1A - Maroa-Forsyth v. Stockton:
Both of these teams have scored 40+ points in all of their games thus far, and on top of that, none of them have been close. This isn't Maroa's first trip to the state title game. As a matter of fact, the Trojans are very familiar with the state finals.
Maroa's defense has been stout up front all year behind the strength of the inside linebackers. But I have a feeling that Stockton will be able to overpower the Trojans and take the 1A title.
2A - Aledo (Mercer) v. Belleville Althoff
Mercer making it to the state finals is not a big shock to anyone. However, the 15th seeded (out of 16) Belleville Althoff program is a surprise contender. The alma mater of former Illini Jason Ford and the home of Illinois defensive tackle commit Merrick Jackson has charged through the playoffs and knocked off small-school powers such as Casey-Westfield among others.
Neither team is an offensive juggernaut, so this one could be a low-scoring affair. It should be a close one and likely a low-scoring affair. If Mercer is unable to slow the defensive front of Althoff, it could be difficult for the run game to get going. I'll take the momentum of Althoff in this one to pull of a miraculous run.
3A - Tolono Unity v. Aurora Christian
These two teams are both smaller schools who play some bigtime football. Tolono has been a really good team for a number of years now, but they aren't as familiar with the big stage in the way that Aurora Christian is. The rockets of Unity play a real smashmouth form of "run the ball then run it some more" football while Aurora Christian spreads it out and airs it out.
Aurora Christian arguably had the tougher route to Champaign, including a win over sneakily good Immaculate Conception. Tolono is a good team, but my gut tells me that Aurora Christian is able to get their second state title in two years based on the competition they faced all year.
4A - Rochester v. Rock Island Alleman
Rochester scores early, and they score often. The Rockets have a combined 432 first-half points this year compared to Alleman, who have tallied 439 points all year. Albeit Rochester runs a much more fast-paced run-and-gun offense as opposed to Alleman's triple-option rushing attack. Rochester still can pound the rock behind Wisconsin linebacker commit and two-way star Garret Dooley.
Alleman is always a good team, but they are very outmatched against a Rochester team whose lone loss was to Sacred Heart Griffin in a father-son Leonard family coaching battle. But while SHG is at home this Thanksgiving weekend, Rochester is back in Champaign gunning for the three-peat, and they should get it barring a meltdown.
Check back in soon for a look at Saturday's action, including a number of Illinois prospects.