IHSA Playoffs: Round 2 Weekend Preview

With several marquee matchups slated for the second weekend of the IHSA playoffs, be sure to take a look at who Illini Inquirer will be out seeing in action this weekend.

Let me start off by stating that I don't have any hand in making these brackets. Now, that being said, some of these second round matchups are just ridiculous.  Here's a look at a few that we'll be on hand for this weekend.

Friday: Naperville Central at Gurnee Warren

A 5-4 Warren pulled the upset in their opening round matchup against an 8-1 Curie last week by the narrowest of margins (42-41).  This week, they face a much more formidable opponent in 2013 8A state champion Naperville Central, who always brings out their best in November.

Central features two-way standout Emmanuel Rugamba, an Iowa commit who made the switch to cornerback this year and is taking to the position exceptionally well.  A receiver by origin, Rugamba's ball skills make him a threat to make big plays on either side of the ball.

Warren graduated now Illinois freshman Caleb Reams from last year's team, but sophomore receiver Micah Jones is quickly turning into the go-to guy for the Blue Devils.  A big body (6'-4", 205 pounds) who is becoming more explosive as he adds strength, Jones is a huge target for Warren and will need to find ways to get open against Central's suffocating defense.

Saturday Afternoon: Mt. Carmel at Glenbard West

Again, the fact that this matchup is happening in the second round is just mind-boggling.  Both teams have captured state championships in the last few years, and if you like teams that run the ball with unbridled physicality, then this matchup is for you.  

Glenbard West's offense is championed by Vanderbilt pledge and Hilltopper running back Sam Brodner, who's six (yes, SIX) touchdowns in the first half of last week's game prove his game-breaking ability on offense.  While he was being recruited, some schools even viewed Brodner as a potential defensive standout, but if he continues to run the ball like this, it will be tough to keep him from toting the rock in college.

But Mount Carmel, because they're Mount Carmel, won't go down without an absolute war.  Defensively, the star is 2018 cornerback Houston Griffith, but it will take a full team effort from the Caravan defense to stop the rushing attack of the Hilltoppers.  Mount Carmel will also need to execute their triple option offense, led by NIU commit Anthony Thompson, to perfection against an ultra-disciplined Glenbard West defense.  

I'm no fortune teller, but I see lots and lots of ice baths in these two teams' futures after this game.

Saturday Evening: Richmond-Burton at Rockford Lutheran

Quite possibly the best prospect who has somehow fallen under the radar this year will lead an undefeated Rockford Lutheran team against a Richmond-Burton squad that is very physical up front.  Surprisingly, this game features a handful of division one prospects across a couple of different classes.

Record-breaking running back James Robinson of Rockford Lutheran came into his senior campaign with over 6,500 career rushing yards. He has already surpassed the previous career rushing record in IHSA history (previously held by Caleb Pratt of Westville) by nearly 400 yards, and has anywhere between one and four games left to run up the numbers.  Robinson is compact, physical, and has great burst.  He averages nearly 20.6 yards per carry, so it would be an absolute shock if Richmond-Burton didn't load 9 guys in the box in this game.

However, Richmond Burton has a formidable front line of their own, led by senior tackle Fred Bush (6'-6", 300 pounds) and junior tackle Dalton Wagner (6'-8", 285 pounds).  The bookends have spearheaded a powerful offensive attack.  The Rockets' lone defeat this year came at the hands of undefeated Marengo, who drew a 2-seed in the 4A bracket and could see the Rockets again in the next round should Marengo get past Plano as well this week.  Richmond-Burton will need to be cautious to not look past this game, but with so much hype surrounding Robinson and Rockford Lutheran, that shouldn't be a problem.

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