Joliet Catholic's Kenyetta Williams breaks through the Mt. Zion defense Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, at Memorial Stadium in Joliet, Ill.  (The Hillmen defeated the Braves 27-14)
Joliet Catholic's Kenyetta Williams breaks through the Mt. Zion defense Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, at Memorial Stadium in Joliet, Ill. (The Hillmen defeated the Braves 27-14) — Adam Jomant for Shaw Media


Gurnee Warren (11-0) at Bolingbrook (8-3)

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Gurnee Warren 28, Bolingbrook 14 (2017 Class 8A Playoffs)

About the Raiders: Ordinarily it wouldn't be expected for a team to want to get into a defensive tussle with a team like Warren, but the Raiders typically go as their defense does in most games. Even in Bolingbrook's three losses, the defense has played very well, often so much so they consistently give the offensive unit a short field to play with. They'll need to be doing that on the regular to give the Raiders a chance at playing spoiler because as while several Raiders have had good offensive stretches during this postseason run asking that unit to post a bunch of points is probably to big of an ask. What the Raiders can hope for is continued bursts of spectacular big plays by jack-of-all trades wide receiver/running back Antonio King.

About the Blue Devils: Warren is a complete football team, but any conversation of them must absolutely start with the defensive unit. The Blue Devils are simply incredible on that side of the football with only one team managing to score seven points on them (Plainfield East) over the course of the entire season. Others have managed field goals or six points, but in any case, the Blue Devils defense is simply dominant and opponents have not managed to get any sort of a foothold against them. They will likely go hunting for another shutout in the quarterfinals, having already recorded five of them this season. Iowa State bound Willis Singleton leads the unit from his defensive line perch. But don't sleep on Warren's offensive capabilities either as the unit is led by running back Derrick McLaughlin. He rushed for 240-yards plus in last week's win over a very gritty defense in Fremd and is far from the only capable threat on that side of the football.

Pick: Gurnee Warren

Homewood-Flossmoor (10-1) at Lincoln-Way East (11-0)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Lincoln-Way East 20, Homewood-Flossmoor 10 (2019)

About the Griffins: A lot of the attention in this rematch is centered around the Lincoln-Way East defense and rightfully so. The Griffins defense turned in what could be safely considered one of the more dominating efforts of the year in the second half of Lincoln-Way East's 20-10 win over Homewood-Flossmoor in Week 5. They will need that performance repeated here not only to continue to hold dominance over the Vikings but to atone for a less than solid effort in the second half of last week's win over Niles Notre Dame. The Dons actually outgained Lincoln-Way East in the contest, largely due to that second half surge. The defense is still clearly capable of setting the tone, but the offense could lend a bit more of an assist as well. Lincoln-Way East may still be without the services of leading rushing Devon Williams who was injured in the Week 1 playoff win over Plainfield South and if that's the case the Griffins could really use a step up performance from someone else to insure standout AJ Henning doesn't have to shoulder all of the load.

About the Vikings: Homewood-Flossmoor looked every bit as capable of Lincoln-Way East in the first half of the matchup between the two teams in the first meeting this season. Things took an abrupt turn for the worse after the break, but they were still just a play or two away from making things considerably more interesting. Few running backs have been as productive as Sean Allen has been especially during the postseason and they'll need a big effort from him again to set the tone for the Vikings offense. H-F got virtually nothing going through the air, which severely limited to ability of dynamic wide receiver William Pauling to play much of a role. If they can figure out a way to get Pauling a few more touches things get a lot more intriguing. H-F did a pretty nice job on defense in the first meeting and has been really staunch since that loss, the Vikings only one of the season, so its not unreasonable to expect this game could evolve into a defensive scuffle.

Pick: Lincoln-Way East

Minooka (11-0) at Brother Rice (7-4)

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Crusaders: Brother Rice didn't look capable of making a quarterfinal round run after the last stretch of the regular season. After narrowly fending off Joliet Catholic in Week 5, the Crusaders dropped three of their last four games and appeared to be limping in the postseason dance. But the Crusaders ratcheted things up on defense holding their first two playoff opponents to 15 points combined. Offensively, much of the concern in stopping Brother Rice must be focused on stopping running back Willie Shaw, an explosive player that has standing offers from multiple Division I schools. If Minooka can slow down Shaw, its hard to see a path for productivity for the Brother Rice offense, but slowing down Shaw is much easier said than done.

About the Indians: You might be able to question a few things about Minooka, but one thing you can't question is the team's unity. The group plays together seamlessly in almost every circumstance and they don't rattle easily. Trailing at halftime during their second round playoff matchup with visiting Edwardsville, there wasn't an ounce of fear as they put on a meticulous clinic on how to carve up an opponent and seized total control in scoring 20 unanswered second-half points in collecting a win. The Indians can and will spread the ball around offensively. Noah Ellens has emerged as the lead dog in the backfield, but Conner Etzkorn is also a strong runner that is a key cog in the Indians "power" formation that loves to control tempo with soul crashing, chain moving long drives once they seize control of the scoreboard. Minooka's defense doesn't have what would be classified as a weak link as all three levels perform as a cohesive squad.

