No. 18 Batavia (9-3) at No. 11 Lake Zurich (11-1)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
About the Bulldogs: Batavia continues to grind its way through the field by doing what it has done best all season – running the football effectively and stopping it. Special teams has proved to be crucial in the last few weeks in particular and the offense continues to be efficient enough with Ryan Boe piloting the ship. Batavia last faced Lake Zurich in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, a 37-0 Bulldogs rout, but of course, this is a new season. Batavia also beat Lake Zurich in the 2017 state final.
“They’re just very solid,” Batavia defensive coordinator Matt Holm told Friday Night Drive on Monday. “They’re clean. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They don’t lose yardage [and] get sacked very little. Running backs don’t try and bounce stuff [outside] and then take losses.”
[Bears quarterback Ashton Gondeck] makes good decisions and obviously has good legs, so he can turn a play [if he needs to improvise]. Just very solid,” Holm continued. “They got a couple of dynamic players, but for the most part, they don’t make mistakes, they take advantage of field position. We just have to be as clean as we can possibly be to match that.”
About the Bears: Lake Zurich has not lost since a week two defeat against Batavia’s DuKane Conference foe St. Charles North. Gondeck has the ability to make plays downfield with his legs and can stress defenses on the outside. Senior wideout Tyler Erkman had three receptions 54 yards and a touchdown last week in a 29-27 close victory over Pekin.
Up next: The winner advances to the state finals on Nov. 26 in Champaign vs. the winner of Mt. Carmel and St. Rita.
FND Pick: Batavia
No. at No. 3 St. Francis (11-1)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 13 Providence (8-4) at No. 3 St. Francis (11-1)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
About the Celtics: It has been a fantastic run for the No. 13 seeded Providence Celtics who seem to be branding new heroes on a week to week basis. It’s been almost impossible to single out a player or two for kudos as so many players are contributing to Providence’s success on a game-to-game basis. QB Lucas Proudfoot had arguably the best game of his season in throwing for 240 yards on 8-of-11 completions as the Celtics ousted top-seeded Richmond-Burton in the quarterfinal round. Proudfoot spread the ball around nicely and provides an enigma for opposing defenses as he doesn’t key on any one player to move the ball downfield. RB Jamari Tribett has also been a consistent source of offense but sometimes disappears as a focal point of the offense as others have proved capable of shouldering the load. On the defensive side of the ball it is even harder to detect who might lead the way. But one thing is for certain, someone is likely to step up and make a play when Providence needs it most. Special teams has been a particular source of success for Providence and any place the Celtics can grab even the slightest edge they will take willingly.
About the Spartans: St. Francis finally met a little bit of resistance in the playoffs after back-to-back shutouts to start the postseason, beating Rochelle 33-16 in a quarterfinal. Obviously, Providence presents an interesting challenge for St. Francis as its ability to piece together productivity for all over the roster but St. Francis also has some weapons all over the field to use in an attempt to put the shoe on the other foot in regards to this week’s opponent. All-State two-way lineman TJ McMillen, an Illinois recruit, is a terror for opposing teams to have to deal with while St. Francis has had few problems on the offensive side of the ball as QB Alessio Milivojevic tends to put the offensive unit in great position to succeed. Kent State bound WR Dash Dorsey is a game breaker that needs to be attended and while it is far from his only responsibility long snapper Nick Duzansky is an Oregon commit that contributes in as many ways as St. Francis can find for him. Wideout Deshaun Williams has provided a boost since his return from injury and had seven catches for 110 yards at Rochelle last week. Brady Piper has rushed for 213 yards and five TDs in three playoff games. Danny French enjoyed a huge game defensively last week at Rochelle, has 21 tackles and four sacks in the playoffs and is among the ringleaders defensively for St. Francis along with linebacker Dom Beres. St. Francis has been building something special under sixth-year head coach Bob McMillen. Now the Spartans seek a statement win over a CCL/ESCC power, and seek the program’s first championship game appearance since winning the 2008 Class 5A championship.
Up next: The winner advances to the championship game against the winner of No. 4 Rochester (11-1) and No. 2 Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (12-0)
FND pick: St. Francis