No. 7 CANTON (8-2) at No. 2 COLUMBIA (10-0)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday at Columbia
Next Week: Winner advances to quarterfinals against Mater Dei-Herrin winner
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CANTON LITTLE GIANTS (8-2)
Coach: Ryan Pearson (third year, 19-11)
Rank: 13th in final 4A poll
Playoff History: 14th playoff appearance and first since 2014; Little Giants are 8-13 overall in the postseason.
Scouting Report: Canton’s deceptive single-wing offense took a big hit in the regular season finale when star running back Jace Chamberlin (1,284 yards, 21 TDs) sustained a season-ending MCL tear in his knee. That didn’t stop the Little Dragons from posting a first-round playoff win over West Frankfort that included three interceptions from star tight end-defensive back Cameron Lucas. With its running options limited because of Chamberlin’s absence, Canton — which runs plays out of the “Wildcat” formation at times — had 122 yards rushing on 38 carries last week. Quarterback Clint Wells has 771 yards rushing and 10 TDs on 134 carries while completing 31-of-68 passes for 647 yards and nine TDs with three interceptions. Junior running back Drake Yerbic (85 carries, 527 yards, four TDs) is another offensive threat along with Lucas (19 catches, 417 yards, five TDs) at tight end. Lucas is also a force in the defensive backfield with 69 tackles and four picks. Canton’s other stars on an extremely aggressive defense are senior defensive end Nathan Miller (40 tackles, 18 tackles for loss), junior linebacker Ethan Magnuson (56 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss) and junior linebacker Bryce Adams (35 tackles, nine tackles for loss). Canton finished second behind Washington in the Mid-Illini Conference.
COLUMBIA EAGLES (10-0)
Coach: Scott Horner (16th year, 118-49)
Rank: fifth in final 4A poll
Playoff History: Eagles are making their 20th playoff appearance and sixth straight with a 19-19 postseason record; they finished second in Class 3A in 2007. They have never faced Canton in the playoffs and the Eagles will be trying to reach the quarterfinals for the 10th time in school history.
Scouting Report: Led by their “Modern Day Warrior” quarterback Greg Long and heat-seeking linebacker Owen Suedkamp, the five-time defending Cahokia Conference champions have won 46 of 52 games since 2012 and are 20-1 the past two seasons. Long is completing 75.5 percent of his passes (114-of-151) while throwing for 1,679 yards and 23 touchdowns against only one interception. He has also run for 346 yards and 10 TDs, kicked eight field goals and 50 extra points and has 41 tackles and six interceptions on defense. Columbia’s top running back is junior Colton Byrd (180 carries, 1,508 yards, 22 TDs),who has 10 TDs in the last three games. Long is another running threat. Long’s favorite passing targets are junior Jordan Holmes (54 catches, 917 yards, 12 TDs), Jared Germain (21 catces, 231 yards, four TDs) and Mitch Daniels (19 catches, 257 yards, one TD). Holmes has gone over 100 yards in receiving five times in 10 games, including six catches for 139 yards and two TDs last week against Greenville. Suedkamp (112 tackles, one sack) and Byrd (52 tackles, four sacks) are a force in the middle of the defense at linebacker. Holmes and Long have combined for 12 interceptions in the defensive backfield, with Holmes returning two of them for TDs in the last four games.