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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Mike Clark

Previewing the top first-round high school football playoff games

Brother Rice’s Ryan Hartz (17) passes the ball ahead of Loyola’s Ethan Hogg (9). (Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times)

Class 8A: Naperville North at No. 18 Glenbard West, 1 p.m. Saturday

Naperville North (6-3) has difference makers on offense in Purdue commit Luke Williams and 1,000-yard rusher Cole Arl. And William Korosec showed his big-play potential with kickoff and interception returns for touchdowns last week against Waubonsie Valley. Glenbard West (7-2), whose only in-state loss was against Downers Grove North in Week 3, has overcome an unusually large amount of injuries. Teyion Oriental and Mason Ellens have stepped up in the running game for the Hilltoppers.

Class 8A: Oswego at No. 13 Warren, 7 p.m. Friday

Oswego (6-3) is back in the playoffs after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2010. The Panthers have allowed just 70 points all season. North Suburban champ Warren (7-2) has won seven in a row after starting 0-2 with losses to Barrington (9-0) and Maine South (8-1). The Blue Devils have a potent ground game paced by sophomore Aaron Stewart (1,336 yards, 13 TDs) and senior Donovan McNeal (818 yards, 21 TDs).

Class 8A: St. Ignatius at Joliet West, 7 p.m. Friday

St. Ignatius (6-3) graduated most of its 2022 starters, moved up from the CCL/ESCC White to the Green and jumped up two classes to 8A. But the Wolfpack are back in the playoffs after reaching the 6A semifinals last season. Leading the way is five-star Ohio State commit Justin Scott, a two-way lineman who also rushed for a TD and a two-point conversion in last week’s 23-10 win against Joliet Catholic. Southwest Prairie East champ Joliet West (8-1) is hosting an IHSA playoff game for the first time in program history. Juan Rico, who is back after missing two weeks midseason with an injury, is a capable dual-threat quarterback for the Tigers.

Class 7A: No. 25 Kenwood at No. 17 Downers Grove North, 7 p.m. Friday

Kenwood (6-3) has won six of seven after opening with defeats to Lincoln-Way East and St. Rita, with the only loss being 28-26 to Public League Red champ Morgan Park. The Broncos have Division I talent on both sides of the ball with Miami-bound edge rusher Marquise Lightfoot and Michigan-bound receiver I’Marion Stewart leading the way. Downers Grove North (7-2) owns quality wins over playoff qualifiers St. Francis, Glenbard West and Downers South. Running back Noah Battle and quarterback Owen Lansu lead a Trojans offense that has scored 27 or more points seven times this season.

Class 7A: Brother Rice at No. 4 Batavia, 7 p.m. Friday

Brother Rice (5-4) handed Maine South its only loss of the season in Week 1, but needed wins over fellow playoff qualifiers Montini and St. Rita the past two weeks to punch its ticket for the postseason. Navy commit Randall Nauden has rushed for 1,349 yards and 15 TDs to lead the offense. Batavia (8-1) has won seven in a row since losing 14-13 to Lincoln-Way East. Bulldogs quarterback Ryan Boe threw for 360 yards and six TDs vs. Glenbard North last week, boosting his season totals to 1,888 yards and 18 TDs. Batavia also has a balanced ground game that averages 5.3 yards per carry.

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