Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss the area’s first-round playoff matches.
Jacobson: The IHSA football playoff brackets were released last weekend and we had four teams – Sycamore, Kaneland, Genoa-Kingston and DeKalb – qualify. It’s the most area teams going to the playoffs since 2010, when the same four teams made it.
What were your initial reactions to the draws all of our teams received?
Nitz: The first thing that stood out to me was the fact Sycamore won’t have to meet Montini until the semifinals. My second thought was the other area teams each got really tough draws. Genoa-Kingston was on the bubble between Class 3A and 4A, got stuck in 4A and has to go all the way to Geneseo to face a real good Maple Leafs team. DeKalb opens with Batavia, which could be playing for the Class 6A title in a few of weeks. Should Kaneland win its opener against Hampshire, the Knights most likely will get Joliet Catholic in the second round. and either Montini or Marian Central in the quarterfinals.
The Spartans’ win over the Knights two weeks ago really helped when it came to seeding.
Jacobson: It’s unfortunate G-K was bumped up to 4A, but there are some good teams in 3A, as well. With 5-4 records, G-K and DeKalb knew if they made the playoffs, they’d be facing an upper-echelon team on the road. I don’t think their draws are that bad considering the circumstances. Batavia hasn’t been challenged since early in the season, and DeKalb’s running attack could give them problems. In the past two postseasons, Batavia hasn’t fared well against triple-option teams.
The Cogs face a Geneseo team that has beaten only one playoff team all year and had only two on the schedule. G-K even got an advance scouting report on the Maple Leafs from its friends in Sycamore, which handed Geneseo its only loss, 19-0, in Week 4.
Kaneland loses one game and gets perhaps the toughest draw in 5A. Sycamore avoids Montini, Kaneland and Joliet Catholic, but beware of Nazareth in the second round, especially because it would be a road game for Sycamore.
Who has the best chance of advancing furthest in the playoffs?
Nitz: To me, there’s no question it’s Sycamore. It won’t be easy, but I think the Spartans have a legitimate shot at getting to state. Kaneland should take down Hampshire, but will have a tough time in a likely matchup against Joliet Catholic in Round 2. I wouldn’t be shocked to see DeKalb beat Batavia, but the Barbs and Cogs will have a tough time moving on to the second round.
What are your area first-round predictions?
Jacobson: Kaneland and Sycamore will be too tough in the first round and both will move on easily as they’ve done in previous years.
I like DeKalb against Batavia. The Barbs have shown the ability to consistently make big plays, and those are the types of things that can make upsets happen. I’m also taking G-K to move on. With the amount that Geneseo and G-K each run the ball, there might only be five or six possessions per team in that game. Shorter games tend to mean closer scores, and I think G-K will do enough to pull out an upset. The Cogs have been battle-tested against good playoff teams, so Geneseo won’t intimidate them.
Nitz: Wow, you’re really showing some guts.
I’m going to go chalk in the first round. I agree, Sycamore and Kaneland will win easily, and I’m taking the two other higher seeds, as well, with Batavia and Geneseo. I do think the DeKalb-Batavia game will be interesting though. The Bulldogs have struggled against triple-option teams, and the Barbs will have the best player on the field in running back Dre Brown. I would not be shocked to see DeKalb get a victory.