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Top 5 Chicagoland high school football games: Playoffs Round 1

1 year agoEdgy Tim

The IHSA State Football Playoffs begin today across the state and here are my Top 5 Games to catch this weekend. 

Class 8A 

#20 Bolingbrook (6-3) at #13 Park Ridge (Maine South) (7-2)
Fri., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.

Bolingbrook has been playing for the past several weeks minus head coach John Ivlow, who was dealing with health issues but fortunately returned to the Raiders sideline in last week’s win over Stagg. Bolingbrook has a roster loaded with high-in-demand recruits once again this season. Bolingbrook freshman QB Jonas Williams is having an eye opening season. Williams will look towards several quality receivers in junior 4-star ranked junior WR I’Mation Stewart, junior 3-star ranked WR Kyan Berry-Johnson along with senior 3-star ranked RB Joshua Robinson while the defense is anchored by senior 3-star ranked S Damon Walters (Northwestern) and senior LB Marcus Williams.

Maine South and veteran head coach Dave Inserra will look to counter the Bolingbrook stars with a starting lineup that is also stacked with impressive players this fall. The Hawks’ vaunted shotgun spread attack offense has been led by a host of quarterbacks because of various injuries during the season and includes Ryan Leyden and Jack DiFillippis this season. Sophomore RB Michael Dellumo has been a key ball carrier and the Hawks always have a deep group of receivers led by Maurice Densmore who has been an impact player this fall. With all of this offense all in one location…the biggest question is which defense rises to the occasion and makes enough stops? 

Pick: Maine South 

Class 8A 

#18 Chicago (Marist) (6-3) at #15 Naperville (North) (7-2)
Fri., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.

Marist and head coach Ron Dawczak is once again a lowly No. 18 seed in Class 8A, a role they have been very comfortable with over the past few seasons as the Redhawks are as battle-tested as any team in the 8A field with its losses coming to Glenbard West (8-1), Mount Carmel (9-0) and Loyola (8-1). The Redhawks will look towards its potent offense led by senior QB Dermot Smyth along with a big, strong offensive line and plenty of speed and skills including senior WR Ryan Sims (Miami of Ohio). Marist also has plenty of star power on the defensive side of the football with senior 3-star ranked S John Nestor (Iowa) along with senior 4-star ranked DT Jamel Howard Jr. (Wisconsin).

Naperville North and head coach Sean Drendel get another strong Round 1 opponent in Marist and the Huskies will counter the Redhawks with one of the state’s top pass/catch connections in senior 3-star ranked QB Aidan Gray (Northwestern) to junior 4-star ranked WR/S Luke Williams. The Naperville North defense was able to force multiple turnovers in its Week 9 win over rival Naperville Central and will look for another strong effort on Friday night. Can the Marist defense limit the big play ability of the Naperville North offense? Can the Naperville North defense also limit big plays against the Marist spread offense? 

Pick: Marist

Class 7A 

#24 Chicago (Brother Rice) (5-4) at #9 Algonquin (Jacobs) (8-1)
Fri., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.

Brother Rice and first-year head coach Casey Quedenfeld has been able to bring a long, less experienced team earlier this fall while also surviving the always-rugged CCL/ESCC Blue slate to make it into the postseason. The Crusaders offense has been getting a big season from QB Ryan Hartz and has a handful of key targets in WR Owen Lyons along with WR Marty O’Keefe. The Crusaders defense also has some key names to watch, led by senior 4-star ranked DT Trey Pierce III (Wisconsin) along with senior ILB Henry Ivers.

Jacobs and head coach Brian Zimmerman have a strong running game and a speedy and athletic defense this season. The Golden Eagles offense will look towards senior RB Antonio Brown as a lead ball carrier while QB Max Benner will mix in some key play action passes to the likes of junior 4-star ranked TE/DE Grant Stec and also senior TE Nick True. Can the Brother Rice defense slow down the Jacobs running game? Can the Jacobs defense force the Crusaders into unwanted down and distance in this game? 

Pick: Brother Rice 

Class 6A

#15 Crystal Lake (South) (5-4) at #2 Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge) (8-1)
Sat., Oct. 29, 1 p.m.

This game is a rematch between two Fox Valley Conference rivals as Prairie Ridge defeated Crystal Lake South 48-41 after South held a 14 point halftime lead. Crystal Lake South and head coach Rob Fontana have gotten a big season from QB Caden Casimino and RB Nate Van Whitsenburg and senior OL/DL Nate Compere (Lindenwood) is a talented key two-way starter for the Gators this season.

Prairie Ridge and veteran head coach Chris Schremp has one of Chicagoland’s top players this season in senior QB Tyler Vasey who runs the Wolves triple option offense with military precision. Vasey is a threat as well with his legs and his arm while also being a force in the kick return games for Prairie Ridge. Can the Crystal Lake South defense slow down or contain Vasey this time around? Can the Prairie Ridge defense also limit the big play potential from the balanced Gators offensive attack?

Pick: Prairie Ridge

Class 5A

 #11 LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy) (5-4) at #6 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South) (7-2)
Fri., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.

Nazareth Academy and veteran head coach Tim Racki has brought along a young team this season and has found a way to get to 5 wins. The Road Runners could be one of the best 5-4 teams in the entire state playoff field. They will look towards sophomore QB Logan Malachulk while senior 3-star ranked DB Justin Taylor (Wisconsin) is a talented two-way starter along with senior OL/DL William Beargie (Princeton) while sophomore 4-star ranked DE Gabe Kaminski is highly sought after and is already holding offers from Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Glenbard South and head coach Ryan Crissey have plenty of talent this season as well, led by junior 4-star ranked WR Cam Williams (Notre Dame). Williams is an impact player in all three phases of the game and junior QB Michael Champagne is having a big season while the running game is also strong led by senior RB Jalen Brown. The defense is anchored by senior OL/DL Owen DiFranco and this unit has good overall speed and quickness. Can the Nazareth Academy defense get several three and outs against a strong Glenbard South spread offense? Can the Glenbard South line play matchup against the Nazareth Academy linemen on both sides of the football?

Pick: Nazareth Academy

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