8A playoff breakdown: No. 5 Maine South vs. No. 4 Oak Park-River Forest

SHARE 8A playoff breakdown: No. 5 Maine South vs. No. 4 Oak Park-River Forest
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Maine South (8-2) is the program with the pedigree, having won three Class 8A football state championships since 2008. Oak Park-River Forest (9-1) is trying to get there.

The Hawks, who beat Niles West 56-20 in the first round Saturday, have played the tougher schedule, taking on six teams with winning records. The Huskies, who got to the second round by beating Dundee-Crown 35-13 on Nov. 1, have played only two teams with winning records.

“Every year is an opportunity for the players to stake their claim and place,” said Oak Park-River Forest coach John Hoerster, who’s in his third season on the job. “This is another opportunity to take it a step further. The only way we can get to where we want to go is by beating a historically successful program like Maine South. That will take us to the next level.”

Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game in Oak Park is the first meeting between the two teams since 2009 when Maine South ousted Oak Park-River Forest from the playoffs in the first round with a 28-14 win.

When Oak Park-River Forest has the ball …

Junior quarterback Lloyd Yates had his breakout game in Week 8 against Hinsdale Central, throwing for a career-high 283 yards. He was good again in the first round of the playoffs, going for 252 yards and four touchdowns on only 16 attempts. He showed his versatility by also running for 81 yards and a TD against Dundee-Crown.

Yates most likely will be looking to get the ball to senior receiver Simmie Cobbs as often as possible. The 6-foot-4 Purdue recruit had six catches for 164 yards and three TDs in the win over the Chargers.

Senior defensive lineman Luke Durbin headlines the defense for the Hawks. He was selected as the CSL South’s defensive player of the year.

“We have to be smart enough to take what they give us,” Hoerster said.

When Maine South has the ball …

The Hawks, led by innovative offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss, will do their best to keep the Huskies guessing.

The return of senior running back Clay Burdelik means Maine South has two standouts in the backfield. The other being junior Justin Fahey. Burdelik separated his left shoulder on Oct. 11 and didn’t play again until the first round of the playoffs.

Like his counterpart on the Huskies, Hawks sophomore quarterback Brian Collis continues to get better with experience. Collis has some good targets to throw to in senior George Sajenko and junior Vinny Labus.

“Really coming together,” Maine South coach Dave Inserra said Friday following the win over the Wolves. “A lot more healthy, that helps. A lot more balance offensively, run and pass.”

Hoerster said the Huskies must make Collis uncomfortable in the pocket and rush his decisions. Senior defensive lineman Andre Lee will be one of the players charged with chasing after Collis.

“We saw that he has success when he has time to throw,” Hoerster said. “We have to get pressure on him.”

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