As Brian Griffin scans the Class 8A playoff pairings, it's chock full of first-round matchups that could easily play deeper into November.
But really, he need only look at his.
If any game epitomizes the depth of the 8A field this year, it's the first-round matchup between 21st-seeded Bolingbrook (6-3) and Griffin's 12th-seeded Hinsdale Central Red Devils (8-1).
The brackets were revealed Saturday evening.
"The whole bracket is full of those matchups and full of great teams," Griffin said. "There are no easy games in this field."
The field is led by No. 1 seed Minooka (9-0), champion of the Southwest Prairie West. Want another idea how tricky the 8A field is?
Second-seeded Glenbard West (9-0), champion of the West Suburban Silver, could face the winner of Maine South (7-2) and defending Class 8A champion Loyola (6-3) – in the second round.
Loyola's loss to Marist Saturday, and Bolingbrook's to Andrew Friday, were among the surprises that made Saturday particularly chaotic.
"Some of the upsets this weekend, the whole field is just full of good teams," Griffin said.
Hinsdale Central is among 15 teams in the Suburban Life coverage area to qualify for the playoffs. It's been quite a calendar year for the Red Devils, who for a time didn't know if they'd even have a program this year while the fate of a District 66 referendum hung in the balance.
All Hinsdale Central did since then was start the season 7-0, its only loss in overtime at Glenbard West Oct. 19.
"I love our kids. Our kids have dealt with a lot," said Griffin, in his first season as head coach. "To be a team that when adversity brings you closer together, that is the type of team that is fun to coach."
In Class 7A defending 7A champion Nazareth (9-0) is seeded second, and hosts 31st-seeded Libertyville (5-4) in a first-round game. Mount Carmel (9-0) is the No. 1 seed in the 7A bracket.
Nazareth, whose lone loss to Cardinal Ritter was reversed by a forfeit after Ritter was found to have used an eligible player, comes into the playoffs off impressive wins over Marist, Notre Dame and Benet the last three weeks.
"I'm very happy with where we are at, but I always divide seasons into two seasons. The regular season and season two," Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. "Whatever record you have is wiped out. Everybody is equal."
Nazareth could potentially get Batavia in a 7A quarterfinal, which would be a rematch of last year's semifinal won by the Roadrunners. Rolling Meadows (9-0) potentially awaits in a semifinal, but first things first.
"I know Libertyville plays a tough schedule and they are tough kids," Racki said. "It's never easy."
In Class 4A IC Catholic Prep (8-1) will be going for its fourth straight state championship, the second in 4A. But it will be a treacherous path to DeKalb.
The Knights are in the more-difficult on paper North bracket with the likes of Coal City, Richmond-Burton, Marengo, Stillman Valley and St. Francis – the latter, snapped IC Catholic's 33-game winning streak in Week 8.
IC Catholic is scheduled to host Chicago Sullivan in the first round. However, Sullivan is one of a group of Chicago Public League schools in limbo right now during the teachers' strike. The strike must end no later than Tuesday to give Chicago Public League teams enough time to squeeze in the required three practice days before participating in the first round. If the strike isn't resolved in time, 19 CPL teams will be forfeited out of the postseason.
St. Francis (8-1), in the same boat, is scheduled to host Chicago Clark (5-3) in the first round.
Other first-round games involving Suburban Life area teams include 31st-seeded Downers Grove South (5-4) at second-seeded Glenbard West (9-0) and 23rd-seeded Marist (5-4) at 10th-seeded Glenbard East (8-1) in Class 8A, 17th-seeded Benet (6-3) at 16th-seeded Glenbard North (6-3), 28th-seeded Moline (5-4) at fifth-seeded Willowbrook (8-1), 27th-seeded Downers Grove North (5-4) at sixth-seeded Maine West (8-1) and 22nd-seeded Wheaton Warrenville South (6-3) at 11th-seeded Harlem (7-2) in Class 7A, 10th-seeded Springfield (7-2) at seventh-seeded Lemont (7-2) and 10th-seeded Riverside-Brookfield 6-3) versus seventh-seeded Kenwood (7-1) in Class 6A and 11th-seeded Elmwood Park (6-3) at sixth-seeded Montini (7-2) and ninth-seeded Glenbard South (6-3) at eighth-seeded St. Rita (6-3) in 5A.