Althoff High School’s bid to return to the Class 4A state football championship game begins at 7 p.m. Friday at Lindenwood Stadium against the Carterville Lions (5-4).
The Crusaders (9-0) are the No.1-ranked team in the state and are coming off a 37-7 win over 5A playoff qualifier Triad on Friday. Could they be guilty looking down the road at trying to get another shot at the school’s fourth state football championship?
“They’re a veteran ballclub and they’ve played a lot of football.,” Althoff coach Ken Turner said of his squad, which lost to Chicago Phillips in the 2015 4A state title game. “They understand that it’s one week at a time and they will never overlook any opponent. The only thing we see right now is our first-round game with Carterville.”
East St. Louis (9-0), the top-ranked team in Class 7A, will be trying for its eighth state football title and first since 2008 when the Flyers open the playoffs at home against Lincoln-Way West (5-4). If they win, the Flyers would face the winner of Glenbard North (7-2) vs. Pekin (6-3) in the second round.
Belleville West (6-3), has a rematch with 2014 and 2015 regular-season opponent Normal in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. The Maroons lost to the Ironmen 26-14 on the road last season and won 52-24 in 2014.
“I’m excited about it,” West coach Cameron Pettus said. “We just saw them last year, they know us and we know them. It’s not like we don’t know each other. They’re very disciplined on defense, they don’t give up anything and make you work for everything.”
Among the most intriguing first-round playoff matches finds Breese area rivals Mater Dei and Central squaring off in Milk Bowl II: The Sequel.
The longtime rivals played in the annual Milk Bowl game Sept. 23, with Central winning 46-35. Mater Dei had to beat Waterloo on Friday night just to qualify for the playoffs, but the Knights have the most playoff points (opponent wins) of any team in the state at 56.
In this rivalry with Mater Dei we’re always considered the underdog and it’s never going to change until we change.
Central coach Brian Short
“This is a game that has a lot of pressure built into it already with your cross-town rival,” Central coach Brian Short said. “In this rivalry with Mater Dei we’re always considered the underdog and it’s never going to change until we change. With us having an opportunity to beat them in the playoffs, that’s the best chance for change we can possible ask for.”
Mater Dei and Central have met twice previously in the playoffs. Mater Dei won 26-20 in a second-round Class 3A game in 1993 and Central won 20-14 in a second-round 4A game in 2004.
“We get an opportunity to redeem ourselves,” Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel said. “We played our worst game against them ... we lost the Milk Bowl — and we haven’t lost many of those.”
In the two local Class 8A playoff matchups, O’Fallon (5-4) will travel to top-ranked Loyola Academy while Edwardsville (8-1) will be at home against Oak Park-River Forest (7-2).
Edwardsville boasts one of the top players in the nation in senior defensive end and Iowa recruit A.J. Epenesa.
In another regular-season rematch, Mississippi Valley Conference rivals Waterloo (5-4) and Highland (8-1) will meet again in Highland. The teams staged a defensive struggle Sept. 23 that included a scoreless first half before Highland posted a 14-3 victory.
Triad, also from the MVC, will be on the road against traditions Quad Cities powerhouse Geneseo (6-3).
Unbeaten Cahokia Conference champ Columbia (9-0) drew a No. 2 seed in the southern 4A bracket and will be at home against No. 15 Greenville (5-4).
In two other metro-east 4A playoff matchups, Marquette (7-2) is at home against Taylorville (7-2) and Civic Memorial (5-4) will be on the road against Springfield area heavyweight power and five-time state champ Rochester (8-1).
Barring upsets, Althoff and Rochester — which met in a memorable 4A quarterfinal game with Althoff winning 46-42 — are on a collision course to meet in the 4A quarterfinals once again.
Red Bud (7-2), back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and sixth overall, will be on the road to face Du Quoin (7-2) in a Class 2A first-round game. In Class 3A, Wood River (6-3) has a tough first-round test on the road against Carlinville (8-1).
Wood River will be making its first playoff appearance since 2006.
Nashville was the only metro-east 5-4 team not to qualify for the playoffs. The Hornets’ 35 playoff points (the number of opponent wins, which is used as a tie-breaker) was below the 37-point cutoff.
Illinois Football Playoffs
(local teams only; seeds, records in parentheses; times, dates announced Monday)
(32) O’Fallon (5-4) at (1) Loyola Academy (9-0), 2 p.m. Saturday
(21) Oak Park-River Forest (7-2) at (12) Edwardsville (8-1), 6 p.m. Friday
(31) Lincoln-Way West (5-4) at (2) East St. Louis (9-0), 2 p.m. Saturday
(27) Belleville West (5-4) at (6) Normal (8-1), 1:30 p.m. Saturday
(15) Waterloo (5-4) at (2) Highland (8-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
(11) Triad (6-3) at (6) Geneseo (6-3), 3 p.m. Saturday
(12) Mahomet-Seymour (6-3) at (5) Centralia (7-2), 2 p.m. Saturday
(16) Carterville (5-4) at (1) Althoff (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Lindenwood Stadium
(15) Greenville (5-4) at (2) Columbia (9-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
(11) Mater Dei (5-4) at (6) Central (7-2), 1 p.m. Saturday
(9) Taylorville (7-2) at (8) Marquette (7-2), 7 p.m. Friday
(12) Civic Memorial (5-4) at (5) Rochester (8-1), 7 p.m. Friday
(13) Wood River (6-3) at (4) Carlinville (8-1), 7 p.m. Friday
(9) Red Bud (7-2) at (8) Du Quoin (7-2), 2 p.m. Saturday