IHSA Playoff Primer

Pairings are out. We look at some of the top seeds, some dark horses, and teams who return key players just in time.

Regular season play in Illinois has concluded, and the playoffs kick off this weekend. Here's a look at what to expect as teams prepare to chase the ultimate prize of a state title:

Looking At The "Ones"
Some familiar schools carry the top seeds in their respective brackets. Here are a few in particular:

Maine South (Park Ridge, IL)

State champions just two years ago, Maine South has charged out to a 9-0 regular season record, looking to reclaim the title of State Champion. Led by Northwestern pledge Matt Alviti, Maine South is one of the favorites in the 8A class.

Nequa Valley (Naperville, IL)

Another 9-0 team in 8A, Nequa Valley has earned their spot as a 1 seed in their class. They took care of everyone on their schedule, including a tough rival in Waubonsie Valley. Will anyone be able to slow down the Nequa Valley offense highlighted by junior receiver Mike Dudek?

Glenbard West (Glen Ellyn, IL)

Glenbard West is quite possibly the best team in the state. Of course, being in 7A, they won't have a chance to test that against Maine West, but they'll still have plenty of competition in 7A. Defense is their forte. Led by defensive end Ruben Dunbar as well as two-way star and Vanderbilt commit Nathan Marcus, the Hilltoppers will be a tough out.

Batavia (Batavia, IL)

9-0 Batavia started off the season with a 42-41 victory over Glenbard North and kept it rolling from there. They had a few close ones along the way, but they found ways to win when it counted. Other than Glenbard North, they really didn't play any of the state's elite, so it's tough to gauge how they'll do when they face a higher level of competition just yet.

Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, IL)

Continuing the trend of undefeated teams being 1 seeds, Lincoln-Way East did it in pretty impressive fashion. Their biggest win came Week 6 against Bolingbrook in decisive fashion, although they were helped out a bit by the absence of Bolingbrook's Aaron Bailey due to injury. Lincoln-Way East went 9-0 in the regular season last year, but suffered an early exit from the playoffs. They're 9-0 again this year, but they're hoping for a better ending. The potent offense featuring Tommy Fuessel (Northern Illinois), Justin Corbett, and Nick Allegretti is going to be difficult to stop.

Crete-Monee (Crete, IL)

Crete-Monee hasn't really even been in a close game this year so far. They've won this year by an average margin of 34.1 PPG. Everyone knows about the Crete-Monee offense, headlined by All-American receiver Laquon Treadwell and fellow receiver Lance Lenoir, but the defense has been getting it done for them too. Senior DB Jaylen Dunlap, junior LB Nyles Morgan, and soph safety Omari Stringer have held opponents to an average of 6.2 PPG. This year, Crete-Monee is hoping to not make another early exit this year and focus on winning the 6A State Title.

Keep An Eye On...

Here are a few teams who are flying under the radar, but could make some serious noise.

Benet Academy (Lisle, IL)

Unbelievable what Benet's been able to do this year. Last year, the Red Wings were 1-8 with their lone win over South Bend (IN) Washington High School. This year, they flipped their record upside down and finished the regular season 8-1 including wins over Marist and Joliet Catholic Academy to close the season. This is probably the best team that nobody's talking about, and a lot of it stems from an offense that came out of nowhere. On top of that, Benet has a favorable bracket early in 7A, so don't sleep on them to win a couple games.

Boylan Catholic (Rockford, IL)

Boylan burst onto the scene two years ago with an undefeated season and a state title. Even after the departures of Dean Lowry and Tyreis Thomas, Boylan has kept up the momentum and could be a contender for yet another state title. Don't let the 2 seed fool you. Boylan is 9-0 and ready to get back down to Champaign.

Lake Zurich (Lake Zurich, IL)

It doesn't seem to matter to Lake Zurich what seed they're given when the brackets are released. Riding a defense that is stout year after year, Lake Zurich will look to spoil some more teams' postseason runs and make it back to Champaign again.

Low But Dangerous

Some teams suffered a couple losses during the year, whether due to injuries to key players or a flat out bad game, but here's a look at a couple teams who could surge deep into the playoffs, despite being seeded lower:

Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, IL)

Part of the reason Lincoln-Way East is 9-0 is probably because they caught a huge break when Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey (Illinois) went down on the second play of the game in their week 6 matchup. Bailey went on to miss the rest of the regular season with a knee sprain, and Bolingbrook finished 7-2, but now Bailey is expected back, and that changes the team significantly. With their senior leader back at the helm, Bolingbrook poses a huge threat as a 9 seed.

Joliet Catholic Academy (Joliet, IL)

It started early for JCA, losing star running back Ty Isaac (USC) early to a separated shoulder. JCA took a couple of losses while he was out, but if Isaac stays healthy, the 12th seeded Hilltoppers could be in line to make another run to get back down state. Nobody has forgotten about Ty Isaac's incredible performance in last year's state title game as he rushed for over 500 yards in a loss to Montini, all while battling a flu. If he can grit out another couple games, Joliet Catholic could topple a few higher ranked teams despite a low seed.

Stay tuned later in the week for a look at where we'll be this weekend.

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