A fast-paced, high-flying offensive marathon could be in order at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when O'Fallon plays host to Lyons Township in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.
Lyons (6-4), based in LaGrange, entered the postseason as the No. 15 seed, but tripped second-seeded Marist 34-28 on the RedHawks' home field. O'Fallon, seeded 10th, also won on the road, taking down seventh-seeded Homewood-Flossmoor 37-35.
Fans could be in for a wild ride if the Lyons-O'Fallon matchup resembles the teams' first-round victories.
"They can score points in bunches. That's always a concern," O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said of the Lions, who play in the West Suburban Conference. "You always want them to earn their points. The good thing about our offense is we can put up points in a hurry, too. We know we can come back."
A victory would give the Panthers (8-2) their third berth in the quarterfinals in the last four years. The Lyons-O'Fallon winner will face Mt. Carmel or Simeon next week.
Joggerst said the Panthers won't be fooled by Lyon's four losses. The Lions have won their last four games, coinciding with the return from injury of Northwestern recruit Matt Harris, a versatile performer who typically is in the middle of the action.
"He's mainly a wide receiver, but he does a lot of stuff," fourth-year Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said. "We hand him the ball and throw him the ball. He's very much a jack-of-all-trades for us.
"He's extremely athletic, but also very, very intelligent. He can handle a lot of stuff on his plate. He's an extreme competitor as well. It's fun to have a guy like him. He's the best football player I've ever coached and he's one of the finest human beings I've been around."
The 6-foot, 180-pound Harris, also a defensive back who will play cornerback at Northwestern, had five catches for 110 yards and returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown against Marist.
"He's not only effective on offense, but he makes plays on defense and special teams," said Joggerst, adding that the Lions' record is "deceiving" because Harris was sidelined.
Since Harris return, Lyons has amassed 152 points in wins over York, Proviso East, Leyden and Marist.
"I feel good about us," Weinberg said. "We're playing our best ball right now. (But) I certainly don't have any overconfidence against a team as good as O'Fallon.
"Team speed is very impressive for O'Fallon. They're very, very fast --and physical as well. They have a lot of offense weapons. But by the same token, they have defensive speed as well."
Weinberg said O'Fallon quarterback Todd Porter will occupy much of the Lions' attention on defense.
Porter, a 6-3, 190-pound senior, threw three touchdown passes to senior Darius Mosely and ran for two touchdowns in the victory over Homewood-Flossmoor. Porter was 25-for-39 for 403 yards.
"He reminds me a little bit of Cam Newton and Terrelle Pryor," Weinberg said, referring to the NFL quarterbacks. "It looks like he's not moving fast, but he is covering ground.
"He'll be the best football player we've seen all year. He's a great athlete; he runs with the ball well. You'll think he's scrambling, then he flicks his wrist and the ball is in a tight window."
Porter's counterpart, 6-3, 185-pound senior Zach Mahoney, was 14-for-24 for 199 yards and two touchdowns against Marist. Mahoney also had a 7-yard touchdown run on a scramble.
"He's very athletic," Joggerst said. "He's not afraid to run it. He makes good decisions with the football. He's really smart, a very solid player. He's just so in control of the offense and everything revolves around him."
Both teams pass first and run second, but have capable tailbacks: sophomore Leonard Ross for Lyons, freshman Kentrail Moran for the Panthers. Senior left tackle Nick Demes, a Penn recruit, and senior right tackle Matt Wennerstrum anchor the Lions' offensive line.
"Philosophically, they're similar to us," Weinberg said. "They're likely to throw it more than run it. If you give them the ability, they'll throw it, but they're not afraid to run it. It's whatever's working, whatever the defense gives them. Hopefully, we don't give them much."
The Panthers plan on earning everything they get, understanding there's no room for a letdown.
"We preach to our kids there is no tomorrow and there is no guarantee for next week," Joggerst said. "Those that stray too far ahead are going to be turning in their gear shortly."
Today's game: Lyons (6-4) at O'Fallon (8-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last game: Lyons defeated Marist 35-28; O'Fallon beat Homewood-Flossmoor 37-35.
Lyons players to watch: WR-DB Harris (32 catches, 448 yards, 6 TDs); QB Mahoney (135-for-203, 1,873 yards, 6 TDs, 66 carries, 305 yards, 2 TDs); RB Ross (48 carries, 345 yards, 6 TDs); RB Trevon Woods (40 carries, 245 yards, 1 TDs); WR Jemari Burks (51 catches 861 yards, 13 TDs); LB Billy Cramsie (80 tackles).
O'Fallon players to watch: QB Porter (179-for-293, 2,587 yards, 20 TDs, 65 carries, 170 yards, 8 TDs); WR-DB Mosely (61 catches, 985 yards, 9 TDs); RB Moran (129 carries, 640 yards, 6 TDs); WR Greg Gibson (38 catches, 481 yards, 3 TDs); WR Tae'Mon Franklin (27 catches, 391 yards, 2 TDs); WR Patrick Riley (23 catches, 349 yards, 4 TDs); LB Micquell Cotton (6 sacks).
Notes: The game is starting 30 minutes later than usual because of the O'Fallon Craft Fair being held at the school. Parking-lot space is expected to be available by the time football fans arrive. ... The Panthers last missed qualifying for the quarterfinals in 2010.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.