High school football notebook: IHSA seeding change, De La Salle’s new coach and more

The IHSA will use 1-32 seeding for all classes in the football playoffs starting this fall.

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Lockport players celebrate after defeating Maine South to win the Class 8A state championship.

Lockport players celebrate after defeating Maine South to win the Class 8A state championship.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

When it comes to brackets, Crete-Monee coach John Konecki is a firm believer in the bigger, the better.

So he welcomed the news last week that the IHSA will use 1-32 seeding for all classes in the football playoffs starting this fall.

Most recently, there had been 1-32 seeding for the two biggest classes — 7A and 8A —and two 1-16 brackets for the other six classes, based on a north-south geographic split.

The IHSA has been tinkering with various seeding formulas for years. At one point, it used eight-team quadrants.

“I was glad to see that go away,” said Konecki, who has guided the Warriors to a 70-22 record, eight playoff berths and two state runner-up finishes in 6A since 2013. “I never thought that was the most fair for us.”

He also wasn’t a fan of the north and south brackets, partly because it was so hard to predict where the IHSA would draw the dividing line.

Ranking the qualifiers in each class 1-32 and pairing them on that basis “is a truer representation as opposed to having that weird cutoff line,” Konecki said.

Crete always has been in the south bracket, but Konecki got a big surprise last fall when the Warriors drew St. Ignatius — a team he figured for sure would go north — as a first-round opponent.

“About Week 5, I get my notebook out” to start scouting potential opponents, Konecki said. “I like the part of ‘Who are we going to see?’ I’m never right.”

That’s usually a function of guessing where the line will be for the north-south split incorrectly. With 1-32 seeding, he expects his predictions to be more accurate.

Konecki at least has been sure of what class he’s scouting from year to year. Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg has been in four title games since 2012 — three in 6A and one in 7A — winning 6A titles in 2018 and last fall.

The new bracketing format won’t change the Trojans’ traditional perch on the 7A/6A bubble. But Seaburg likes it nonetheless.

“I think it’s good for the state,” he said.

One byproduct will be fewer early-round playoff rematches of regular-season games, something Cary-Grove has seen a lot of — especially against neighboring power Prairie Ridge.

Now Seaburg will have to widen his net in terms of prepping for the playoffs.

“We would never have thought to scout a team like Lemont,” Seaburg said. “Great team, great program. But the odds of us playing them were low.”

Marty Quinn’s homecoming

After stops in Kentucky, Florida, California and Louisiana, Marty Quinn is coming back home.

Quinn is the new coach at De La Salle, replacing Mike Boehm, who resigned after eight seasons.

Quinn played at Mount Carmel and Lake Forest College before embarking on a coaching career that included stops at his alma mater and Marist, high schools in California (Orange Lutheran) and Louisiana (St. John’s Catholic in Plaquemines) and two colleges (Ave Maria in Florida, where he was head coach, and Kentucky Wesleyan).

De La Salle principal Tom Schergen, who was at Marist during Quinn’s time there, approached him about the Meteors’ job, and the chance to return to Chicago was too good to turn down.

“Getting back to family [was important],” said Quinn, whose most recent job was in Louisiana. “My mom, my brother, nieces and nephews, cousins and a lot of friends are still in the area.”

De La Salle has had eight IHSA playoff berths overall, two since 2009. But Quinn sees similarities to Marist, which took off after hiring Pat Dunne in 2008.

“Everybody feels De La Salle can be a program that can take it to the next level,” he said.

Jack Lausch a Wildcat

For the longest time, Brother Rice quarterback Jack Lausch thought he was going to Notre Dame to be a preferred walk-on in football and baseball.

But just before the early signing period, the Sun-Times Football Player of the Year was offered a scholarship by Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. Lausch signed and will continue the pipeline of local talent to the Wildcats.

“A leader in the community, classroom and in competition, @jack_lausch is staying HOME,” Fitzgerald tweeted after Lausch’s signing. “(They build ’em different on the SOUTH SIDE)”

Jahleel Billingsley heads to Texas

Former Phillips star Jahleel Billingsley, who entered the transfer portal after Alabama lost to Georgia in the national championship game, announced on Twitter that he’s transferring to Texas.

The junior tight end will be reunited with former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who is the Longhorns’ head coach.

Billingsley had a breakout season on Sarkisian’s watch as a sophomore in 2020, catching 18 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he had 17 receptions for 256 yards and three TDs.

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