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Previews of the top state high school football semifinal playoff games

Breaking down Saturday’s five best games.

Brother Rice’s Kevin Phelan runs with the football in front of Mount Carmel’s Austin Maciel-Haygood.
Brother Rice’s Kevin Phelan runs with the football in front of Mount Carmel’s Austin Maciel-Haygood.
Quinn Harris/For the Sun-Times

Class 8A: No. 5 Brother Rice at No. 4 Warren 4 p.m., Saturday

Two sophomores -- running back Willie Shaw and quarterback Jack Lausch -- have played key roles for Brother Rice (8-4), which is seeking its second straight trip to the 8A final. Shaw has 1,281 yards (an 8.2-yard average per carry) and 14 touchdowns on the ground, while Lausch has 747 total yards and nine TDs. Warren (12-0) features the state’s most dominant defense, which has allowed 40 points all season. Linemen Willis Singleton (Iowa State) and Seamus Mellican, linebacker Juan Delacruz and cornerback Josh Turner all have started 35 varsity games, including eight in the playoffs.

Class 8A: No. 1 Lincoln-Way East at No. 6 Marist, 1 p.m., Saturday

Lincoln-Way East (12-0) has the state’s top-ranked senior, Michigan-bound running back/receiver AJ Henning, and two Division I defensive linemen, Sean McLaughlin (Northwestern) and Adrian Wilson (Bowling Green). But don’t forget about Dominic Dzioban, a Miami (Ohio) recruit whose four field goals last week included a 50-yarder. Marist (8-4) last week became the first team to beat Loyola twice in the same season since John Holecek became coach in 2006 -- and both of the wins were in Wilmette. Since senior Hayden Mikesell returned as starting quarterback in Week 8, the RedHawks are 5-0.

Class 7A: No. 2 Mount Carmel at No. 9 Willowbrook, 1 p.m., Saturday

Dual-threat junior quarterback Justin Lynch has 29 touchdowns for Mount Carmel (12-0), which also looks to two-way standout Kenenna Odeluga in the ground game. Austin Mariel-Haywood and Lance Swain, who returned his first career interception for a TD last week against Phillips, are players to watch on defense. Willowbrook (11-1) is in the semifinals for the first time since 1975. Senior quarterback/defensive back Sam Tumilty’s numbers are staggering: 3,852 total yards and 42 TDs this season, 7,839 yards and 88 TDs for his career.

Class 7A: No. 3 Nazareth at No. 10 Rolling Meadows, 1 p.m., Saturday

Defending 7A champ Nazareth (12-0) is getting more help from two-way players as the season winds down. Four-star receiver Tyler Morris, the state’s top-ranked sophomore according to recruiting service 247Sports.com, had a pick-six in last week’s win over Batavia. Junior defensive end Ryan Keeler, who has 21 offers, also is part of an offensive line that has five new starters this year. Rolling Meadows (12-0) is in the semifinals for the second time in program history and the first time in 15 years. Lineman Nate Pedraza, a Ball State recruit, leads a Mustangs defense that had eight sacks in last week’s win over Wheaton Warrenville South.

Class 6A: No. 7 Prairie Ridge at No. 21 Deerfield, 1 p.m., Saturday

With leading rusher Carter Evans out for the season with a broken fibula, Prairie Ridge (11-1) looked elsewhere for offense in last week’s 14-13 win over rival Cary-Grove. Running back Taidhgin Trost supplied it with a touchdown catch and an option pass for a TD for the Wolves, who are seeking their third trip to the 6A finals in four seasons. Deerfield (10-2) is in the semifinals for the first time since 1990, seeking its first trip to state since 1984. The Warriors’ defense had five sacks in last week’s 21-20 win over Lake Forest, including two each by Colin Ward and Zach Goldstein.