Marmion is in a good-news, bad-news playoff scenario.
The first-round opponent for the defending Class 6A runner-up is No. 2 seed Prairie Ridge (8-1), the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division co-leader who lost only to Cary-Grove, 22-21 on a 2-point conversion run in overtime last week.
The Associated Press' seventh-ranked team in 6A, the Crystal Lake squad eliminated Marmion in the first round of the 2007 playoffs and in the second round in 2009.
"There's a definite advantage in that you know what they're going to do in all phases of the game," said Marmion coach Dan Thorpe.
That's the good news. Here's the bad.
"They pound the ball, they score often and their defense is tremendous," said Thorpe, whose 15th-seeded Cadets enter the postseason off a 28-7 loss to Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division champion Marian Central.
"They're big, their people only play on one side of the ball. It'll be a tremendous challenge. The word we hear is this is the best Prairie Ridge team ever."
The Cadets are a year removed from their best team. Now, they must deal with Prairie Ridge's midline veer option offense led by quarterback Nick Nissen.
According to McHenry County Sports.com, the senior signalcaller has run for 608 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 1,067 yards passing and 12 touchdowns.
Junior running back Jordan Getzelman has run for 924 yards and 11 touchdowns, and backfield mate Connor Greenwald, also the team's place-kicker, has 474 yards rushing with 9 touchdowns. Getzelman also is the Wolves' big-play receiver, averaging 27.9 yards on 13 catches.
Overall it's not a much different approach than Marmion's Wing-T/double-wing offense, only Prairie Ridge's principle ball carriers' numbers are larger and Nissen's passing yardage more than doubles that of Marmion's 447 yards through the air.
Marmion quarterback Charlie Faunce and backs Garret Becker, Jake Ruddy and Cody Snodgrass who comes off a 121-yard game against Marian Central all have run for at least 339 yards with Snodgrass atop the list at 490.
Complicating Marmion matters is that while Prairie Ridge loads up defensively with Collin Corcoran, who Thorpe called "an awesome linebacker," the Cadets' impact defender, 270-pound Ryan Glasgow, is questionable with ongoing shoulder trouble. The two-way tackle, anchor of a defensive line that also offers Blake Mickey, Mike Eberth, Tyler Boyd, Mike Hughes, Dan Wedge and Charlie Clohecy, has 10 tackles for loss.
Marmion must play assignment-perfect football against Prairie Ridge to face the winner of Glenbard South vs. Foreman. The biggest foe, Thorpe figures, is the Cadets' season-long bout with inconsistency.
"Our kids know we haven't played our best game," Thorpe said. "Our kids know it's out there, they know they can do it. Our coaches know we can beat Prairie Ridge. We just have to put it together."