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Batavia, Kaneland headline Tri-Cities qualifiers
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/21/20 12:07 AM

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Kaneland should be well-positioned for its playoff run.

The 9-0 Knights earned a No. 1 seed for a third straight year, leading the northern bracket of Class 5A as announced by the Illinois High School Association on Saturday.

The Knights enter the postseason on the heels of a 33-30 win over Morris, won on a Drew David touchdown pass to Zack Martinelli with 27 seconds to play.

That puts Tom Fedderly’s crew, owning the largest enrollment (1,346) among 5A playoff teams and the hardest schedule (44 playoff points) of any unbeaten team in the state, ready to deal with No. 16 Belvidere in a repeat of last year’s first-round 51-45 shootout.

“Belvidere last year gave us a run for the money in that first game,” Fedderly said. “We barely escaped that one. We’re not looking past that one, those guys are really good.”

Since he’s not looking past it, we will. The 5A northern bracket is loaded. A potential second-round opponent could be Northern Illinois Big East foe Rochelle. The quarterfinals could bring in Joliet Catholic and the semifinals No. 2 seed Marian Central or No. 3 Montini, the three-time defending 5A champ which has beaten Kaneland in the semifinals the last two years. Morris lurks in the southern bracket and wouldn’t be seen again until the finals in Champaign.

“They’re all good,” Fedderly said. “We’ve got to do our job in getting ready for this game and see what happens.”

Dennis Piron’s Batavia Bulldogs drew a seconds straight No. 1 seed, but in a different classification. Last year the Bulldogs were in 6A but now it’s 7A, where 9-0 Batavia’s enrollment of 1,910 students is the fourth-lowest in the class after East St. Louis (1,417, a case of an appeal for higher placement), Crystal Lake South (1,888) and Rockford Boylan (1,899.15, multiplied).

“I don’t know how to react,” said Piron, whose Bulldogs are one of 27 unbeaten teams statewide. “But we’ve got a good seed in the bracket, if that means anything.”

In a lower bracket comprised of two “regional” groups seeded 1-8, Batavia drew Downers Grove North, which dropped to 5-4 after facing Glenbard West on Saturday. Powerful Glenbard West (9-0) is the No. 1 seed among the 16 teams in the northern bracket. Batavia’s staff scouted Downers North — Class 8A champs in 2004 — Saturday. For what that’s worth.

“Glenbard West is not a good team to scout anybody against,” said Piron, who’s hosting the Trojans at 7 p.m. Friday. Good news, Piron said, is Downers North plays a similar 5-2 defensive front the Bulldogs practiced against all this week for the Elgin game.

St. Charles East, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2009, the last of a five-year skein, is in the upper bracket of 7A. That’s despite, as Saints coach Mike Fields said, being located right next to Batavia.

“It’s like being married,” Fields said. “You’ve got an opinion, but it doesn’t really matter.”

Fields yearns for a return of a straight 1-through-32 bracket, but the No. 12 seeded Saints will have to settle for being shunted off to the upper bracket to face No. 5 seed Wheaton North (8-1). The DuPage Valley Conference-tested Falcons, who lost only to a Glenbard North team beaten in Week 1 by Batavia, just got done denying playoff eligibility to usual suspect Wheaton Warrenville South.

Fields’ braintrust had picked Wheaton North as a potential playoff opponent along with Thornton, Glenbrook North and Prospect — the latter two will produce the second-round foe for the St. Charles East-Wheaton North winner.

“It is what it is, and we’re just excited to be in and we’re looking forward to the challenge this weekend,” Fields said. “The idea of playing on turf sounds real exciting after what we went through last night.”

Aurora Christian went through the Class 3A field without a hitch in winning the program’s first state championship last season. The Eagles (8-1) will are a No. 4 seed this year, which ignores a team that was less than two minutes from defeating three-time defending 5A champion Montini and beat 5A St. Francis and 6A Marmion.

Aurora Christian opens up hosting No. 13 Raby (6-2). Of the seven potential first-round opponents scouted Friday night by Aurora Christian’s staff, none was Raby, whose record is indicative of the Chicago Public Schools teachers’ strike.

“You try to position yourself correctly to determine who it’s going to be, and every year for nine years in a row we’ve been wrong,” said Eagles coach Don Beebe.

Of being the defending 3A champion, Beebe said: “I’d rather have the target on my back than not have a target at all.”

For 15 years that was the case at Aurora Central Catholic. The Eagles, whose sixth win in Week 7 earned their first playoff berth since 1997, crowded into the Aurora Country Club with all their supporters to hear who they’d be pitted against.

Drawing a No. 14 seed in the northern bracket of Class 3A — they couldn’t face Aurora Christian until the state semifinals — Aurora Central drew No. 3 St. Joseph-Ogden (8-1).

Coincidentally, Chargers coach Brian Casey was a junior at Montini when the Broncos hosted St. Joseph-Ogden in a Class 3A semifinal in 1999. St. Joe won 34-13. Tom Kero, an ACC assistant coach, played tailback for Montini in that game.

Not coincidentally, while ACC is making its first playoff appearance in more than a decade, St. Joe-Ogden has made 22 straight, most in 3A.

“They’ve been a great program the last number of years,” Casey said. “Dick Duval is a Hall of Fame head coach, he’s been there for awhile and has had success.

“I’ve not had a whole lot of dealing with them since I was a junior in high school, but from what I understand it’s going to be a neat experience. It’s going to be fun for our kids.”