Probably the longest-running argument in Illinois prep football is a simple one: Which conference is the state’s best?
You’ll hear a lot of support for the Catholic League Blue, which has two of the state’s most successful programs in the IHSA playoff era – Mount Carmel (10 state titles, 5 runner-up finishes) and Providence (nine firsts, three seconds) – along with North Shore power Loyola and South Side mainstays St. Rita and Brother Rice.
Four of the league’s five members made the 256-team IHSA field this year and it would been 5-for-5 had St. Rita defeated Marist in Week 1 at Soldier Field.
Three Catholic Blue teams are in the second round, the best possible result because Mount Carmel and Rice were matched against each other in a Class 8A opener. It wouldn’t be a surprise for Mount Carmel (9-1), Loyola (9-1) and Providence (8-2) to play deep into November.
The usual suspects on this list also include the DuPage Valley and the SouthWest Suburban Blue.
But the DVC’s best program in recent years – Wheaton Warrenville South (three titles, two seconds since 2006) – didn’t make the playoffs this fall and only Glenbard North (9-1) and Wheaton North (9-1) represent the league in the second round.
The SWSC had four playoff qualifiers, one more than the DVC, but also has just a pair of second-round teams: 10-0 Lincoln-Way East and 8-2 Bolingbrook.
The two leagues that have the best claim to being No. 1 in 2012 are the East Suburban Catholic and the West Suburban Silver. The ESCC got six of its nine teams into the postseason and had a seventh playoff-eligible team (Nazareth) that didn’t make the cut on points. Even with Marist getting upset in Round 1, the East Suburban still has four teams still standing this week: Benet (9-1) in 7A, St. Patrick (7-3) and Notre Dame (6-4) in 6A and Joliet Catholic (6-4) in 5A.
Perhaps even more impressive is what the WSC Silver has done by getting four teams to the second round, all in the largest two classes. Two Silver teams pulled off big upsets to get there, as Lyons (6-4) eliminated once-beaten Marist 34-28 in 8A and Downers Grove North (6-4) knocked off undefeated Batavia 38-26 in 7A.
Also alive are Class 7A favorite Glenbard West (10-0) and 8A’s Oak Park-River Forest (7-3), which beat HInsdale Central (7-3) for the second time this season to reach the second round.
The other leagues have their arguments for No. 1, but the Silver’s claim looks golden right now.
Game of the week
Palatine 69, Niles West 42: Other games were closer, but none came close to matching the offensive fireworks of this 8A opener, which set class records for points scored by one team and by both teams. Tied after one quarter, the Pirates scored four touchdowns in the first 6:02 of the second period to pull away. Quarterback Ethan Olles paced Palatine with 306 yards and three touchdowns passing along with two rushing scores.
By the numbers
1 – Playoff wins for Steinmetz all-time after a 26-12 victory over Big Shoulders rival Foreman in 6A.
4 – Public League teams in the second round: Simeon in 8A, Steinmetz in 6A and Austin and Brooks in 4A.
5 – Defending state champions still alive: Bolingbrook (8A), Boylan (7A), Montini (5A), Rochester (4A) and Aurora Christian (3A).