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Previewing the top IHSA state football quarterfinals

A look at the five best games in the quarterfinals.

Loyola’s Jamie McCabe gets focused to start the second half against Naperville Central.
Loyola’s Jamie McCabe gets focused to start the second half against Naperville Central.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Class 8A: No. 11 Lincoln-Way East at No. 1 Loyola, noon Sat.

Lincoln-Way East (9-2) is 15-1 in the postseason since 2017 with two Class 8A titles and the only loss coming against Loyola in the 2018 semifinals. This is a much younger Griffins team, but also one that’s improved as the season has gone on. Installing Trey Johnson as the No. 1 back stabilized the offense, and the defense has made big plays when needed. Loyola (11-0) is coming off an impressive 36-7 win over Naperville Central behind big games from quarterback Jake Stearney, who completed his first 12 passes, and linebacker James Kreutz.

Class 8A: No. 4 Maine South at No. 7 Neuqua Valley, 5 p.m. Sat.

Maine South running back Mike Sajenko has been on a tear in the playoffs. He had 13 carries for 270 yards and a program-record six touchdowns against New Trier in the first round and followed that up with 31 carries for 186 yards and three TDs vs. Plainfield North. Quarterback Rowan Keefe and defensive back Frank Bartell also had big plays in the Hawks’ comeback win. Mark Mennecke ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more as Neuqua Valley (10-1) cruised past Palatine last week.

Class 8A: No. 12 Lockport at No. 14 Glenbard North, 1 p.m. Sat.

Lockport (10-1) is in the quarterfinals for the first time since winning back-to-back 8A titles in 2002-03. The Porters’ defense, led by Eastern Illinois-bound twins Cody and Cole Silzer, is one of the best around with five shutouts and only 70 points allowed all season. But don’t overlook quarterback Hayden Timosciek and running back Ty Schultz, who have had big games in the playoffs. Glenbard North (8-3) earned its first quarterfinal berth since 2012 when Juan Ramirez kicked a 43-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds left to edge Warren 10-7 last week.

Class 7A: No. 8 Mount Carmel at No. 3 Brother Rice, 4 p.m. Sat.

This is just the second IHSA playoff meeting for the South Side rivals and the first since Mount Carmel’s 30-9 opening-round win in 2012. The Caravan (8-3) is coming off an epic 16-14 home win over previously unbeaten Batavia, prevailing on Dennis Furlong’s nine-yard run on an untimed down after a pass interference penalty. Brother Rice (9-2) has the added incentive of wanting to send out coach Brian Badke — who is stepping down after the season — on a memorable note. Crusaders quarterback Jack Lausch, who will play football and baseball at Notre Dame, has been at his best in big games and is a leading Player of the Year candidate.

Class 5A: No. 9 Fenwick at No. 25 Nazareth, 1 p.m. Sat.

Fenwick (9-2) has as much top-level talent as any program in the area, with such FCS recruits as quarterback Kaden Cobb (Ball State), receivers Eain Pugh (Illinois) and Max Reese (Eastern Michigan) and center Jimmy Liston (Purdue). Edge rusher Suleiman Abuaqel also holds a D-I offer from Bowling Green. Nazareth (7-4) started 0-3 and was 2-4 before ripping off five straight wins to reach the quarterfinals for the sixth time in the last seven postseasons. Receiver Trell Harris, who has seven Division I offers, has played a big role in the Roadrunners’ surge.