The IHSA football playoff pairings were announced Friday night, at about the same time I was watching the most painful football game (or sporting event) I have ever witnessed. Damn you Spartans. Anyway, I’m going to post my thoughts on the match-ups involving the teams I saw this season in person. Here is the first installment of my mini-previews, focusing on the 5A games. I’ll post the mini-previews of the 6A, 7A and 8A games tomorrow.
#6 Montini (7-2, 4-1) vs #11 Woodstock North (7-2, 5-1), Sat. Oct. 29, 1 pm in Lombard
Montini WR Jordan Westerkamp dives for a catch in last year’s Class 5A championship game
Montini, the two-time defending 5A state champion, enters the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the state. The Broncos have won five straight games and have outscored opponents 276 to 50 over that stretch.
The Broncos offense has transformed into a powerhouse since John Rhode took over the quarterbacking duties at halftime of Montini’s week six game against St. Francis. Rhode missed the first five games of the season recovering from a broken right thumb. In just over 10 quarters of play this season, Rhode has thrown for 1,100 yards and 22 touchdowns. Rhode has a strong stable of wide receivers to target. Jordan Westerkamp, a Nebraska recruit, is the star of the receiving corp, but Joe Borsellino and Anthony Taylor are talented weapons as well.
“There is really only one expectation for us, that’s to play in the final game,” said Montini Head Coach Chris Andriano after last week’s 54-6 victory over Wheaton Academy.” We’ve been very blessed with some great kids, great coaching staff, great teams and we’ve been able to be in that game and actually win that game the last two years so that’s our expectation, we want to practice on Thanksgiving day and play on Thanksgiving weekend.”
Montini’s two losses came without John Rhode and at the hands of two 9-0 teams (Loyola and Marian Central).
The IHSA didn’t give the Broncos any favors with their seeding. Despite the way Montini has looked in recent weeks, the Broncos were only given a six seed, and a rematch with 9-0 Marian Central likely awaits in the quarterfinals.
Woodstock North won a share of the Fox Valley Fox division crown this season in only the school’s third year as a varsity squad. The Thunder overcame a 15 point halftime deficit last week in their 47-35 victory over Grayslake North.
The Thunder, led by 5-7 fullback Ryan Wade, are a run-first team. They rushed for 333 yards during the second half of their comeback win last week. Wade had 33 carries for 189 yards in total last week.
It’s hard to see Montini losing their first round game, but Woodstock North offense will present a challenge. Montini has done well against strong running offenses this season, defeating Marmion and St. Francis, giving up two touchdowns combined in those games.
Montini 38 Woodstock North 17
#8 St. Francis (7-2, 3-2) vs #9 Burlington Central (7-2, 4-1), Sat. Oct. 29 7 pm at College of DuPage
St. Francis WR Michael Hanson against Marmion
This class 5A 8/9 match-up features two teams with run-heavy offenses entering the playoffs with multi-game winning streaks.
St. Francis heads into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. The Spartans’ two losses to this season came to two highest ranked 5A teams, 9-0 Marian Central and 7-2 Montini.
St. Francis features a run-first offense, led by running backs Jack Petrando and Jeff Rutkowski. Petrando is more the workhorse but Rutkowski scored four touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) last week against St. Edward.
Burlington Central, second place finishers in the Big Northern East division, have outscored opponents 151-17 during their current four game winning streak. The Rockets have only lost two games this season by a total of five points.
The Rockets offense is led by running back Joel Bouagron. The 6’1, 205 lb. junior has rushed for 376 yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks.
Burlington Central 28 St. Francis 24