CLASS 7A QUARTERFINAL
No. 4 Elk Grove (10-1) at No. 8 Lake Zurich (9-2)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday at Mel Eide Field
Road to the quarterfinals: Elk Grove d. No. 13 Conant 36-14 and No. 5 Machesney Park Harlem 39-22; Lake Zurich d. No. 9 Geneva 35-32 and No. 1 Glenbard West 10-3.
Playoff history: Elk Grove is 1-4 in quarterfinals its only win was 21-7 over Bogan in 1981 and it lost 28-21 to Rolling Meadows the last time it made it this far in 2004. This is the Grenadiers 11th postseason trip and the first time they have made three consecutive appearances. Lake Zurich improved to 5-0 in quarterfinals with its 17-14 win over Simeon last year. The Bears are making their 15th appearance and 10th in a row with a 7A title in 2007 and second-place finishes in 2006 and 2010. They are 5-2 in playoff games against Mid-Suburban League teams but have never faced Elk Grove.
When the Grenadiers have the ball: These Bears may not be monsters physically but the 3-5 defense continues to be the staple of their decade of success with Minnesota-bound LB Jack Lynn (6-3, 215), LB Mike Shield and DT will Hussey (5-8, 175). "They're as fast as anyone I've seen," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll. "They play wrestler-type kids on the defensive line and they can fly. I loved their defensive game plan against Glenbard West. They took what Glenbard West did well and didn't allow them to do it." Elk Grove has been able to do a lot of things well during its nine-game winning streak and with the return of QB Dejan Basara (671 yards rushing, 15 TDs; 537 passing, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) from a broken collarbone to rush for 257 yards and 7 TDs in the playoffs without attempting a pass. Basara lines up at TE when sophomore Adam O'Malley (894 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT) goes to QB and looks for WRs Fernando Lozano (40 catches, 638 yards, 4 TDs) and Jeff Miceli (23 for 421, 3 TDs) or RBs Stefan Skoneczka (750 yards rushing, 6 TDs; 26 for 160 receiving, 2 TDs) and Darren Little (2 TD catches). "It's a good challenge for us offensively," Doll said. "We've scored a lot of points (75) the last two weeks but we have to control the ball and find ways to get a couple of scores. Scoring 21 points might win this game."
When the Bears have the ball: Last week the Bears were missing two-year starting QB Zach Till (932 yards passing, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 563 rushing, 15 TDs) with a broken foot and sprained ankle but upset one of the 7A title favorites with only 135 yards of total offense and 4 first downs. Senior Steve Kuhn (season totals of 127 yards passing, 2 TDs) started at QB and WR John Orlando (25 catches, 328 yards) was used in the Wildcat formation and 66 of his 88 yards came on a run to set up a field goal. "Because of the injuries that we've had this year, it's definitely gotten our team ready for the adversity of playing without a guy like Zach," said Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz. "I like the way our team rallies around each other and I like the way guys step up. Like Steven (Kuhn) going in for Zach last week. He did exactly what we knew he could do. He managed the offense and he made plays." Shield (821 yards rushing, 8 TDs) and Connor Schrader (495 yards, 3 TDs) provide what Doll called "the old-school Lake Zurich (double-wing) that you know has worked for years for them." Lynn is also a receiving threat with 3 TDs. The Grenadiers have been solid up front all year with two-way standouts in Mid-Suburban East defensive player of the year Greg Johnsen, junior Dan Egan and sophomore Johnny Assimakopoulos and they also scored off 4 of their 5 take-aways on interceptions by Egan, Basara and DB Kishan Patel and forced fumbles by Skoneczka that were recovered by LBs Mike Maize and Mike Bishoff.
Extra point: The Grenadiers have reached double-digit wins for the fourth time and can match the school record of 11 set in 2004. That was also the last time Doll was in the quarterfinals as an assistant at New Trier. "It's pretty fun when you go outside and practice and it's 4:30 and the lights are on already," Doll said. "It's a good feeling and the kids were really excited about it (Monday). It felt like the first practice of (preseason) doubles."
Advancement: Lake Zurich would host No. 2 Rockford Boylan (11-0) or visit No. 3 Crystal Lake South (10-1) in the semifinals. Elk Grove would be on the road in the semifinals.