Top 5 Chicagoland high school football games: Semifinals
The IHSA State Football Semifinal games across Chicagoland on Saturday are the final on-campus postseason games for the year.
The winners on Saturday will advance to the IHSA State Championship games to be held next Friday and Saturday at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West) (11-1) at Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) (12-0)
Sat., Nov. 19, 1:00 pm
Glenbard West was able to limit Maine South’s high-powered offense to hang on to a 37-34 win last Saturday to advance. The Hilltoppers offense was on track last Saturday as QB Korey Tai was very effective in the play action passing game while the Glenbard West running game was solid as RB Julius Ellens added 135 yard rushing for the win.
Lincoln Way East also had a nice performance from its offense as QB Braden Tischer was locked in on the play action passing game while the Griffins built a 35-0 3rd quarter lead and rolled to the 35-12 win to advance.
Both teams are very similar on both sides of the football as Glenbard West offensively looks to get the running game going then mixes in play action passing to great effect. Both teams also play lights out defense and are just well prepped in all three phases of the game. Can Glenbard West get its running game going against the Lincoln Way East defense? Can the Lincoln Way East offense run the football consistently against Glenbard West? Look for a very close game where a turnover or special teams play could be the difference between turning in equipment next Monday and practicing on Thanksgiving Day.
Pick: Lincoln Way East
Wilmette (Loyola Academy) (11-1) at Elmhurst (York) (12-0)
Sat., Nov. 19, 1:00 pm
Loyola Academy and head coach John Holecek are back in the Class 8A semifinal round for the 11th time over the last 13 playoff seasons after an impressive 30-17 win over Lyons Township to advance. The Ramblers offense remains as balanced and potent as ever this season. Loyola senior QB Jake Stearney is having an All-State caliber season and has several key targets including senior WR Declan Forde while the running game operates behind a big, strong and very physical offensive line. The Loyola defense, the program’s calling card, is always well-schooled and keep an eye on senior DE Brooks Bahr (Michigan) along with senior S John McGuire on Saturday.
York is also on a serious roll and are in the IHSA Semi Finals for just the third time in school history and the first since 2006. York senior QB Matt Vezza has been the Dukes MVP and is also a Player of the Year candidate who has thrown for 1,950 yards and 21 touchdowns and has become a much bigger threat running the football in the postseason. York has talent up and down the starting lineup on both sides of the football and keep an eye out for RB Jake Melion, junior RB Kelly Watson along with junior WR Luke Mailander while the defense has great overall team speed.
Can the York offense control tempo and time of possession against an always strong Loyola defense? Can the Loyola offense quickly strike against a York defense that has been just very hard to dent this season? Can York match up on both sides of the line against the size difference they will face with Loyola?
Pick: Loyola Academy
Batavia (9-3) at Lake Zurich (11-1)
Sat., Nov. 19, 4:00 pm
Batavia and head coach Dennis Piron struggled early on in the season, starting the year with a 1-2 record which included two back-to-back losses to Lincoln Way East and Wheaton North. The Bulldogs, however, righted the ship and Batavia will rely on a steady and balanced offensive attack along with a defense that has been consistently strong all season. The Batavia offense is led by junior QB Ryan Boe, who has thrown for 1,466 yards and 15 touchdowns while RB Ryan Whitewell has rushed for 1,229 yards this season. The Batavia defense is anchored by standout senior linebackers in Tyler Jansey (Wisconsin) and Jack Sadowsky (Iowa State) and remains the strength of the 2022 team.
Lake Zurich and head coach Ron Plantz is also a very blue collar team that just seems to grind out wins week after week this fall and was able to pull off a 29-27 win at Pekin to advance. The Bears offense is balanced and senior WR/DB Tyler Erkman (North Dakota) is a big-time game-breaker in all three phases for Lake Zurich. QB Ashton Gondeck is another name to watch along with TE/DE Tyler Burkey and the Bears defense is speedy, athletic and defends the entire field as well as anyone still playing in the IHSA State Playoffs.
Can the Batavia offense generate enough points against a very good Lake Zurich defense? Can Lake Zurich continue to find ways to get points on the scoreboard and slow down the Bulldogs offense? I expect a very close, lower scoring game on Saturday.
Chicago (St. Ignatius) (10-2) at Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge) (11-1)
Sat., Nov. 19, 2:00 pm
Both St. Ignatius and Prairie Ridge have a lot in common despite never having played against each other.
St. Ignatius and head coach Mark Miller will look to get the Wolfpack’s double wing option offense rolling led by senior RB/LB Vinny Rugai along with QB Jake Petrow and junior Rivals.com 5-star ranked OL/DL Justin Scott is a name to watch on both sides of the football.
Prairie Ridge and standout senior QB Tyler Vasey has already set the IHSA single season rushing record in last week’s 69-28 win over Harlem to advance. Vasey has now rushed for 3,609 yards this season running the Wolves triple option offense and Vasey is also a major threat in the return game for Prairie Ridge. The Wolves have several key names to watch in FB Nathan Greenham along with ILB Henrik Nystrom and RB/LB Ryan Koelblinger.
Can St. Ignatius get its option game rolling on the road on grass in Crystal Lake? Can the St Ignatius defense corral and limit the big plays from Tyler Vasey for four quarters? I have literally no idea what happens in this game and I can see a scenario where this is a lower scoring game or a wide open up-and-down track meet. Seriously? Seriously.
Pick: Prairie Ridge
LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy) (8-4) at Sycamore (H.S.) (12-0)
Sat., Nov. 19, 2:00 pm
Nazareth Academy and veteran head coach Tim Racki has the No. 11 seed Road Runner into the Semifinal round after a less-than-expected 2-4 start during the regular season. Nazareth Academy this season has a ton of talent led by sophomore QB Logan Malachuk and senior 3-star ranked WR/S Justin Taylor (Wisconsin) and a very young and talented offensive skills group. Nazareth Academy defensively also has a very strong and young core of players led by sophomore DE Gabe Kaminski along with freshman DE Lesroy Tittle and also two-way senior starting lineman Williams Beargie (Princeton).
Sycamore and veteran head coach Joe Ryan always has the Spartans program in the Class 5A postseason and the offense has been balanced led by QB Eli Meier along with a strong core including WR Burke Gautcher and a running back-by-committee which includes senior Zach Crawford and Tyler Curtis. The Spartans defense has pitched 6 shutouts so far this season and this is a unit that has serious speed and athleticism.
Can the Nazareth Academy offense get some big plays against a speedy Sycamore defense? Can Sycamore finally get past a Catholic school opponent deep in the postseason and into the state title game?
Pick: Nazareth Academy