Oswego (9-1) at Bolingbrook (7-3)
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: Bolingbrook 31, Oswego 28 (2014 Class 8A Playoffs)
About the Raiders: Bolingbrook appeared to be limping into the playoffs after back-to-back losses to complete the regular season, but they rebounded in a flash to put a hurting on a well-respected Hinsdale Central squad in the first round and hope to keep that momentum rolling. All the offensive weapons showed in the Hinsdale win, including a transcendent effort from running back Justin Lynch, who scored a career best four touchdowns to spark to what had been in recent weeks a pretty stagnant offense. One thing that has been pretty consistent is the stinginess of the Raiders defense as they've reined in most of their opponents. If the offense is ready to bridge the gap between the two units, the Raiders are going to be an extremely tough out in Class 8A.
About the Panthers: Oswego's defense gets a lot of deserved acclaim as it has held half of of its opponents to single digit scoring through 10 games. But the Panthers can let it rip on offense too as quarterback Cole Pradel has been very productive this season, using the full complement of his receiving group that is led by Jack Lemke and Nick Hampton. The unit likely won't flourish as well as it did last week in its opening round win over Elgin where they scored touchdown on five consecutive possessions early in the game as Bolingbrook brings some more skills to the table defensively. But it is the kind of offense that went in finds its groove it can be hard to knock off its stride.
Niles Notre Dame (8-2) at Lincoln-Way East (10-0)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday.
Last matchup: First Meeting
About the Griffins: Lincoln-Way East hasn't really been pressed this season, but one gets the feeling that may change this week. Notre Dame has a capable defensive unit that has contained multiple quality teams. But on the other hand, Notre Dame hasn't likely seen many foes with as many viable offensive weapons as the Griffins possess. Since returning from injury, quarterback Kyle Quinn has been throwing touchdown passes with regularity, and he's not only utilizing standout weapon A.J. Henning as others have gotten involved as well. Devon Williams left the opening round playoff win over Plainfield South with an injury and his status is unknown heading into the game, but Connor Kubic did a quality job filling in.
About the Dons: The Dons have played and survived a pretty remarkable schedule this season and have earned wins over three other teams still alive in the playoffs. Their two losses are also to teams still kicking in the postseason, and even though they were shut out in both of those contests, some of that can be explained partially by the absence of Julian Schurr to injury. He's back now and played a big role in the Dons win over a strong Barrington program in 1. Schurr in tandem with Notre Dame's solid quarterback Anthony Sayles should be able to give Lincoln-Way East challenges they haven't faced much this season.
Pick: Lincoln-Way East
Edwardsville (8-2) at Minooka (10-0)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: Edwardsville 28, Minooka 25 (2017 Class 8A Playoffs)
About the Indians: Minooka went into survive in advance mode to get past Joliet West for the second time this season in an opening round playoff victory. The 20-7 victory isn't exactly what the Indians were hoping for, but it also demonstrates what makes them a dangerous postseason team. Once they get a lead, they are very, very difficult to try to wrest it away from them. Noah Ellens has spearheaded the Indians offense with a solid running effort. But the Indians are more than capable of going up top if they need to. For Minooka, controlling tempo against an opponent like Edwardsville could be quite critical.
About the Tigers: The Tigers are a dangerous postseason team and have time and time again delivered despite having to make long trips to play postseason matchups. Edwardsville is a dangerous team on offense, capable of stacking up lots of points. They have been especially proficient during its most recent four-game winning streak. Justin Johnson, with 1,000 yards rushing with 19 touchdowns, is the Tigers most prominent offensive threat. But others are more than capable of breaking free for big gains. In that sense, they are somewhat similar to their opposition in that they have multiple offensive threats. Edwardsville stacked up over 400 yards of total offense in their opening round playoff win over St. Charles East as they breezed to a 44-17 win.
Crete-Monee (10-0) at Providence (7-3)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: Providence 25, Crete-Monee 14 (2013 Class 6A Playoffs)
About the Celtics: Providence went into grinder mode to fend off Normal West in the opening round of the playoffs, and its a mentality that they very well many need to implement in again this weekend against a potentially explosive opponent. Providence has shown an ability to win the war in the trenches and its something that they will need to do here to give them an ability to sustain long drives. Aaron Vaughn has been a strong running back over the past few weeks, but Providence's ability to move the football likely hinges on whether Kevin Conway finds the sweet spot between using his feet to move the chains when needed and stretching the field with some downfield throws. It's absolutely essential that the Providence defense limits big plays from Crete-Monee, but that may be easier said than done.
About the Warriors: Crete is a bit of a wildcard this season. Usually you'll get a read on where the Warriors might be after they play a brutal nonconference schedule, but a reformed Southland Conference schedule didn't allow for that. Instead, they played almost exclusively in league and powered through that with relative ease other than a close call against Kankakee (27-26) very early in the season. Crete clearly has explosive capabilities on offense thought as they've posted points at an epic level. Run-pass threat Trayvon Randolph must be contended with and the Warriors also received a boost with the return of Kavon Jones from an early-season elbow injury that had sidelined him for multiple weeks before his return where he scored three touchdowns in Crete's opening round playoff win over Bremen.
