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Disabato: A look at Southland’s road to state

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Updated: December 26, 2013 2:34AM



It’s official.

The high school football playoffs have arrived, providing an air of excitement no other sports can duplicate.

Brackets and seeds were announced Saturday night, just hours after the final games of the regular season wrapped up.

Locally, a total of 21 teams qualified for the playoffs.

I know what you’re thinking: will the area be represented in DeKalb on the weekend of Nov. 29-30? That’s right, the finals will not be played in Champaign. The campus of Northern Illinois University, home to our state’s most successful college football program, will host.

If you remember, which I’m certain you do, three local teams advanced to the state championship game in 2012: Crete-Monee in Class 6A, Lincoln-Way East in 7A and Mount Carmel in 8A. I had predicted state finals runs for East and the Caravan, not the Warriors.

Crete and Mount Carmel returned home with the big prize, with East settling for runner-up honors.

So will the area hit the trifecta again this year? Hey, anything is possible.

Though, I don’t see Crete-Monee or Lincoln-Way East making a return trip.

In fact, I don’t see Crete-Monee getting out of the first round, not with nine-time state champion Providence as its first opponent. Defensively, Crete is state championship caliber. Offensively, the Warriors have struggled.

The Celtics, with running back Dominic Lagone, quarterback Justin Hunniford and receiver Miles Boykin, are battle-tested.

Lincoln-Way East has a fairly smooth road to DeKalb. In most years, East would take full advantage of that luxury. This is not most years, however.

If I’m Richards, I’m sending the IHSA a thank you card. A very favorable and familiar path has been set for the Bulldogs to reach the semis. If Oak Forest, a potential second-round foe, was healthy, I might reconsider Richards’ good fortune. But the Bengals, without quarterback Nick Ciufia, are not the same. No doubt, a potential quarterfinal tilt with Lincoln-Way North and Julian Hylton could prove hazardous for Richards. But only if North can generate some yards through the air.

In 8A, Homewood-Flossmoor opens up with Sandburg — an opponent it whipped badly during the regular season. Unless Zak Kustok and Brian Corcoran have some eligibility remaining, I can’t see much of a difference in the outcome for Part II.

Another Part II H-F might experience is with Bolingbrook, which handed the Vikings their only loss. That would not occur, though, until the semifinals, but would demand serious attention.

The most eagerly anticipated rematch would occur in Class 7A between Catholic Blue rivals St. Rita and Mount Carmel. It should happen in the second round, producing a second-to-none atmosphere — and that includes the 7A championship game. The Caravan barely broke a sweat in downing the Mustangs during the regular season. Unless St. Rita can develop a passing attack, the outcome won’t change. Mount Carmel’s run defense is ridiculously good.

The upper bracket in Class 5A is a meat grinder. Three 9-0 teams and five 8-1 teams, including Lincoln-Way West, Bremen and Morgan Park (5-4). Despite an 8-1 record, Bremen is an eight-seed. Ouch.

Is this the year Evergreen Park, with the one-two punch of Jacquet McClendon and Keyshawn Carpenter, goes all the way in 4A? Maybe, but the Mustangs will need to bring their “A” game. A potential rematch in the second round with Phillips and quarterfinal tilt with Geneseo will be challenging.

The way I see it, H-F in 8A, Mount Carmel in 7A and Providence in 6A reach the state championship game. Let the playoff games begin.



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