When St. Edward rolled to four straight easy victories in its new conference for its first perfect regular season, questions lingered over the severity of the Green Wave schedule.
Skeptics will receive an immediate answer to their questions in the state playoffs as St. Edward (9-0) drew a second seed in its Class 4A bracket and received the difficult first-round assignment of hosting a strong 15th seed in Rock Island Alleman (5-4).
“At this time of year we’re just excited to be playing more games and everybody is going to be tough in the postseason,” Green Wave coach Mike Rolando said. “There’s not a bad team in this. Our kids will show up like in all the other big games this year.”
When state playoff pairings were released Saturday night, Burlington Central (5A), St. Charles North (7A) and Huntley (8A) were the only other area qualifiers. Central hosts Sterling, St. Charles North is at Rolling Meadows and Huntley hosts Palatine.
South Elgin and Jacobs were left out in the cold on tiebreaker criteria after finishing 5-4.
“There were a lot of variables we couldn’t control,” South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. “Any time get to that four-loss mark you’re rolling dice and we knew that. You look back on a play here or there, the loss to Crystal Lake South, as being costly.”
Unbeaten St. Edward had no problem getting to the dance, but advancing won’t be easy. Alleman may be 5-4, but was second in the state two of the last four years and was this year’s conference champion in the difficult Western Big Six.
“They play bigger schools, but so do we,” Rolando said.
If St. Edward advances, the next assignment would be the winner between Coal City and Mendota.
“Right now the kids are just excited to have a home game to start,” Rolando said.
Like St. Edward, Burlington Central is elated not to be traveling in Round 1 against Sterling.
“It’s awesome to have a home game — they’ll be making the long drive,” coach Rich Crabel said. “They were one of the teams on our radar. We know some things about them. They run a lot of what Johnsburg ran against us.”
If Central beats Sterling, the second game would be against the winner between 15th-seeded Marian Central (5-4) and second-seeded Solorio (8-1).
In 7A, if St. Charles North gets past eighth-seeded Rolling Meadows, it faces the winner between top-seeded Cary-Grove and 16th-seed Niles North. If Huntley stops 10th-seeded Palatine in 8A, the winner between second-seeded Glenbard West and 15th-seeded Fremd would loom.
Action on the bubble proved explosive Saturday. South Elgin had 38 playoff points and didn’t make it, but four of the five teams with 39 playoff points also came up short, including Jacobs.
Jacobs had been confident in a playoff berth after beating McHenry 50-25 Friday but several 6-3 teams emerged from Saturday games and Jacobs lost on secondary tiebreaker — only 10 wins by teams the Golden Eagles had beaten.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been on this side of the fence and this is a tough pill to swallow,” Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. “I’m not looking forward to meeting with the boys on Monday.
“It was pretty emotionally deflating already when I talked to the captains.”