No. 5 Stillman Valley (9-1) at No. 4 IC Catholic Prep (9-1)
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
About the Cardinals: This perennial small-school power finished tied for first in the Big Northern Conference with defending Class 3A champion Byron (which beat ICCP in the state semifinals last year). “IC is an excellent team, one of the premier programs in the state,” longtime Stillman coach Mike Lalor said. “They are loaded with talent and well-coached. We have had a real collective team effort. One player has not really stood out, but as a group they have done things well.” The Cardinals are powered by two-way lineman Andrew Forcier, “very consistent for being undersized,” Lalor noted. Senior tailbacks Porter Needs and Owen Zitkus have run for 800 yards each. These two teams are no strangers to each other in the playoffs. IC Catholic Prep defeated Stillman 31-0 in the 2018 Class 4A second round and 35-14 in the 2019 Class 4A second round. Stillman defeated ICCP 43-21 in the 2010 Class 3A second round and the Knights won 35-14 over the Cardinals in the 2002 second round on the way to the Elmhurst-based program’s first of five state titles.
About the Knights: IC Catholic Prep started its playoff journey last week with a 63-0 win over Chicago King. “It was a program win,” assistant coach Thomas Gibbons said. “We had a lot of guys play, especially some who have never appeared in a state playoff game. We executed from the first snap to the last. We are proud of putting up a shutout in Round 1 knowing we played a lot of guys. They executed just like we preached all week on the practice field.” Now, ICCP faces a playoff frequenter in Stillman Valley. “Stillman Valley has been a mainstay in the 3A playoffs,” Gibbons said. “Their offense has a lot of speed and skill. We need to play our best game of the season to stop their rushing attack. Our players are up to the challenge. Saturday afternoon at Plunkett will be a battle.” Gibbons said the focus remains on things the Knights can control. “Just continue to play IC football,” he elaborated. “If we do our job every play, we have a chance to move on. Our offensive and defensive lines have been great, and this game will be very important for them. It will be won or lost at the line of scrimmage.” Gibbons had high praise for offensive lineman and captain Isiah Gonzalez. “Captain and leader on the offensive line,” he said. “He makes it all go.”
Quarterback Dennis Mandala continues to put up winning numbers. “His poise under pressure is what makes him such a great player,” Gibbons said. “When we need a big play, Dennis delivers.” Eric Karner also has been key to the Knights’ offense as a run-game blocker. “Eric has been a big boost for us,” Gibbons said. “At wide receiver or tight end, he wants to make the big block and spring a guy loose.” Jesse Smith has been playing well since returning from injury. “Since being back from injury, Jesse has been a dominant force on offense and defense,” Gibbons said. “He had a touchdown catch in Round 1 and multiple big plays on defense at linebacker.” Trey Harris and Nathan Schmidt also have had big roles in the Knights’ success. “You can count on Trey to do his job every play,” Gibbons pointed out. “Nate continues to be a solid defensive end. His continued work in practice allows him to better perform on game days. I’m excited to watch him play Saturday.”
Up next: The winner advances to the quarterfinal round against the winner between No. 8 Genoa-Kingston (8-2) and No. 1 Princeton (10-0).
-- Mike Miazga, Daily Herald Media Group
FND pick: IC Catholic Prep