Class 8A playoff preview: Lyons at Stevenson

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Top-seeded Stevenson (9-0) plays host to 16th-seeded Lyons (5-4) at 7 p.m. on Friday in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs. This is the third time Lyons and Stevenson have met since 2011. Both previous times were during the regular season. The Lions beat the Patriots to open the 2011 season, and the Patriots won in 2012. Here’s what you should look forward to this weekend:

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Stevenson

Willie Bourbon, quarterback, sr. — A three-year varsity starter, Bourbon is playing the best football of his career. In the regular season, Bourbon completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 12 touchdowns. A dual threat, he also rushed for 259 yards. “When things break down, he can make plays with his arm and his feet,” Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said.

Pat O’Connell, defensive end, sr. — On the Patriots’ stout three-man defensive line, O’Connell is the team’s best pass rusher. With seven tackles for loss, he’s tied with linebacker Rory Koenig for the team lead.

Lyons

Leonard Ross, running back, sr. — To beat Stevenson, the Miami (Ohio) recruit will need to carry the load as he has all season for the Lions. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder ran for 160 yards on 23 carries in Lyons’ Week 9 playoff-clinching victory over Proviso West. In a Sept. 27 victory over Downers Grove North, Ross ran for 192 yards on 35 carries.

Tom Fiedler, quarterback, sr. — It has been an inconsistent season for the Lions’ two-year varsity starter. In a 42-20 triumph over Proviso West, the 6-3, 180-pound Fielder played one of his best games, completing 9-of-13 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

When Stevenson passes the ball…

The Patriots like to test defensive secondaries. They have one of the state’s best vertical passing games. Bourbon and senior wide receiver Cameron Green (37 receptions, 16.4 yards per catch, nine touchdowns) like to take shots down the field. Junior wide receiver Jack Sorenson (35 catches, 569 yards) also can beat single coverage.

When Lyons runs the ball…

Ross handles most of the carries. He runs behind a solid offensive line led by two brothers at the guards, Blaze and Chase Nacker. Blaze Nacker, a 5-10, 235-pound senior right guard, compiled 42 pancake blocks this season. “It’s not going to come as a shock,” Weinberg said. “We have to control the clock, do what we can do to keep their offense off the field.”

If the Patriots have the lead…

Stevenson has a running back who can eat yards and clock. Jack Joseph is the perfect complement to the Patriots’ passing game. A 5-11, 195-pound senior, Joseph is a north-and-south runner, attaining much of his yardage after first contact. He carried 118 times in the regular season, averaging 6.6 yards with 12 touchdowns.

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