Class 7A playoff preview: Niles North at Cary-Grove

SHARE Class 7A playoff preview: Niles North at Cary-Grove
SHARE Class 7A playoff preview: Niles North at Cary-Grove

Top-seeded Cary-Grove (9-0) plays host to 16th-seeded Niles North (5-4) in the first round of the Class 7A football playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday. Here’s what you should look forward to this weekend:

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Niles North

Tony Granato, quarterback, sr. — In Friday’s must-win game, Granato had the best game of his career, throwing for 403 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 56-49 win over Deerfield. For the season, he’s completed 68 percent of passes for 1,860 yards and thrown for 13 touchdowns to go with six interceptions. He’s also rushed for 206 yards and one touchdown.

Barrington Wade, running back, jr. — Despite missing the first three games with an injury, the 6-1, 208-pound back finished the regular season with 781 yards and 18 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry. On Friday, Wade ran for 151 yards and scored four times.

Cary-Grove

Tyler Pennington, running back, so. — The 5-11, 200-pounder is another in a long line of bruising backs to carry the ball for the Trojans, a traditional power. So far, he’s run 154 times for 1,187 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman/defensive lineman, sr. — The 6-4, 270-pounder is a star on both sides, although the Notre Dame recruit most likely will play offense in college. He’s helped the Trojans run for more than 2,000 yards in nine regular-season games.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

When Niles North is on offense …

The Vikings have a dynamic group of playmakers, helping them average 37.3 points a game. Niles North scored at least 48 points five times during the regular season. On the ground, Wade is the primary ball-carrier, but junior Craig Dawkins ran for 556 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He also has 204 receiving yards. Granato’s main target through the air is senior receiver Yomade Adefeso, who has caught 49 balls for 677 yards and six touchdowns.

When Niles North is on defense …

While the Vikings usually have little trouble scoring, they struggle stopping opponents: Niles North is surrendering an average of 33.3 points a game. Senior linebacker Daniel Monyongo (team-best 97 tackles and team-best eight tackles for loss) is the leader of the unit.

When Cary-Grove is on offense …

The Trojans like to run behind their offensive line, anchored by Ruhland. Senior quarterback Jason Gregoire has thrown only 48 times for 532 yards. But the Trojans have three players, including Gregoire, with at least 300 yards on the ground. On its run to a Fox Valley conference championship, the Trojans averaged 44.3 points a game.

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