Scouting Cook County opening round playoff football games

Class 8A

No. 32 Conant (5-4) at No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (9-0)

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Last meeting: First meeting

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Lane-Neuqua Valley

Outlook: Conant was able to win its final regular season game and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2019. The tough news is that Cougars have drawn a dangerous team in Lincoln-Way East. The Griffins enter the playoffs unbeaten with wins over seven playoff qualifiers. They are averaging 40.7 points per game. Conant won its first four games but lost the next four games with two of those losses by one point. Conant was able to advance thanks to fullback Dominic Mininni's three-touchdown performance. Quarterback Matthew Maize runs the offense well and wingbacks AJ Ramsey and Cody Biedke can be dangerous.

No. 20 Bolingbrook (7-2) at No. 13 Maine South (7-2)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last week: Bolingbrook beat Stagg 63-6; Maine South beat New Trier 28-21, OT

Last meeting: Maine South 23, Bollingbrook 20 in Week 1 of 2005

Advancement: Winner plays winner of South Elgin-Belleville East

Outlook: This is one of the top games in 8A, which many believe could have been a quarterfinal game. Both teams have been perennial state playoff powers. Freshman Jonas Williams leads the Raiders, who have speed all over the field and are averaging 42.4 points. Northwestern-commit safety Damon Walters leads the defense. Maine South is usually known for its high-powered offense. The Hawks featured that with wide receiver Maurice Densomore, who had two touchdowns last week. Ryan Pothast, Evan Agosto and Martin Brosnan are also key components to the passing game. Sophomore running back Michael Delumo and senior Andres Pinto are Maine South's best options to run the ball. The Hawks' defense, which has allowed just 13.6 points, is led by Emmet Wolf, Noah Collins, Mike Taylor, Danny Spandiary, Michael Mizwicki and Brady Marques.

No. 26 Downers Grove South (6-3) at No. 7 Palatine (8-1)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last week: Downers Grove South beat Leyden 30-20; Palatine beat Hoffman Estates 30-7

Advancement: Winner plays the winner of Glenbard East-Minooka

Outlook: Downers Grove South is making its 32nd playoff appearance. The Mustangs won the West Suburban Gold Conference title. But those are the only games they have won this season. South lost its first three games, which were all nonconference opponents. Palatine, on the other hand, is playing its best football of the season right now. The Pirates stormed through the MSL West behind conference rushing leader Dominik Ball. Sophomore Tommy Elter has upped his game weekly after taking over for an injured Grant Desnah. The Palatine defense has allowed just one opponent to score more than 20 points against them all season.

Class 7A

No. 31 Argo (5-4) at No. 2 Hersey (9-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last week: Argo lost to Evergreen Park 54-20.; Hersey beat Buffalo Grove 49-6

Last meeting: First meeting

Advancement: winner plays winner of Rockford Guilford-Batavia

Outlook: Argo is making its first playoff appearance since 2013. But the Argonauts are limping into the playoffs, losing three of their last four games and being outscored 165-80 during that span. They will have their hands full attempting to slow down a Hersey offense that is averaging over 43 points per game and has a ton of weapons. Hersey continues to go with dual quarterbacks in Colton Gumino (50 completions, 883 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Carter Hansen (36 completions, 590 yards, 6 touchdowns). The Huskies also use a plethora of running backs in Brett Kersemeier (922 yards, 7 touchdowns), Charlie Meister (301 yards, 6 touchdowns), Carson Grove, Nasir McKenzie as well as Gumino and Hansen. Grove and tight end Logan Farrell give the Huskies solid targets in their passing game.

No. 28 Reavis (5-4) at No. 5 Prospect (8-1)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last week: Reavis lost to Richards 59-6; Prospect beat Rolling Meadows 64-24

Last meeting: First meeting

Advancement: Winner plays winner of St. Rita-Geneva

Outlook: Reavis finished tied for third in the South Suburban Red Conference and played a schedule where the combined record of their opponents was 34-46. Prospect has been racking up the points like a slot machine. The Knights are averaging a Class 7A best 44.3 points behind quarterback Brad Viernisal who has accounted for 37 touchdowns. He has completed 162 passes for 2,680 yards and has rushed for 402 yards. Northwestern-bound Frank Covey has 59 receptions for 1.235 yards and 22 total touchdowns. Jake Parisi has 48 receptions for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns along with a punt return for a score. Gavin Flanagan has piled up 600 yards and five touchdowns.

