The suburban Chicago area will be the place to be for metro east area high school football fans Saturday as four local teams travel north for quarterfinal playoff games.
Both Highland, seeded-second in Class 5A and Edwardsville,the 23rd seed in Class 8A, hope to move into the semi-final round for the second straight year. Highland will take on 14th seed and 13 time-state champion Joliet Catholic, while Edwardsville faces second-seeded and defending state champion Lincoln-Way East.
Eight-time state champion East St. Louis will travel to Gately Stadium for a second straight year to battle 12-time state champion Chicago Mount Carmel in a battle of elite Class 7A football programs. South Seven Conference champion Cahokia will travel to Country Club Hills to battle undefeated and top-seeded Country Club Hills Hicrest in a Class 5A quarterfinal round game.
Here is a closer look at the four quarterfinal round games involving metro east area football programs.
Class 8A: (23) Edwardsville at (2) (Frankfort) Lincoln-Way East
Kickoff: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Scouting the Tigers (8-3) As baseball great Yogi Berra would have said “it’s deja vu all over again’’ for the Tigers who for the second year in a row have rebounded from three regular season losses and are one of the last remaining local teams still playing football in November. The Tigers, who reached the Class 8A semifinals a year ago, have not been pushed in lopsided wins over Evanston and West Aurora. Making its eighth straight postseason appearance, Edwardsville reached the Class 7A state title game twice, losing to Mount Prospect in both 2001 and 2002, Senior quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman, a Notre Dame prospect, leads the Tigers offense which is averaging 43 points per game. The Tigers allow just over 19 points per contest.
Last week: The Tigers defeated West Aurora 45-16 in a second round game
Scouting the Griffins: (11-0); Coached by Rob Zvonar, the Griffins enter the quarterfinal game riding a 25-game winning streak. The Griffins won their second state championship a year ago, defeating Loyola Academy (23-14) in the title game and are in the IHSA playoffs for the 18th straight season. Lincoln-Way East has not given up a point in the last 12 quarters. The Griffins average just over 45 points per game and have given up just over six per contest. The Griffins’ defense has six shutouts this year.
Last week: Lincoln-Way East defeated Glenbard West 45-0 in a second round game.
UP NEXT: The winner advances to a semi-final round game against either No. 19 Loyola Academy or No. 6 Maine South
Class 7A (15) East St. Louis at (7) Chicago Mount Carmel
Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m. at Gately Stadium
Scouting the Flyers (9-2) Revenge will be on the mind of the Flyers whose comeback attempt fell short in a 21-18 loss to Mount Carmel in a quarterfinal round game last year. Three wins away from a ninth state championship, East St. Louis has played near flawless football in demolishing both Hoffman Estates (62-14) in the first round and second-seeded Glenbard East (56-14) a week ago. One of the top sophomore quarterbacks in the state, Tyler Macon is the leader of a Flyers offense with weapons everywhere. Macon has thrown for more than 2,200 yards with 26 touchdown passes and has also run for 1,100 yards and 17 scores.
Last week: East St. Louis moved into the Class 7A quarterfinals for the third straight year with a 56-14 win over Glenbard East.
Scouring the Caravan (10-1:) Also one of the premier football programs in the state, the 12-time state champion Caravan is making its 35th playoff appearance. In addition to the 12 state titles, Mount Carmel has placed second five times. The Caravan averages 31 points per game while allowing only six. . Champions of the Catholic League Green Division, Mount Carmel has five shutouts.
Last week: Chicago Mount Carmel defeated Lake Zurich 17-14
UP NEXT: The winner advances to a semi-final round game against either No.22 St. Charles North or No. 14 Wheaton Warrenville-South.
Class 5A: (2) Highland at (14) Joliet Catholic
Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Scouting the Bulldogs (11-0): The Bulldogs will venture out of Madison County for just the second time in the last two years for a playoff game after racking up five straight playoff wins at home. Highland is one win away from a second straight appearance in the state semifinals. The Bulldogs lost to eventual state champion Rochester in a fourth round game in class 4A a year ago. The Bulldogs, who have scored 117 points in two playoff games, feature a balanced offensive attack which is led by senior quarterback Jack Etter, wide receiver Sam Laporta and running back Brady Feldmann. In his first season at quarterbasck, Etter has thrown for more than 2,600 yards and 37 touchdowns, LaPorta has been on the receiving end of 19 of Etter’s scoring passes and has 64 catches for 1,379 yards.. Feldmann, who has run for over 3,000 yards during his career, now has 1,144 yards and 28 touchdowns this season.
Last week: Highland defeated Mattoon 56-35 in a second round game.
Scouting the Hilltoppers (7-4): After a rare losing season last year, the Hilltoppers are in the postseason for the 40th time and looking for a state record 14th state title. Fifth in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, Jioliet Catholic reached the playoffs with a 5-4 record but seems to be playing its best football of the season since the post-season kicked off. The Hiilloppers feature a run-oriented offense led by senior Keenan Hailey (2,006 yards, 22 TDs) and junior Nick Iannatone (974 yards, 11 TDs). Downstate football fans may best remember Joliet Catholic as the alma mater of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the Noter Dame Fighting Irish walk-on who inspired the 1993 movie “Rudy.”
Last week: Joliet Catholic defeated Marion 49-7
UP NEXT: The winner advances to a semi-final round game against either No. 4 Cahokia or No. 1 Country Club Hills Hillcrest.
Class 5A: (4) Cahokia at (1) Country Club Hills Hillcrest
Kickoff: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Scouting the Comanches (10-1): In the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade, the Comanches continue to make the most of their opportunity. Led by a defense which has allowed just 94 points all season, Cahokia is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008. Riding a nine-game winning streak, Cahokia’s attack is spearheaded by quarterback Malik Shaw who has thrown for 1,881 yards and 20 touchdowns. Senior running back Vincent Perry is the Comanches’ top threat on the ground with 1,201 yards and five touchdowns.
Last week: Cahokia defeated Carbondale 33-0.
Scouting the Hawks (11-0); Outscoring its 11 opponents 483-63, Hillcrest dominated the South Suburban Blue Conference and has outscored its two playoff foes 87-7 in reaching the quarterfinals for the second straight year. Hillcrest is making its 18th playoff appearance. Sophomore Mar’Kiese Irving is the top offensive player for the Hawks with 911 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Basil Edwards runs the Hawks high-powered offense and has thrown for over 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Last week: Hillcrest defeated Decatur MacArthut 40-7
UP NEXT: The winner advances to a semi-final round game against either No. 2 Highland or No. 14 Joliet Catholic.