Pick: Minooka


Chatham Glenwood (10-0) at Providence (8-3)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Celtics: Providence showed how dangerous they can be offensively with an electric performance in the second round against Crete-Monee, and it will need to bring another high octane performance if it wants to stay alive this week. Aaron Vaughn had one of the more dominating rushing performances in Providence history approaching 400 yards rushing in the victory and while expecting a duplicate performance from Vaughn is likely asking too much a big day coupled with a strong effort from quarterback Kevin Conway as a run-pass threat could be enough. Most of the responsibility in this game, however, will likely fall on the defensive units ability to get stops against the high powered offensive attack that Glenwood possesses.

About the Titans: Glenwood has a truly special offensive attack, evidence of that is provided by the fact that they are averaging 50 points per game and have been held under 40 just twice this season, one of which was a 34-point showing in last week's win over Lemont. That win came at a price though as standout running back Narkel Leflore only went a few plays before heading to the sideline with a lingering ankle injury. And shortly there after Glenwood's top receiver and likely fill-in for Leflore, Jason Hansbrough, also went down with an injury and did not return. If both can't make it back for this contest, nearly all of the responsibilities of the offense fall on quarterback Luke Lehnen's shoulders. He might still be up to the task. Lehnen is a returning All-State player from a year ago and he pieced together 300-plus yards of total offense in the win over Lemont without his main weapons at his disposal. The Titans had some role players step up last week, they may need them to do it again.

Pick: Chatham Glenwood


Mascoutah (8-3) at Joliet Catholic (8-3)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Hilltoppers: The Hilltoppers seem to be catching their groove at the right time, but weren't exactly sharp in finishing off Mount Zion in the second round last weekend. A little clean-up might be required but the power running game still doesn't appear to need much tinkering. The one-two punch of Kenyetta Williams and Jordan Anderson has been a riddle no 5A playoff team has come close to solving and Williams has been particularly impressive both running the football and sneaking out at times to become a threat in the passing game. It's all been about momentum and setting the tone for the Hilltoppers as in both their playoff wins to date they've set a very strong foot forward and used that momentum to carry them to victory. The defense might see some challenges from Mascoutah's attack, but it isn't like they bring anything to the table that the Hilltoppers haven't been prepared for previously.

About the Indians: Mascoutah is sort of tough to figure out. Prior to this quarterfinal round run, the Indians had only ever participated in the Class 5A playoffs twice prior, winning just one game at that level (2005). Most of the program's playoff success has come at the 4A level. This version of the Indians does have some tools at their disposal particularly two-way performer Devin Wills. Wills has racked up nearly 2,000 yards rushing this season to go along with 29 touchdowns and also is a key cog on the Mascoutah defensive unit that came up with a giant stop goalline stand in the second round win over Kankakee. But the simply fact that Mascoutah utilized so many players on both sides of the football could be a problem against JCA, a team that doesn't do that nearly as often.

Pick: Joliet Catholic


Wheaton St. Francis (10-1) at Coal City (11-0)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First Meeting

About the Coalers: Coal City has not been pressed into using its full arsenal of weapons for several weeks and it appears now may be the time they may have to show a few more things to survive and advance. Coal City's ground-and-pound attack spearheaded by Daniel Jezik has been incredibly effective for the Coalers and if they don't have to deviate from that why would they? But if they Coalers do have to diversify on offense they can with experienced quarterback Payton Hutchings under center and a receiving weapon in Austin Pullara who creates nightmare matchups for most defenses. Speaking of defenses, you'd be hard pressed to find a more effective unit on that side of the ball, especially at the Class 4A level.

About the Spartans: A lot of the prospects for St. Francis hinge on whether or not the Spartans will be able to utilize the services of dynamic quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse who has been out of action since the Spartans upset Week 7 win over IC Catholic. Rittenhouse's injury is to his non-throwing arm and the Spartans have managed to grind out the first two wins in the playoffs with back-up Michael Baffa under center. The Spartans probably won't have the luxury of continuing to rest Rittenhouse against a Coaler defense that has proven to be a stifling defense. St. Francis' defense isn't exactly a slouch either, having tossed five shutouts this season.

Pick: Coal City


Wilmington (10-1) at Byron (10-1)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Wilmington 38, Byron 18 (2017 Class 3A Playoffs)

About the Tigers: Byron has been punishing nearly every team it plays during the season as in other than its lone loss of the year (18-16 to Stillman Valley), they've scored 40 plus points in every other game this year and won them all by substantial margins. This Byron team doesn't vary much from teams of previous years. Byron typically has the ability to dominate in the trenches, and should be able to employ Isaac Stickler early and often. Sticker is a monster offensive weapon for the Tigers as both a runner and a receiver, but Ian Palzkill and Drake Snodgrass are also weapons to keep an eye on in Byron's offensive attack that is capable of grinding it out with the best of them.

About the Wildcats: Wilmington's ground game continues to assert itself as the season goes along. Although this unit may not quite have the explosive element that some previous versions of this attack have, it has the three-headed monster of Jake Rodewald, Trey Shaw and Keaton Hopwood working well together and hopefully keeping defenses away from being able to key on any one player. Even though Wilmington's offensive line might be a bit undersized in this matchup, it isn't like that's been a problem they are unfamiliar with and they seem to embrace the challenge of trying to use sheer grit to overcome any deficiencies on paper they they may have.

Pick: Wilmington