Football: Second-round playoff previews, Northwest
No. 5 Wheaton North (9-1) at No. 13 Prospect (7-3)
When: 7 p.m. today at George Gattas Memorial Stadium
Last week: Wheaton North d. St. Charles East 41-13; Prospect d. Glenbrook North 35-14
Outlook: Prospect pulled an upset on the road last weekend and now gets to host the DuPage Valley runner-up that has lost only one game all season, which came in Week 8 against Glenbard North on a last-second field goal. After giving away a fourth-quarter lead to Rolling Meadows in Week 6, the East co-champs have won four in a row. The Knights are hoping to avenge a 38-24 second round playoff loss to the Falcons in 2009.
When Prospect has the ball: The story all season has been the running game for the Knights, and they expect that to continue. Prospect has used a rotation of RB's Stevan Isteefanos and Jack Tuttle, and last week it was Tuttle cranking out 160 yards on 24 carries. QB Devin O'Hara also ran for 80 yards and 3 touchdowns, but it's his passing ability that can take the offense to the next level. Prospect coach Mike Sebestyen has known all season that eventually his team would need to move the ball through the air to keep teams honest and that's exactly what they did last week as O'Hara was extremely efficient in completing 8-of-10 passes for 210 yards. WR's Andrew Hajek and Nikko Gountanis have been his favorite targets. "The passing game helps the running game," Sebestyen said. "It forces people to back off a little bit. It allows us to have some holes." Jaylen Howze and JD Marconi are big-hitting safeties anchoring the Falcon defense.
When Wheaton North has the ball: The Falcons are unique in that they have rotated senior Johnny Peltz and junior Clayton Thorson at quarterback all season. Beginning in Week 9, they have shifted to Peltz taking snaps and Thorson lining up out wide at receiver. Last week, Peltz threw for 222 yards and 2 TD while Thorson caught 5 passes for 94 yards. Either way, Sebestyen has prepared the Knights for both possibilities. "They feel they two quality quarterbacks," Sebestyen said. "After watching them on film, I would agree with them." RB Patrick Sharp found the end zone twice last week. An athletic defensive front featuring Mike Houghton and Colin Olson, along with LB Hajek, will have their hands full against a Wheaton North squad outscoring their opponents 378-92.
The quote: "It's going to be a challenge for us," Sebestyen said. "We're going to find out how far we've come since the loss against Meadows."
No. 6 Schaumburg (8-2) at No. 3 Palatine (9-1)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday at Chic Anderson Stadium
Last week: Schaumburg d. Glenbrook South 42-7; Palatine d. Niles West 69-42
Outlook: The Saxons and Pirates both held serve in first-round home games to set up a rematch from a Week 9 contest that Palatine won 51-18 to wrap up an outright MSL West title. Schaumburg is trying to make it back to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008. Palatine has taken an identical path to 2011, winning nine in a row after a season-opening loss to Montini. This is the point at which the Pirates hope they can begin to chart a new course, as last season ended in a 35-21 loss to Glenbard North in the second round. "The biggest thing is that we need to come out and play," said Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling. "For whatever reason, we didn't do that. By the time that we decided to play, it was too little, too late."
When Schaumburg has the ball: The Saxons have used both senior Nick Anzelmo and junior Stacey Smith at quarterback all season and that continues to be the plan. Last week, Smith completed 3 passes, all of which went to WR Cole Reyes for touchdowns. Smith is also very elusive on the ground and is the perfect complement to RB Sadarriss Patterson, who ran for 103 yards on 15 carries last week. "They have great athletes," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly. "Five or six of them can make you miss and go 95 yards and that scares the heck out of you." The Palatine defense played well last week despite the big number put on the scoreboard by Niles West. Hard-hitting safeties Jesse Bobbit and Cam Kuksa are the last line of defense in a stellar unit that includes linebackers Lucas Rago and John Serio, CB Dan Riddle and DL Josh Baldus.
When Palatine has the ball: Palatine's offense hasn't been stopped much all season. Behind QB Ethan Olles, the Pirates are averaging 44.2 points per game. Kuksa has scored 7 TD in three games since returning from injury. WR's Eric Theis and Alex Nawrot have proven to be reliable targets and Palatine has plenty of other options in RB Chaka Kelly, WR Ryan Gronwick and Bobbit, who is a four-year starter that has been practicing on offense for the last month but hasn't been needed in game action, yet. Schaumburg needs players like Rashad McFadden to put pressure on Olles, something they weren't able to accomplish in the first matchup. "They have so many weapons, to focus on any one of them is going to allow the other kids to hurt you," Stilling said. "It comes back to playing fundamental defense and doing what we do."
The quote: "It's a challenge because we have already played them once," Donnelly said. "We have a feel for what they do, and they have a feel for what we do. I expect a much closer game."
No. 8 Conant (7-3) at No. 1 Maine South (10-0)
When: 1 p.m. tomorrow
Last week: Conant d. New Trier 14-0; Maine South d. Lane 42-7
Outlook: Conant has proven it can win in a variety of ways, such as its shootout win over Barrington in Week 9 as well as the defensive battle in the first round last week against New Trier. Now the Cougars hope to put it all together against an undefeated Maine South squad that has won state titles in three of the past four seasons. The teams have met twice in the playoffs in recent history, both of which came in the first round; in 2002 when the Cougars beat the Hawks 30-28 and in 2006 when Maine South won 21-14 in overtime.
When Conant has the ball: A typically high-scoring Cougar offense was rather quiet in the first round against New Trier. Conant lost starting RB Jacobi Sims to a hamstring injury early in the first half and the senior is doubtful for tomorrow's contest. In his absence, the Cougars will need junior Bryson Brown to step in and assume Sims' normal workload. Drawing out lengthy drives and keeping the ball away from a potent Maine South offense will be vital, so Conant's ability to run successfully could be a turning point in the game. Brown has proven to be up to the task when given the opportunity as he ran for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 6 against Hoffman Estates and contributed 84 yards in relief of Sims last week. It's been easier for opposing defenses to take WR Tim Manczko out of the game since he's moved to the outside after an ankle injury. The challenge will be for junior QB Danny Modelski to step up and hit other targets like Elias Gardner and Mike Kos against a solid Maine South defense. "They're not real big or real fast, but they are solid everywhere," said Conant coach Bill Modelski. "There are no holes."
When Maine South has the ball: Conant's focus will be on stopping senior QB Matt Alviti, who is already committed to Northwestern. The Hawks are averaging 37.5 points per game, so a repeat performance of last week from the Cougar defense would be nice. Two key guys in the middle that will be counted on to keep an eye on Alviti are LB's Troy Piccinini and Mike Kos. "When they play well, we're a different defense," Modelski said. "When they struggle, we are just average." Conant made several late season changes to their defensive personnel and is starting to see the results. Tyler LaBarbera moved from linebacker to the defensive line and has really solidified them up front. Fred Wortham has moved up from safety to linebacker to replace LaBarbera and with Kevin Copher entering the lineup at corner, DeAngelo McBride is now back at safety. Perhaps the biggest addition to the defense was Manczko, who normally plays both ways but has been limited due to injury. He made his presence felt by returning an interception 78 yards for a touchdown last week.
The quote: "We are going to have to play our best game, which I don't think we've played yet," Modelski said. "We have not had a game this year where we have played well in all three phases. This is the week for us to do it."
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