IHSA semifinal playoff previews

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Class 8A

Loyola at Stevenson

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: No. 4 Loyola (11-1) is in the semifinals for the fifth straight season, seeking its second trip to state in that span. As usual, the Ramblers will rely on a defense whose leaders include DL Charlie Pontarelli, LB Andrew Cerney and DB Jack Gleason, who had three interceptions in last week’s shutout of Maine South. QB Jack Penn, RB Julius Holley and a deep receiving corps keep opposing defenses honest. Junior WR Cameron Green has stepped up big-time lately for No. 5 Stevenson (10-2), which has won 10 straight after an 0-2 start. The Patriots have been rolling despite injuries to mainstays such as OL Zach Novoselsky (season-ending ankle) and DB/WR Matt Morrissey (hamstring).

Marist at Naperville Central

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: How much does the regular season mean? Not a lot, judging by these two teams’ playoff runs. No. 8 Marist (9-3), long known for its high-octane offense, has done it with defense lately, winning 21-7 each of the past two weeks vs. previously unbeaten Bolingbrook and Oswego. Notre Dame-bound receiver Nic Weishar has been even more of a game-changer on defense for the RedHawks, while RB Peter Andreotti (1,303 yards, 14 TDs) is a nice option if the weather affects a passing game led by QB Jack Donegan (3,069 yards, 33 TDs), Weishar and Flynn Nagel. A three-game slide in midseason is nothing but a memory for No. 9 Naperville Central (9-3), which has impact players like RB Kevin Clifford and QB Jake Kolbe.

Class 7A

Lake Zurich at Glenbard West

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: Take the under on this game, with two exceptional defenses squaring off on a grass field that may not be in the best of shape after this week’s rains. No. 3 Glenbard West (11-1), on an 11-game winning streak and seeking to defend its 7A title, held dynamic Schaumburg QB Stacey Smith in check last week and piled up 350 rushing yards with RBs Scott Andrews, Devonte Toney and Jermon Kindle-Joyner leading the way. No. 7 Lake Zurich (11-1), in its fifth straight semifinal and seventh in eight years, also shut down one of the state’s best QBs, Wheaton North’s Clayton Thorson, in the rain last Saturday night. LB Colton Moskal leads a Bears defense that has allowed more than two touchdowns just once all year.

Mount Carmel at Edwardsville

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: No. 1 Mount Carmel (11-1) beat Edwardsville in the semifinals in 2005, the last time the Caravan was in the 7A bracket. This year’s club, aiming for a second straight title and 11th overall, will try to shorten the game with runs by Matt Domer (1,125 yards, 11 TDs) and Jimmy Mickens (1,039-12). The defense is rock-solid up front with Steven Richardson and Enoch Smith Jr., and opportunistic in the secondary with the likes of Christian Searles. Edwardsville (12-0) has one of the state’s premier QBs in Dan Marinko, who has thrown for 2,654 yards and 28 touchdowns and run for 634 and 17 scores.

Class 6A

Batavia at Boylan

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: One of the many reasons for No. 6 Batavia’s success is a balanced attack. Anthony Scaccia has set school records for rushing yards (1,541) and touchdowns (29), but teams focused on him likely will get burned by QB Micah Coffey (2,043 yards, 25 TDs) and WR Michael Moffatt (40 catches, 563 yards, 7 TDs) among others. LB Anthony Thielk (88 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Moffatt (4 interceptions) are among the defensive leaders for the Bulldogs, who are seeking their second trip to state. Boylan (12-0), meanwhile, is aiming for its third IHSA title in four seasons behind QB Demry Croft.

Richards at East St. Louis

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: No. 10 Richards (11-1) has been tough to stop all season with playmakers like QB Hasan Muhammad-Rogers (2,627 total yards, 36 TDs) and WRs Tacari Carpenter (41 catches, 818 yards, 14 TDs) among others. East St. Louis started 1-3, including a 34-6 loss to Montini in Week 2. But the Flyers have been solid since, thanks in large part to the play of QB Dominic Nelson (1,521 yards passing, 18 total TDs) and RB/DB Gregory Taylor (1,814 rushing and receiving yards, 21 TDs; 94 tackles).

Class 5A

Sycamore at Montini

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: A week after ending Joliet Catholic’s season for the fourth time in five years, No. 2 Montini (12-0) faces another familiar foe. No. 21 Sycamore (12-0) lost 24-22 to the Broncos in the second round last fall, its fourth playoff loss to Montini since 2007. This Montini offense is even more pass-happy than usual, with QB Alex Wills (185 of 289, 2,521 yards, 29 TDs) and WRs Leon Thornton (53 catches, 958 yards, 13 TDs) and Tyler Tumpane (65-748-9) leading the way. But don’t be surprised to see Nile Sykes, a top LB prospect, getting some carries on offense. QB Devin Mottet and two-way star Ben Niemann, bound to Iowa as a linebacker, lead the Spartans.

Class 3A

Stillman Valley at Aurora Christian

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: Hit hard by injuries during a regular season that included a three-game losing streak (and two running clocks), Aurora Christian (9-3) is healthy again and looking every bit a contender for a third straight 3A title. RB Legend Smith (1,429 yards, 7.5 per carry, 18 TDs), QB Austin Bray (1,675 yards, 24 TDs) and WR Brandon Walgren (33 catches, 723 yards, 10 TDs) make it hard for opponents to focus on any one part of the Eagles’ offense.

Class 1A

Leo at Lena-Winslow

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: Leo (10-2), playing in its second semifinal overall and first since 1990, is bidding to become the first Chicago-area team to reach a 1A final since Hampshire in 1979. The Lions will continue to rely on playmakers like RB/DB Theodore Hopkins (14 TDs), DB/WR Riley McClendon-Grey (7 TDs), QB Latrell Giles and FB/DL Terron Bell (10 sacks). Lena-Winslow (9-3) has scored 38 or more points six times this season.

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