Class 8A playoff preview: Niles West at Maine South

SHARE Class 8A playoff preview: Niles West at Maine South
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In a rematch of Week 7, third-seeded Maine South (9-0) plays host to 14th-seeded Niles West (6-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs. Maine South won the first meeting between these Central Suburban South foes 65-21 in Park Ridge. Here’s what you should look forward to this weekend:

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Maine South

Brian Collis, quarterback, jr. — As a sophomore starter, Collis helped the Hawks to the Class 8A quarterfinals, where they lost to Loyola. A year older, Collis has better command of the offense. In eight played games (Maine South earned a forfeit win against Waukegan in Week 9), he’s completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,077 yards. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, four of which came in the first game against Montini. Most importantly, Collis is 18-1 in two seasons as a starter.

Justin Fahey, running back/safety, sr. — Arguably the best all-around player in the area, he makes his presence felt all over the field. Fahey has run 102 times for 530 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s caught 22 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown, and he’s also thrown one touchdown. On defense, he has 43 tackles and three interceptions.

Niles West

Matt Galanopoulos, wide receiver, so. — Galanopoulos was the Wolves’ biggest threat on the outside against Glenbrook South on Friday. He caught seven passes for 102 yards and also ran for 76 yards on five carries against the Titans. With wide receiver Quran Spillman sidelined because of a broken left leg, Galanopoulos has stepped up. Galanopoulos had 283 all-purpose yards against Maine South in the first meeting and scored on an 85-yard kickoff return and a 78-yard run.

Adam Pignato, linebacker, sr. — This has hardly been the senior season Pignato hoped for. His playing time has been limited all season because of a foot injury, but he came back in full swing last week against the Titans. He played a big part in helping the Wolves get a much-needed stop in the fourth quarter of their 35-31 win.

FOUR THINGS TO WATCH

When Maine South is on offense …

The Hawks will do their best to be balanced, mixing Collis throws with Fahey runs. Maine South, which averaged 40.3 points in eight games, has one of the best collection of receivers around. Players like senior Tommy Bazarek, senior Jarrett Gustafson, senior Vinny Labus, senior George Sergeant and junior Jon Arenas are all capable pass-catchers. Bazarek is the team’s big-time playmaker.

When Maine South is on defense …

As good as the Hawks’ offense is, the defense often gets overlooked. But Maine South — led by the likes of senior Davis Neilands on the defensive line and senior Dan Ellsworth at safety — is solid on the other side of the ball, too, allowing under 13 points a game. The Hawks held five opponents to seven or fewer during the regular season, including playoff teams Glenbrook South, New Trier and Wheaton Warrenville South.

When Niles West is on offense …

There probably aren’t too many throws that quarterback Tommy Galanopoulos can’t make, but he’s every bit as talented with his legs. He rushed for 107 yards Friday against Glenbrook South. On his team’s final possession he tossed a 13-yard, go-ahead score to Matt Metz with less than two minutes to go in the game. Galanopoulos has been a key player for the Wolves all year, and that will likely need to continue so Maine South’s offense is kept off the field.

When Niles West is on defense …

In order to get Maine South off the field, the Wolves’ defensive line likely needs to get pressure on Collis. Defensive ends DJ Box and Calvin Cadet could play a huge part in disrupting Collis.

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