Lemont (8-2) at Chatham Glenwood (10-0)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: Chatham Glenwood 24, Lemont 21 (2018 Class 6A Playoffs)
About the Titans: Glenwood has been one of the more explosive offenses in the state this season, averaging over 50 points per game. Returning All-State quarterback Luke Lehnen is an incredible dual threat for the Titans, throwing and running for touchdowns at an epic rate. He's got plenty of other assets to help contribute although standout running back Narkel Lefore suffered an ankle injury in the Week 1 playoff win over Danville. If Lefore is unable to go or is slowed, the running game will likely be turned over to last year's lead back Jason Hansbrough, who has been moved outside to accommodate Lefore. On defense, the Titans also have the potential to reek havoc, with both Eli Vogler and Tyler Burris making life difficult for opposing offenses.
About the Indians: A bit of deja vu for Lemont here as they gave Glenwood all they wanted in a Round 1 contest last season. The Indians learned a lot about themselves from that loss, lessons they've tried to apply in a very strong season to date. Luke Bailey and Anthony Sambucci have been a potent offensive tandem for Lemont to pace the offense and Alex Tagler has put together a very solid season running the ball. But the pivot remains with Lemont's defensive unit which has played with much more purpose this season and it could be the biggest difference for Lemont in a challenging game with a high octane offense lining up on the other side.
Pick: Chatham Glenwood
Mount Zion (10-0) at Joliet Catholic (7-3)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: First Meeting
About the Braves: The Braves have clearly put together a fine season, but the fact of the matter is any previous postseason success Mount Zion has had has come in Class 4A, not Class 5A. In 15 playoff appearances since 2000, just three of them have found Mount Zion in 5A, and last week's 31-30 overtime victory over Decatur MacArthur marked the school's first ever postseason win in 5A. Nonetheless, Mount Zion comes into the contest with some definite pieces worth Joliet Catholic's defensive attention. Quarterback Ashton Summers has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards passing with 23 scores, while Sage Davis has racked up nearly 1,400 yards on the ground with 15 touchdowns. Egan Bender is clearly the defensive stopper for the Braves, with 132 total tackles he almost always finds himself around the football.
About the Hilltoppers: It is a blueprint that has served the Hilltoppers well for the past few seasons. Run the ball then run it some more. Joliet Catholic stacked up 300-plus rushing yards while dominating in the trenches to allow both Kenyetta Williams and Jordan Anderson clear the 100-yard barrier in the opening round win over Morton. The Hilltoppers have even demonstrated a bit more of an aerial attack than in year's past which might be a wrinkle they can bring out if needed. Defensively, Joliet Catholic seems to be playing better and better over the course of the second half, but the Hilltoppers secondary might get a little bit more of a test than they've had in most games this year.
Pick: Joliet Catholic
Kewanee (7-3) at Coal City (10-0)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: First Meeting
About the Coalers: Coal City has made it look remarkably easy this season and has been particularly dominant down the stretch. The Coalers non-conference opposition of Morris and Bishop McNamara put up a little bit more of a fight early in the year and they allowed just 34 points in seven conference games. The defense has been an rock solid anchor for Coal City all season, but probably even remarkable is Coal City's offense which seems to impose its will whenever it needs to. Daniel Jezik has had an incredible season running the football, so much so, that Coal City hasn't really even needed to utilize an aerial attack that it does actually possess.
About the Boilermakers: Kewanee has been much stronger over the second half of the season, winning six of their last seven games, including a 50-0 rout over Chicago Agricultural Science in the opening round of the playoffs. It marked Kewanee's first playoff win since 1999, in order for that string to continue they'll need to put together a giant performance. Josh Nimrick scored three touchdowns in the win over Ag Science and he'll likely big part of the attack that will take a shot at taking down the high-powered Coalers.
Pick: Coal City
Eureka (8-2) at Wilmington (9-1)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: Wilmington 42, Eureka 0 (2003 Class 3A Playoffs)
About the Wildcats: Wilmington continues to use the same plan that has led them to incredible success for much of the past two decades. Few have figured out how to slow it, let alone stop it. Wilmington's high-powered offense is almost entirely ground based with Jake Rodewald and Trey Shaw providing most of the punch. Quarterback Keaton Hopwood doesn't throw much, because Wilmington's attack rarely demands it, but he does add another dimension to the running attack at times. The Wildcats defense can be particularly stingy as well.
About the Hornets: In containing Eureka it all comes down to an opposing defenses ability to slow down Hornet quarterback Matthew Martin. Martin has accounted for over 2,500 yards of total offense and he's what makes them go. But there are others than contribute such as Hunter Gladson (754 rushing yards) and Aden Sears (33 catches, 781 yards), but the key is clearly Martin. Eureka's defense has been pretty sound, but to be fair, most of the units success has come against non-playoff bound teams, they may have some problems slowly down a vaunted Wilmington offensive attack.