Class 8A playoff preview: Warren at Loyola

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Eighth-seeded Loyola (7-2) plays host to ninth-seeded Warren (7-2) at noon Saturday in Wilmette in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs. Here’s what you should look forward to this weekend:

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Loyola

Owen Buscaglia, receiver, sr. — For the second season in a row, the 6-3, 180-pounder has been one of the team’s top targets. He caught 43 passes for 603 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season. Trouble is, there’s been little continuity at the quarterback position as three players have taken significant snaps for the Ramblers.

Thomas Dreher, defensive lineman, sr. — Once again, the Ramblers’ strength is their defense, and the 6-2, 225-pound Dreher is on the front lines. The defensive tackle doesn’t have eye-popping statistics, but he’s often seen disrupting plays in the opposing team’s backfield.

Warren

Darrius Crump, running back, jr. — In a 21-17 win over perennial powerhouse Lake Zurich in Week 8, Crump ran a season-high 32 times for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He’s rushed for 1,495 yards and scored 11 TDs this season.

Nick Turner, linebacker, sr. — In the Lake Zurich game, Turner recovered a fumble to set up Crump’s game-winning score. The victory clinched the Blue Devils a trip to the playoffs. Turner leads the team with 92 tackles this season.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

When Loyola is on offense …

The game plan these days is taking care of the ball, changing field position and scoring just enough points to help out the defense. In its losses, Loyola’s opponents scored 16 and 10 points, respectively. Senior Aidan Walsh is the team’s third starter at quarterback, and he will lean on junior running back Dara Laja and senior receivers Spencer Cecola and Buscaglia to make plays.

When Loyola is on defense …

For the first time in several seasons, the defense doesn’t have more takeaways (18) than the offense has giveaways (20). Nevertheless, the Ramblers are hard to score on. They’re allowing 10.4 points per game. Loyola will count on seniors Mark Dowdle (cornerback), Cal Falkenhayn (linebacker), Mark Nichol (defensive line), Emmett Russell (linebacker) and Ryan Zinkula (safety) to keep the Blue Devils out of the end zone.

When Warren is on offense …

The Blue Devils, who finished second in the North Suburban Lake behind Stevenson, will do their best to keep Loyola’s defense on the field as much as possible. During its six-game winning streak to end the regular season, Warren averaged 36.5 points a game, more than seven better than its season average.

This story has been changed to reflect the following correction:

The article misstated how many points one of Loyola’s opponents, namely Mount Carmel, scored in its victory over the Ramblers. Mount Carmel scored 10 points, not 13.

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