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Columnist
Conant, Elk Grove on Mayor's Trophy collision course
By Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Columnist

Running back Stefan Skoneczka (30) helped Elk Grove make the playoffs for the third straight year.

 

Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Versatile and dangerous junior Tim Manczko has been a big part of Conant's return to the playoff for the first time since 2006.

 

Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/23/2011 10:22 PM | Updated: 10/23/2011 10:29 PM

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Never has the battle on the football field for the Elk Grove Mayor's Trophy been bigger.

There has usually been a playoff feel to the 37 meetings between Conant and Elk Grove since 1967. But for the first time it will truly be a playoff atmosphere for the two Mid-Suburban League rivals separated by Interstate 290.

A matchup many believed was a possibility became a reality when the IHSA announced the playoff pairings Saturday night and 13th-seed Conant (6-3) was going to No. 4 Elk Grove (8-1) for a Class 7A opener.

"I guess we have to bring that trophy out so that's exciting," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll, whose team won the last one 22-19 in 2009 but trails the series 19-18. "The texts were going back and forth right away because they all know each other and played with each other in youth programs.

"It will be great for the community."

In Class 8A, the oldest rivalry between MSL teams which dates to 1929 could be renewed if West champion and No. 3 Palatine (8-1) and runner-up and No. 6 Barrington (7-2) win first-round home games.

Rolling Meadows (6-3) got into the field with a win Friday and as the 12th seed in 6A will open at Lakes (7-2). Prospect (5-4) had some anxious moments Saturday morning but became the 252nd team into the field of 256 and will open next Saturday afternoon at 7A title favorite and top-seed Glenbard West (9-0).

Conant coach Bill Modelski and Doll were texting each other Saturday morning that they expected to see a playoff edition of the Mayor's Trophy battle. The date and time had not been determined Saturday night.

"When our kids found out about this they were pretty excited about it," Modelski said of Conant's first playoff game since 2006.

One of the intriguing aspects will be at quarterback. MSL East champion Elk Grove just had do-it-all standout Dejan Basara return to contact this week but sophomore Adam O'Malley has played well the last five games.

Conant poses a dilemma with the throwing of senior Matt Cullen and the use of his favorite receiver in junior Tim Manczko out of the Wildcat formation.

The winner would face No. 12 Rockton Hononegah (6-3) or No. 5 Machesney Park Harlem (8-1) in a 7A bracket that includes Glenbard West, Lake Zurich, Crystal Lake South, Wheaton North and last year's Class 6A champion, Rockford Boylan.

Palatine (8-1) won its eighth straight game 28-7 over Conant on Friday and will host No. 14 Proviso West (5-4) in a Saturday afternoon opener.

And the Pirates will be trying to prevent what they did last year when they were 5-4 and made the 8A quarterfinals.

"I know the last two weeks they've exploded for 44 points each game," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly, who was already watching Proviso West's game with Glenbard West on Comcast On Demand. "They're athletic and they play physical on defense."

Barrington (7-2) opens against No. 11 Glenbard North (6-3), which broke a three-game losing streak with a 34-10 win over Naperville North on Saturday. The Panthers ran for 294 yards and their 2 pass attempts were incompletions.

"Certainly seems like will be two similar teams and two teams who are going to be under center and like to run the ball," said Barrington coach Joe Sanchez. "The game probably isn't going to take pretty long."

If Palatine or Barrington reached the quarters they would likely see three-time defending 8A champ and No. 2 seed Maine South (9-0). Many are anticipating another semifinal between the Hawks and top-seed Loyola (9-0).

Meadows coach Matt Mishler and his staff thought it might open with Cary-Grove in its drop to 6A. Instead, it will take it passing game led by quarterback Jack Milas near the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

A long trip is fine with the Mustangs in their return to the playoffs after a seven-year streak of appearances was snapped last year.

"That was kind of the rallying cry all year long," Mishler said.

"To make sure we got back in and started a new streak. The seniors took it very personally."

In most years, Prospect wouldn't have had to worry about making the field at 5-4 with 40 playoff points. But the highest playoff-point cutoff in state history actually had Rockford Christian left out of the field with 40 points when it lost a coin flip for the final spot to Princeville.

The Knights now have the MSL's longest playoff streak of seven years. They get the big challenge of Glenbard West and Penn State-bound defensive lineman Tommy Schutt and Stanford-bound offensive lineman Johnny Caspers.

"About 7 a.m., I was convinced we were going to a coin flip and I told the kids that about 9:40," said Prospect coach Mike Sebestyen. "By 11:30, I knew we were pretty certain we're in and knew in reality we were going to play Glenbard West.

"The biggest thing right now is we've got another week to have an opportunity to play together. We're definitely going to have a challenge."

It's better than not having one at all.

mmaciaszek@dailyherald.com