High school football: Breaking down the top second-round playoff games

Class 8A: No. 4 York at No. 10 Marist, 1 p.m. Sat.

York (10-0), which snapped a 10-year postseason drought last year. is looking for its first quarterfinal berth since 2006. The Dukes haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game this season and have held seven opponents to single digits. Two-year starter Matt Vezza is one of the best quarterbacks in the state when it comes to making a big play when it’s needed. He had 219 total yards in last week’s win over Oswego East. Marist (7-3) has playmakers on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Dermot Smyth accounted for 284 yards and three TDs last week against Naperville North. Defensive lineman Jamel Howard and defensive back John Nestor are both Big Ten recruits, to Wisconsin and Iowa respectively.

Class 7A: No. 7 Hersey at No. 18 Batavia, 1 p.m. Sat.

Mid-Suburban East champ Hersey is 10-0 for the first time since 1975 and seeking its first trip to the quarterfinals since winning the 6A title in 1987. Keep an eye on junior Carson Grove, who returned an onside kick 55 yards for a touchdown on the first play of last week’s easy win over Argo. One of the more interesting developments for Batavia (7-3) has been the increasing offensive workload for Wisconsin-bound linebacker Tyler Jansey (11.2 yards per carry, six TDs). Ryan Whitwell leads the Bulldogs’ ground game with 1,076 yards and 18 touchdowns.

7A: No. 11 St. Rita at No. 9 Prospect, 7 p.m. Fri.

Don’t discount the emotional factor for St, Rita (8-2), whose coach, Todd Kuska, is retiring after 25 seasons. The Mustangs would love to send him out with a third straight trip to state. Junior DJ Stewart highlights an effective ground game for St Rita wth 918 rushing yards and eight TDs, including 153 yards and two scores last week against Geneva. Prospect (9-1) has as good a pass-and-catch duo as you’ll find: quarterback Brad Vierneisel piled up 3,073 total yards in the regular season with 37 touchdowns and receiver Frank Covey IV is a Northwestern recruit.

7A: No. 19 Lake Zurich at No. 17 Wheaton North, 4 p.m. Sat.

Lake Zurich’s best teams have always been built around defense and this one is no exception The North Suburban champion Bears (9-1) haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game and have held eight opponents to 10 points or fewer. Running back/linebacker Cal Grabowski has been a productive two-way player for Lake Zurich. Wheaton North (9-1) graduated most of last year’s 7A championship team and lost Holy Cross-bound linebacker Ross Dansdill to injury. But the Falcons are still a one-point road loss to St. Charles North away from being unbeaten.

Class 6A: No. 14 Crete-Monee vs. No. 5 Simeon at Gately, 1 p.m. Sat.

Whoever comes out of the south half of 6A will definitely have earned it. These are just two of the teams left with serious title hopes in a bracket that also features East St. Louis and 10-0 Lemont. Simeon (10-0), which wants to be the second Public League team after Phillips to win state, is led by two-way star Malik Elzy and running back Andre Crews, who has multiple 200-yard games this season. Crete (8-2) is one of the few teams around with speed to contend with Simeon’s. Mid-American Conference commits Josh Franklin (Western Michigan) and Lynel Billups-Williams (Miami, Ohio) are two to watch for the Warriors.

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