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Morgan Park, Clark, Phillips prepare for second-round playoff tests

After a record 24 Chicago Public Schools football teams qualified for the state playoffs, only three survived the first round. And only one is playing in Chicago this weekend. 

Morgan Park quarterback Aaron Warren (0) keeps the ball and gains a first down against Amundsen.
Morgan Park quarterback Aaron Warren (0) keeps the ball and gains a first down against Amundsen.
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

After a record 24 Chicago Public Schools football teams qualified for the state playoffs, just three survived the first round. And only one is playing in Chicago this weekend.

Morgan Park coach Chris James believes that’s going to help his team against Kankakee at Gately Stadium on Saturday.

“We represent CPS now,” James said. “I know what Gately can feel like with everyone there supporting a team. It might be a big rivalry with Simeon but now that we are the only show in town everyone will be rooting for us.

The Mustangs (7-3) traveled to Central Illinois and beat Peoria 50-42 in the first round. The game was played at Peoria Stadium, a venue with grass and no working scoreboard.

“Getting a win like that on the road gave my young team confidence,” James said. “We are trying to take the city with ust. We represent CPS. Especially with the amount of teams that played in the first round and got knocked out. That was unfortunate.”

Morgan Park quarterback Aaron Warren rushed for six touchdowns and had 310 total yards. Sophomore Tysean Griffin had 22 carries for 88 yards.

“Aaron could probably have had a lot more if the conditions were better,” James said. “The field was terrible after all the rain so the footing was bad.”

The Kays (10-0) also impressed in the first round, winning 38-7 against Carbondale. They are the top seed in the bracket and have a nice Week 9 win against a very talented Crete-Monee team.

“It will be fast. We both have athletes,” James said. “There will be a ton of future college players on the field. We are battle-tested, been through some ups and downs this season and I feel like we are hitting our stride.”

Here’s a quick look at the other two state playoff games involving CPS teams:

Class 4A: #6 Phillips (8-2) at #3 Kewanee (9-1), Sat. 1

The Wildcats will travel to a city of 13,000 about 40 miles southeast of Moline. Kewanee is the smallest school in the Class 4A field.

The Boilermakers were down 14-0 at halftime and came back to win 17-14 on a 40-yard field goal with 3.6 seconds left.

Kewanee charged through most of their regular season, only challenged in a 24-22 win at Spring Valley Hall and then a Week 9 loss to Newman Central Catholic.

Phillips’ athletes should present a problem for the Boilermakers. The Wildcats have quietly gone about their business this season, beating all seven Public League teams they played and losing at Batavia and Mount Carmel.

Quarterback Tyler Turner has a big arm for and junior running back Desean Hill is an effective running back. The Wildcats, used to playing up a few classes, could be too much for most Class 4A opponents.

Class 3A: #5 Clark (9-1) at #4 Reed-Custer (9-1), Sat. 1

Clark will face a juggernaut in Braidwood. The Comets average 42 points and have allowed just 10 per game. Reed-Custer’s program isn’t a traditional power however. This Is the first state playoff appearance for the Comets since 2010.

Clark dominated most of its Public League opponents this season but hasn’t even played a game outside of Chicago, so the road trip will be a total first. Last week’s 28-16 win against Elmwood-Brimfield was the Eagles’ first win in the state playoffs. They rely on a run-heavy offense, with running back Willie Taylor and Keondre Pitts doing most of the damage behind a talented offensive line.