[Bill Ackerman - For Shaw Media]
The favorites: IC Catholic, Williamsville, Byron
Most intriguing quarterfinal matchup: Williamsville vs. Byron. High-flying offense from Williamsville against a bruising defense from Byron. Hard to find a more stark contrast between two teams.
The underdog: A 16th seed hasn’t advanced to the quarterfinals in a 16-team bracket since 2010, until now that is. It’s not all that surprising that the ultimate underdog, Pleasant Plains, came from the Sangamo Conference, a league that has dominated smaller classifications thus far.
I wouldn’t be surprised if… At least one very low seed still is standing after the weekend.
The favorites: Newman Central Catholic, Maroa-Forsyth, GCMS
Most intriguing quarterfinal matchup: Maroa-Forsyth vs. West Hancock. Maroa-Forsyth seems to always be in this position, but West Hancock still is a bit of a mystery to most.
The underdog: Shelbyville. The Cardinals flew under the radar a bit after finishing third in their conference, but in the first two rounds, they’ve scored 97 points and dispatched perennial power Tri-Valley in Round 2.
I wouldn’t be surprised if…The Central Illinois Conference is well represented in the semifinal round.
The favorites: Lena-Winslow, Forreston, Tuscola
Most intriguing quarterfinal matchup: Tuscola vs. Carrollton. Tuscola isn’t your typical Class 1A team, and they have a high-powered offensive attack that gives most defensive units fits. But Carrollton is a team with a rugged defense that might have the tools to slow the Warriors down.
The underdog: Athens. The Sangamo Conference has made a loud impact on the smallest three classifications. Athens is the smallest of those schools enrollment-wise but is playing much bigger right now.
I wouldn’t be surprised if… Lena-Winslow and Forreston get the rematch they’ve both been waiting for and expecting in the semifinals.
• Steve Soucie brings more than two decades of Illinois high school football knowledge as a contributor to Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @thesouc.