Lincoln-Way East’s Devon Williams (21) reacts after scoring. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

State semifinals preview: Loyola tries to stop Lincoln-Way East

SHARE State semifinals preview: Loyola tries to stop Lincoln-Way East
SHARE State semifinals preview: Loyola tries to stop Lincoln-Way East

The matchups for the 2018 IHSA state football championships will be decided across all eight classes with the semifinals this weekend. The remaining 32 teams will be whittled down to the final 16 who will head to Champaign following Thanksgiving to play in the state championship games.

The Class 8A semifinals feature three Catholic schools alongside Lincoln-Way East, the top-ranked team in the Sun-Times’ Super 25 rankings. Brother Rice will face Marist in one of the games, while defending state runner-up Loyola will try to take down the Griffins to return to the championship game for a second straight year. However, the Ramblers will have their work cut out against an LWE team that’s shredded up opponent after opponent en route to an unbeaten record.

The other classes boast similarly exciting matchups across the area, including Batavia vs. Nazareth in Class 7A, Richards vs. Crete-Monee in Class 6A and Hillcrest vs. Joliet Catholic in Class 5A. Here’s a breakdown of the semifinal matchups for Saturday in Classes 4A through 8A. The state title games will be played Nov. 23-24 at Memorial Stadium, the home of the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Class 8A

Brother Rice (12-0) at Marist (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday

Lincoln-Way East (12-0) at Loyola (9-3), 1 p.m. Saturday

We could end up with an all-Catholic championship game in the Class 8A bracket if Loyola can be the team to finally take down Lincoln-Way East. However, that’s going to be much easier said than done given the way the Griffins have manhandled opponents this season. The Ramblers’ recent run suggests they’re ready to make things difficult, but LWE remains the team to beat in this bracket. That’s despite the presence of top-seeded Brother Rice, which enters its semifinal matchup against Marist without a loss this year. Back in August, Brother Rice beat the Redhawks on a last-second touchdown from quarterback John Bean.

Class 7A

Batavia (12-0) at Nazareth (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday

Mount Carmel (11-1) at St. Charles North (9-3), 1 p.m. Saturday

Batavia, the No. 2 team in the Sun-Times’ Super 25, needed overtime to get past Willowbrook in the quarterfinals. Now it faces up what could be an even tougher matchup against Nazareth, which ended Simeon’s unbeaten season last week with a 34-27 victory. The Bulldogs will need to key in on Roadrunners running back Michael Love, who has put up six touchdowns in the past two games. Mount Carmel, meanwhile, looks to get back to the state championship game for the first time in a few years with a road matchup against St. Charles North. The Caravan showed their mettle last week by taking down a high-flying East St. Louis team that had torn up other defenses.

Class 6A

Richards (12-0) at Crete-Monee (9-3), 2 p.m. Saturday

Cary-Grove (12-0) at Notre Dame (10-2), 3 p.m. Saturday

We could have a pair of 13-0 teams in the Class 6A title game if Richards and Cary-Grove can get their work done in the semifinals. Richards takes on Crete-Monee, which lost its first three games of the season before catching fire. The Warriors have won nine consecutive games dating back to mid-September but haven’t beaten a team of Richards’ caliber during that stretch. Cary-Grove goes on the road to visit a defensive-minded Notre Dame squad. The Dons are only averaging 16 points per game in the playoffs, but they’re stuffed opponents to get one way away from Champaign.

Class 5A

Hillcrest (12-0) at Joliet Catholic (8-4), 2 p.m. Saturday

Montini (11-1) at Sterling (11-1), 2 p.m. Saturday

Hillcrest keeps riding a fierce defense on its way to the championship game. The Hawks haven’t allowed more than seven points in a game since Week 1. Their offense is pretty good, too, but that’s just allowed them to pull away while other teams struggle to move the ball. Joliet Catholic will try to pull off the upset and continue its fantastic run after dropping to 4-4 in mid-October. The Hilltoppers have shown they’re much better than a .500 team. Montini takes on Sterling on the other side of the bracket in a matchup of one-loss teams. The Broncos seem to be in good shape after their 54-7 drubbing of Evergreen Park.

Class 4A

Richmond-Burton (11-1) at IC Catholic (12-0), 4 p.m. Saturday

Rochester (11-1) at McNamara (11-1), 2 p.m. Saturday

IC Catholic, the lone Super 25 team and lone unbeaten team in the bracket, looks to be the favorite entering the final four of Class 4A. The Knights topped Marengo, 49-27, in the quarterfinals, and their next opponent, Richmond-Burton, lost its only game of the season to … Marengo. So it’s fair to say the Rockets have their work cut out to advance to the championship game. We’re likely in for a shootout in the other semifinal. Rochester has averaged 55 points per game in the playoffs and McNamara isn’t far behind at 50 points per game.

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