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Top 5 Chicagoland high school football games: Quarterfinals

4 weeks agoEdgy Tim

The IHSA State Football Quarterfinal games across Chicagoland on Saturday are shaping up to be fantastic. Here are my Top 5 games to watch, but at this stage they are all top games to watch. 

Class 8A 

#8 Gurnee (Warren) (10-1) at #1 Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) (11-0)
Sat., Nov. 12, 1:00 pm

Despite the distance that separates both Warren Township and Lincoln Way East, both programs share quite a bit in common when it comes down to X’s and O’s.

Warren Township and head coach Bryan McNulty program is built around a speedy, hard-hitting and very physical defense while the offense looks to establish the running game along with balancing the attack with play action passing game. When the Blue Devils have the football, keep an eye on senior QB Adam Behrens and RB Charley Thompson while senior S Jaden Turner is a leader and tone setter for the Warren Township defense this fall.

Lincoln Way East and head coach Rob Zvonar also have talent and athletes on both sides of the football. When the Griffins have the football, keep an eye on junior QB Braden Tischer along with senior RB James Kwieccinski and East will also lean on a veteran offensive line to open up the running game. The Griffins defense, much like Warren Township’s strength, is a key and senior ILB Jake Scianna (who along with the rest of the defense) just flies to the football and plays excellent overall team defense.

Can either offense score against the other’s defense on Saturday? I’m expecting a relatively low scoring, very close game here. 

Pick: Lincoln Way East 

Class 8A

#5 Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West) (10-1) at #13 Park Ridge (Maine South) (9-2)
Sat., Nov. 12, 6:00 pm

Both Glenbard West and Maine South have been two of Chicagoland’s more successful suburban public school football programs over the past decade-plus and both schools are also familiar foes on the football field.

Glenbard West and head coach Chad Hetlet will look towards a balanced offense that will look to get the running game going with a big, strong and experienced offensive line anchored by senior 4 star ranked OL/DL Chris Terek (Wisconsin) while junior RB Juluis Ellens is a game-breaking back coming off a 312-yard performance in last week’s win over Glenbrook South. Glenbard West also plays fast and very physical defense and keep an eye on senior OLB Filip Maciorowski, junior DL Jack Anderson along with DL Erik Lonvick.

Maine South and veteran head coach Dave Inserra and staff bring a wealth of postseason experience to the field on Saturday. The Hawks will let loose its spread offense as Maine South will look towards QB Ryan Leyden who has several capable weapons including RB Michael Dellumo, WR Ean Agosto and WR Maurice Densmore. The Maine South defense also has speed and impact players and DE/OLB Emmet Wolf is a name to watch while the Maine South defense has yet to be scored upon in the postseason.

Can the Glenbard West running game grind down the Maine South defense and also control time of possession? The longer the Maine South offense is on the sidelines the better for Glenbard West on Saturday. Also can the Maine South offense hoist a few big plays against a very good Glenbard West defense on Saturday? 

Pick: Maine South 

Class 7A 

#24 Chicago (Brother Rice) (7-4) at #1 Chicago (Mt. Carmel) (11-0)
Sat., Nov. 12, 6:00 pm

This is the second time that these two longtime Chicago Catholic League rivals will square off this season as Mount Carmel beat Brother Rice 28-21 back in Week 6.

Brother Rice and first year head coach Casey Quedenfeld turned a less experienced team to start the season into a state title contender after surviving a rugged regular season schedule which included losses to Loyola, Mount Carmel, Marist and St. Rita. The Crusaders have been getting a big season from QB Ryan Hartz who has thrown for 1,707 yards and 18 touchdowns and his main targets have been senior WR Owen Lyons and senior WR Marty O’Keefe while RB Randall Nauden is the main ball carrier for Rice. The Brother Rice defense has also made big improvements as senior 3 star ranked DT Roderick Pierce III (Wisconsin) has been playing at a very high level all season along with senior LB Henry Ivers.

Mount Carmel and head coach Jordan Lynch will look to sweep Brother Rice on Saturday night at home, and beating an opponent twice in the same season is no easy task. The Caravan have been getting an All-State caliber season from QB Blainey Dowling who will look towards senior WR Denny Furlong along with a very deep and talented group of backs and receivers. The Mount Carmel defense is also a strength this season and keep an eye on DL Asher Tomazewski (Kansas State), OLB Danny Novickas (Ohio) along with ILB Parker Startz.

Can Mount Carmel clean up the mistakes and penalties from last week’s win over Downers Grove North? Can Brother Rice find something in the Week 6 game tape that will allow them to attack Mount Carme and beat them this time? 

Pick: Mount Carmel 

Class 6A 

#8 Niles (Notre Dame) (8-3) at #4 Chicago (St. Ignatius) (9-2)
Sat., Nov. 12, 3:00 pm

Niles Notre Dame and Hall of Fame head coach Mike Hennessey is back deep in the IHSA state playoffs and the Dons will look towards the Ricciardi twins as in QB Vincenzo Ricciardi and RB Francesco Ricciardi as key players to watch on Saturday in the Dons’ shotgun offensive attack that mixes in both run and pass effectively. The Notre Dame defense has also been a key this season and keep an eye on senior DE Karl Schmalz along with senior DL Nick Thome.

St. Ignatius head coach Matt Miller has the Wolfpack into the quarterfinal round for the first time in school history. St. Ignatius is a run-first, power running offensive attack and keep an eye on OL/DL Justin Scott, who is a 5 star ranked player and also one of the top recruits in the nation according to Rivals.com Class of 2024 rankings. The Wolfpack will also give the football early and often to RB/LB Vinny Rugai as St. Ignatius looks to move the chains and win time of possession.

Can the Notre Dame defense slow down the St. Ignatius power running attack for four quarters? Can St. Ignatius slow down the balanced Notre Dame Dons offense? 

Pick: Notre Dame 

Class 5A

#2 Chicago (Morgan Park) (10-1) at #11 LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy) (7-4)
Sat., Nov. 12, 1:00 pm

Morgan Park head coach Chris James has continued to move the Mustangs program pointing upward, now getting into the quarterfinal round after losing in the second round in 2021 to Kankakee. The Mustangs have an abundance of young and very talented names to watch including junior RB Tysean Griffin, sophomore QB Marcus Thaxton along with junior WR Chris Durr Jr. while junior LB Jovan Clark is a big-time hitter and vocal leader of the Morgan Park defense.

Nazareth Academy and veteran head coach Tim Racki have now won five straight games after being on the brink of IHSA state playoff elimination with a 2-4 record. The Road Runners are as battle tested as any team remaining in the IHSA state playoff field. Nazareth Academy also is loaded with talent and keep an eye on sophomore QB Logan Malachuk, senior 3 star ranked WR/S Justin Taylor (Wisconsin) along with sophomore DE Gabe Kaminski, senior OL/DL William Beargie (Princeton) plus freshman DB Lestroy Tittle.

Can Morgan Park win on the road and beat Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park? Can the Road Runners defense limit the big play capability of Morgan Park? Can the Morgan Park defense also contain the big play ability of the Road Runners? 

Pick: Nazareth Academy 

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