5A - Lombard Montini v. Morris:
This one probably won't be quite the same offensive insanity that last year's game between Montini and Joliet Catholic was. However those two teams did combine last week for 77 points in yet another thriller. But Montini, the two-time defending state champs are hoping to make it a four-peat this year against Morris.
Morris, who features Indiana-bound tight end Danny Friend, knocked out Sacred Heart Griffin of Springfield last weekend 30-20. Montini doesn't have quite the offensive firepower that they had last year, but they can still move the ball. Morris will have to limit big plays and hold their own up front to stay in this one, but I think Montini gets their third in as many years.
6A - Crete-Monee v. Cary Grove:
Crete-Monee has cruised a couple times this year in the playoffs, and a couple times they needed some late heroics to pull out the win. It isn't often that you get a battle of one-seeded teams, but this time it actually worked out that way. Although Cary Grove had what were probably more forgiving playoff opponents, writing them off against such a talent-laden team in Crete-Monee would be a mistake.
However, more than one player for Crete-Monee has home-run play ability at any given time. Headlined by Laquon Treadwell, Crete-Monee is looking to make good on a couple years worth of unfinished business and get the state title they've worked for for a while now. If the wind persists through Saturday, Crete-Monee will need to get more creative with the offense and find ways to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers in the run and short passing game. I think Crete-Monee's athleticism gives them the edge and a close win in this one.
7A - Glenbard West v. Lincoln-Way East:
Okay, I know the phrase "an unstoppable force meets an unmoveable object" gets overused all the time, but this time it really fits. Lincoln-Way East has a very explosive offense piloted by NIU-bound QB Tommy Fuessel. They have more or less steamrolled through their season to this point. But Glenbard West is expected to be more than just a mere speed bump for East.
Glenbard West has gone undefeated this year primarily upon the strength of their defense. Led by seniors Ruben Dunbar and Nathan Marcus, the Hilltoppers have been stout all year, giving the offense the security it needed even when points were hard to come by. As good as that defense is, Lincoln-Way East was probably the most impressive team I saw all season, and for that reason, I give them the edge against Glenbard West.
8A - Mount Carmel v. Glenbard North:
Glenbard North did the one thing that Mount Carmel didn't do this season, and that's beat Loyola Academy. Mount Carmel's lone loss on the season was to Loyola, but Glenbard North rode a huge effort from junior running back Justin Jackson to earn their berth to the big game. For Mount Carmel, they survived a thriller against a hot Neuqua Valley team.
Again, this one should be another offense-defense battle. Glenbard North runs the ball about as well as any team in suburban Chicago, and Mount Carmel teams are known for their defense. However, an incident late in the fourth quarter last week may have tipped the scales in Glenbard North's favor. Mount Carmel quarterback Don Butkus injured his ankle on a 2-point conversion attempt, likely keeping him out of the most important game of his career. And with Butkus out, the Caravan will be forced to go with top receiving threat Jason Gasser at quarterback. Glenbard North has the advantage, and as long as they take care of the football, I think they could very well be hoisting the trophy to close out the season.