Rock Island Alleman (5-4) at St. Edward (9-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
Next up for winner: Mendota (6-3) or Coal City (7-2).
Key players: Rock Island Alleman — FB/DE Luke Saskowski, RB Kylee Dorsey; St. Edward — DL/LB Jake French, RB/CB Dwayne Allen.
Outlook: An intriguing, classic matchup. St. Edward is the passing team with a wide-open offense, undefeated but having faced only one playoff team. Alleman played a torturous schedule, has plenty of past playoff success, and relies on its defense and running game. Much for St. Edward will depend on whether defensive players like French (11 sacks), DT Dan Howell, LB Chris Kelly and DL Augie Nottolini can stand up to a bigger offensive line and Alleman’s wing-T attack, and whether the Green Wave offensive line can generate holes for Allen while keeping QB Joe Mullen clean against a 3-2/4-2 defensive alignment. A victory would be St. Edward’s first at home in the playoffs.
Sterling (6-3) at Burlington Central (6-3), 1 p.m. Saturday.
Next up for winner: Marian Central (5-4) or Solorio Academy (8-1).
Key players: Sterling — QB Sterling Thornton, WR Turner Morse; Burlington Central — RB Jason Berango, FB/LB Brad Sorenson.
Outlook: Two offenses that prefer to run the ball or throw short. Sterling has larger linemen than many Rocket opponents, except for Hampshire and Dixon. Thornton can run the option or scramble for big yardage. He’s accounted for 996 yards rushing and 739 passing. Morse (30 catches, 321 yards) and RB Rafael Escalante (75 carries, 406 yards) are the Golden Warriors’ other big threats. Sterling’s defense will take a few more chances than Central, which plays a fundamental style in a four-man front, led by Kyle Blankenburg, who has had an interception and fumble recovery the past two games. Expect a low-scoring, hard-hitting battle.
St. Charles North (7-2) at Rolling Meadows (7-2), 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Next up for winner: Niles North (5-4) or Cary-Grove (9-0).
Key players: St. Charles North — RB Dom Sidari, DE Jordan Bergren; Rolling Meadows — QB R.J. Mattucci, RB Antonio Atencio.
Outlook: St. Charles North has lived and died all season with defense and Bergren’s pressure along the defensive front, but has started to put together an effective offense in recent games, too. Like North, Rolling Meadows will come out in a three-man defensive front. Mattucci is a run-pass threat out of the spread attack for the Mustangs, with 645 yards rushing and 822 passing, despite missing time due to injuries. The size advantage Rolling Meadows has up front, with players like Greg Off (6-7, 300) and Francisco Trejo (6-0, 245), could be big. Experience also could be a factor. Rolling Meadows made quarterfinals in 6A last year while North is in its first playoff game since 2009.
Palatine (7-2) at Huntley (8-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
Next up for winner: Fremd (6-3) or Glenbard West (9-0).
Key players: Palatine — RB Chris Cornelius, QB Nicholas Orlando; Huntley — G Justus Woods, DE Jeremy Behnke.
Outlook: Huntley, looking for its first playoff win under coach John Hart and first since 2008, faces a Palatine team that won the Mid-Suburban West. Palatine’s speed on offense is sure to test the Red Raiders’ greatest strength, which is the defensive line. Palatine uses a spread offense, and Cornelius (1,239 yards) isn’t the only rushing threat that confronts Huntley’s D-line of Jeremy Behnke, Zack Herbert, Chase Burkart, Tim McCloyn and Tim Larson. Huntley QB Anthony Binetti will need a big game from RB Casey Haayer to keep pressure at bay and help him avoid interceptions. Palatine brings in a six-game winning streak.