5A Playoff breakdown: No. 10 Nazareth vs. No. 7 Brooks

SHARE 5A Playoff breakdown: No. 10 Nazareth vs. No. 7 Brooks

One streak is certain to come to an end when No. 10 Nazareth meets No. 7 Brooks in an IHSA Class 5A opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Gately Stadium in Chicago.

Nazareth (7-2) has won five straight, while the Eagles (8-1) are on an eight-game roll, with their only defeat coming in Week One to Kaneland, which is seeded fifth in 5A. Against playoff qualifiers, the Roadrunners lost back-to-back contests to Marist and Joliet Catholic in Weeks Three and Four.

Here is what to anticipate when these two programs meet for the first time.

When Nazareth runs …

The Roadrunners are going to try to run the ball and they have a bunch of ball carriers ready. Nazareth had 14 different players register a carry this season, churning out 2,307 rushing yards for an average of 5.8 yards per attempt. Senior Doug DiFusco averaged 10.7 yards per carry and was one of eight players to gain over 100 yards.

The Eagles recorded five shutouts this season and allowed 14 total points (2.3 ppg) over their last six games.

When Nazareth throws …

Nazareth is reluctant about going to the air: Its offense scored six times more rushing TDs (30) than passing (5).

The Brooks defense is led by senior middle linebacker Malik Scott, who recorded more than 90 tackles, while junior defensive lineman Kenneth Riley had more than 20 sacks. Senior Zeriam Jackson led the Eagles with 14 interceptions.

“The team chemistry with these guys is something that I do not take it for granted, because it is not something that comes along very often,” said Nazareth coach Tim Racki.

When Brooks runs …

The Eagles ride the powerful legs of running back Luther Lockwood (1,600-plus yards, 20 TDs). The senior rushed for five scores and 212 yards during Brooks’ Week Nine victory over Perspectives-Calumet. He also returned a kickoff for a score in a 17-6 victory over Harper on Week Eight.

When Brooks throws …

Nazareth wants to control the line of scrimmage so defensive backs and linebackers can find paths to make tackles. DBs Robbie Brindley (73) and Kevin Jackson (67) are the leading tacklers, with junior linebacker Danny Bakovich (61) just behind.

“We graduated 19 seniors from last year’s team, so there is no way we should be back in the playoffs. I cannot say enough about these kids,” said Brooks coach James Brown.

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