KCChronicle.com/preps Game of the Week: Class 5A second round – No. 1 Kaneland (10-0) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way West (7-3), 1 p.m. today
What the crowd will be buzzing about: Whether the top-seeded, unbeaten Knights can hand the Warriors their first home loss since the first round of last season's 5A playoffs.
Kaneland will have it rolling if... Its bulky defensive line of Justin Diddell, Bradley Johnson and Jaumaureo Phillips gets push against Warriors senior left tackle Collin McGovern, a 6-foot-7, 297-pound Notre Dame recruit, and his line-mates. While Lincoln-Way West is sound throughout its front five, McGovern has been the lynchpin.
"There's a lot of big guys out there, but there aren't very many that are athletic as he is," Warriors coach Dave Ernst said. "He's a special kid."
Lincoln-Way West runs a pro-style, I-formation-based offense but occasionally uses shotgun and pistol sets. Junior running back Javier Montalvo rushed for 193 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 35-0, first-round victory at Rochelle, which Kaneland defeated, 34-6, in Week 5 during Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East play. The Warriors also boast fullback Rich Kruis (three TDs last week) and have further depth in Nick Dangles, who is questionable after a recent spate of injuries.
"They've got a lot of motivation behind them after the win against our conference rival," Phillips said. "We're just looking forward to it. We're ready for [today]."
What a fly on the wall in the Kaneland locker room might hear: "Good to be back on the road again, right guys? It had been awhile after we spent so much of the first half of this season on the bus. But this is no sightseeing trip. We're here on business, and we've talked all year about keeping that next goal in front of you and never focusing on anything else until this game is done. We win this one, we're back home. Let's do what we've done all season and we can get there again."
Lincoln-Way West will have it rolling if... Twin brothers Alex and Andrew Gray don't have to provide much safety help. Both juniors started as sophomores and have been solid again for a Warriors defense that has yielded an average of just less than 12 points per game.
Given the poise and playoff experience of Knights quarterback Drew David and the veteran weapons at his disposal – including running back Jesse Balluff and wide receiver Zack Martinelli – Lincoln Way-West knows it can't overpursue or get caught out of position.
"At Kaneland, they're character kids that make plays when it's on the line," Ernst said. "And they always seem to do that, you know. You don't see them drop a ball on third down or you don't see them make a mistake on third down very often, and that's why they're so good."
Kaneland throttled Belvidere, 48-0, in last week's first-round game.
What a fly on the wall in the Lincoln-Way West locker room might hear: "Kaneland's got a great tradition. We're trying to establish one. This is our fourth season, and last week we beat a Rochelle team that's had more than 100. That's a first-class group, first class organization, and Kaneland's the same way. Teams from that conference play real solid football. Today will be even tougher. They're the No. 1 seed for a reason. But we've won here all year long, and I don't think you fellas want that to change. Do you?"
Kevin Druley's prediction: Kaneland 27, Lincoln-Way West 14 Lincoln-Way West has won four straight following a 3-3 start that included a season-opening loss to longtime Kaneland rival Sycamore.
If the Knights can stay strong on both lines and mix their jumbo and Wildcat packages well with the traditional spread plays, the Warriors will fall to a NI Big 12 East foe for the second time this fall.
Another Dylan Nauert interception – or three – would help matters for Kaneland, too.
Class 3A: No. 4 Aurora Christian (9-1) at No. 12 Immaculate Conception (7-3)
When: 1 p.m. todayKey for the Eagles: Aurora Christian handled Immaculate Conception, 47-20, during a Suburban Christian Conference crossover in Week 7. Both teams were without injured wideouts then, but the Eagles (Chad Beebe) and Knights (Tim Hipskind) since have welcomed back key pieces to what they hope are deep playoff runs. Beebe, son of longtime Eagles coach Don, had three touchdown receptions in the team's 49-12, first-round rout of Raby. It was the Northern Illinois recruit's first action since breaking his arm late in a Week 4 game. "That boost happened faster than most people thought," Don Beebe said. "Chad is that kind of athlete who could take five weeks off and pick right back up." Led by defensive end Jonah Walker, Aurora Christian limited Raby quarterback Chris Covington last week, and will face another dual-threat QB in IC's Dimitris Carr here. Carr and the Knights posted 59 points in last week's shootout win at North Boone "You've got to be able to make them grind it out," Don Beebe said. "That's what they're going to be trying to do to us, too."
Class 1A: No. 6 Toulon Stark County (8-2) at No. 3 Mooseheart (9-1)
When: 4 p.m. todayKey for the Red Ramblers: A week after slugging it out with Warren in a 34-24 win, Mooseheart must stay disciplined against Rebels multipurpose quarterback Justin Kohler to have a chance to be the school's first state quarterfinalist.