No. 29 Maine West (5-4) at No. 4 St. Charles North (8-1)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last week: Maine West beat Highland Park 34-6; St. Charles North beat Batavia 32-31

Last meeting: First meeting

Advancement: winner plays winner of Elk Grove-Hoffman Estates

Outlook: Maine West is making its 8th playoff appearance in school history, but third in the last five playoff seasons. The Warriors have yet to win a playoff game. But this 2022 team is hoping to change that. Isaac Pittman has been running well of late and has gained 512 yards and tallied eight touchdowns. He also has 12 receptions, four of which went for touchdowns. Tommy Delaney has stepped into the quarterback role quite nicely and has thrown for 1,088 yards and 12 touchdowns. They will face a St. Charles North team that has won its last eight games after an opening season loss to Palatine. The North Stars won the DuKane conference title and are averaging nearly 27 points per game.

No. 20 Hoffman Estates (6-3) at No. 13 Elk Grove (7-2)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last week: Hoffman Estates lost to Palatine 30-7; Elk Grove beat Wheeling 49-33

Last meeting: Elk Grove beat Hoffman Estates 24-14 in Week 2

Advancement: Winner play winner of Maine West-St. Charles North

Outlook: This game should be fun between a pair of programs that are just recently enjoying success. Hoffman is making its 11th playoff appearance, but fifth in the last six playoff seasons. The Hawks return Quincy Williams to the backfield. That should help quarterback Aiden Cyr and the Hawks passing game that features Stephon Sellers, Xavier Martinez and Anu Ajibulu. Elk Grove has fought its way back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Grenadiers have leaned heavily on quarterback Mitch Janczak. The senior operates an offense that is averaging 30 points per game. Jacob Elsner, Logan Tosterud and Garret Ewen have also been huge parts of the offense.

No. 32 Buffalo Grove (4-5) at No. 1 Mount Carmel (9-0)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last week: Buffalo Grove lost to Hersey 49-6; Mt. Carmel beat Loyola 42-37

Last meeting: Mt. Carmel beat Buffalo Grove 41-11 in the 1994 playoffs

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Lincoln Park-Downers Grove North

Outlook: Buffalo Grove became the first at-large team with a 4-5 record. The Bison have played six playoff teams this season and had a whopping 56 playoff points. The Bison are going to need scoreboard points against perennial state power Mt. Carmel, which is making its 37th playoff appearance. Buffalo Grove has been leaning hard on running back Michael Cervantes and quarterback Payton Diaz. Cervantes has scored 16 touchdowns and has caught 58 passes for 778 yards and rushed for another 463 yards. Diaz has thrown for 1,866 yards. He has also rushed for 18 touchdowns.

Class 5A

No. 12 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 5 Sterling (7-2)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Last week: St. Viator beat St. Patrick 24-21, OT; Sterling beat East Moline United 63-33

Last meeting: Sterling beat St. Viator 48-0 in 2017

Advancement: Winner plays winner of Chicago Goode-Chicago Noble/Pritzker

Outlook: St. Viator batted back to earn its first playoff spot since 2017. They will make a familiar bus ride when they travel to Sterling, a team the Lions played in the playoffs. Viator has been scrappy all season and is led by wide receiver Michael Nix, who comes up with huge plays just when the Lions need one. Nix has 45 catches for 936 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nicky Pastore has also been a big target, catching 26 passes for 297 yards. QB Cooper Kmet, who is a sophomore, has taken over the offense in recent weeks and has picked up the speed of varsity football quite nicely. Sterling has won six of its last seven. The Golden Warriors, who are making their 34th playoff appearance, have lost only to St. Francis and Moline, which are a pair of 8-1 teams.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.