High School Football

4A Playoff preview: Surging Mater Dei gets home game against No. 3 Herrin

Jake Wieter makes a gain during the Mater Dei Knights’ playoff win over Central Saturday.
Jake Wieter makes a gain during the Mater Dei Knights’ playoff win over Central Saturday.


Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday at Mater Dei Catholic High School

Next Week: Winner advances to Illinois Class 4A quarterfinal against either No. 2 Columbia (10-0) or No. 7 Canton (8-2)

HERRIN (9-1)

Coach: Jason Karnes (11th year, 83-34)

Rank: No. 10 in Illinois Class 4A

Playoff History: The Tigers have enjoyed a sustained run in the 4A playoffs having qualified each of the last seven seasons and 14 of the last 16 years. They had their two best seasons in 2004 and 2014, finishing 11-2 and just one win away from the state championship game. The only other time they reached the quarterfinal round was in 2003.

Scouting Report: Herrin started the season with a tough loss to Waterloo, but hasn’t lost a game since despite a schedule stacked with playoff qualifiers. The Tigers notched wins over Carterville, DuQuoin, West Frankfort and Central before knocking off Watseka St. Anne, 41-7, in last week’s first-round playoff game. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, coach Jason Karnes and the run-happy Tigers relied on the passing game to propel their offense this season. Senior 6-foot-4 quarterback Jake Downen (119-of-222, 1,807 yards, 18 TDs, nine interceptions) is the reason why. He gives four solid receivers equal attention. They include D.J. Spell (31 catches), Jacob Hartline (30 catches), Tate Johnson (26 catches) and Ty Downen (24 catches). The Tigers averaged 33 points per game for the season, but have been nearly 40 over their last seven games. The defense has surrendered just 19.3 points per game.



Coach: Jim Stiebel (7th year, 56-22)

Rank: 16th in Illinois Class 4A

Playoff History: The Knights are in the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season and 23rd time since 1989. Their best finish was 2006, when they were Class 4A runners up. They were semifinalists 2008 and last year, when they fell to Althoff. Mater Dei reached the quarterfinals in 2009, 2002, and 1993.

Scouting Report: The red-letter day in the Knights’ season was in week 5, when a 46-35 Milk Bowl loss to Breese area rival Central High School, dropped them to 2-3 on the year. They rebounded to win three of the next four games, including a 27-21 victory over Waterloo to clinch their playoff spot. Last week, they got back at the Central Cougars with a 14-7 first-round win. Senior quarterback Colin Schuetz rushed for both of Mater Dei’s scores. He is not only an efficient passer (135-of-260, 1,774 yards, 22 TDs, five interceptions), he also is the team’s top ball carrier (136 carries, 834 yards, nine TDs). Jake Wieter also is an effective ball carrier (140 carries, 741 yards, eight TDs). Jake Timmermann (40 catches, 485 yards, nine TDs) and Luke Theising (41 catches, 519 yards, nine TDs) are Schuetz’s favorite targets. Linebacker Trever Johnson (70 tackles, four sacks, one fumble recovery, one interceptions) and Nic Seelhoeffer (64 tackles, one sack, one interception) lead the defense.