Four football games to watch for the Aurora area in first playoff round

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CLASS 3A

Aurora Christian (5-4) vs. Sterling Newman (9-0) at Sterling High School, 2 p.m. Saturday

Next up for winner: Raby (5-4) at Oregon (5-4) winner.

Key players: Aurora Christian — QB Austin Bray, WR/DB Jacolby Maxwell; Sterling Newman — RB Dillan Heffelfinger, QB Logan Whitman.

Outlook: Eagles were the last team into the playoffs and drew top seed and defending Class 2A champion Newman. It was the fifth state crown won by the Comets under coach Mike Papoccia, who is in his 35th season. This is the 12th straight playoff appearance for the Eagles and 13th for the Comets. These two met in a 3A semifinal won by Aurora Christian on the way to their second straight title in 2012. Key stat? Sterling Newman has allowed just 9.7 points-per-game, Aurora Christian 29.3, but the Eagles played mostly 5A-7A schools.

CLASS 4A

Plano (6-3) vs. Phillips (8-1) at Gately Stadium, 7 p.m. Friday

Next up for winner: Aurora Central (6-3) at Johnsburg (8-1) winner.

Key players: Plano — RB/DB Tony Elias-Cadena, QB Tyler Ward; Phillips — QB DeWayne Collins, WR/CB Quayvon Skanes.

Outlook: Gone are the days when a suburban or outlying team could view a Chicago Public opponent as a walkover. Coach Troy McAllister’s club reached the quarterfinals last year and have an impressive resume that includes a 40-7 win over Class 8A Naperville North. Illinois State commit Collins is a threat to run or pass for the Wildcats and will be difficult to contain. Phillips is even more impressive on defense, having allowed just 33 points this season. That’s 3.7-per-game. The Wildcats enter with four straight shutouts and six for the season.

CLASS 6A

Marmion (6-3) at DeKalb (8-1), 7 p.m. Friday

Next up for winner: Hinsdale South (7-2) at Crystal Lake Central (7-2) winner.

Key players: Marmion — LB Wade Gunderson, LB Kyle Jordan; DeKalb — RB Dre Brown, RB Tony Tate.

Outlook: Marmion would like to put together some time-consuming drives to keep the Barbs’ explosive offense off the field. Running back Dre Brown leads a balanced DeKalb attack. He plans to graduate in December to enroll at the University of Illinois and take part in spring practice. RB Tony Tate is also a threat to take it to the house for the Barbs, who have several other players capable of big plays. “It’s hard to key on Dre because they have so many other weapons,” Marmion defensive coordinator Geoff Durian said. “The quarterback is only a sophomore but he can run and throw and they’ve got a very good wide receiver in Rudy Lopez.”

Crete-Monee (6-3) at Yorkville (7-2), 6 p.m. Saturday

Next up for winner: Thornton (5-4) at Lemont (9-0) winner.

Key players: Crete-Monee — QB Clint Ratkovich, WR Elijah Douglas. Yorkville — RB Michael Kurtz; WR Tynan Leachman.

Outlook: Crete-Monee coach John Konecki likened quarterback Clint Ratkovich to former NIU standout Jordan Lynch and wasn’t kidding. Last week, in a 42-28 win over playoff-bound Prairie Ridge, Ratkovich was Jordan-esque, running 30 times for 343 yards and four touchdowns. Yorkville coach Karl Hoinkes said the Warriors remind him of DeKalb with plenty of speed and big-play capabilities on offense. The Warriors fell 33-6 to Sycamore, but the Foxes coach noted it came in Week 3 and Konceki has made some changes.

Coming Friday: Five more playoff previews for Beacon-News area teams.

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