Nazareth senior Michael Love has plenty of experience in the playoffs. He is an impact player at multiple positions, including running back, wide receiver and cornerback. (File photo)

Win or go home. Survive and advance. These postseason cliches’ and more apply to the upcoming IHSA Class 7A football state playoffs, which kick off this weekend (Oct. 26-27).

In terms of local interest, Nazareth is the team to watch. The Roadrunners, who advanced to the Class 6A state final last season (21-14 loss against Prairie Ridge), have the talent and determination to make a return trip. However, this time Nazareth hopes to win its last game of the season.

Since 2014, Nazareth has won two state titles plus the finals loss to Prairie Ridge.

Sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy has had a breakout season. One of the best quarterbacks in Chicagoland, he has a strong, accurate arm coupled with great leadership under center. He’s already a Division I college prospect. Teddy Olander is a very capable backup.

 As if controlling McCarthy isn’t enough for an opposing defense, playmakers like Michael Love, Diamond Evans, Derrick Strongs, Cole Vercelli, Alex Carrillo and Tyler Morris and are all scoring threats. The Roadrunners also feature skilled offensive line with plenty of size. Elijah Moscinski (6-6, 370) and Ryan Keeler (6-4, 230) are leaders along the offensive line.

Marcus Griffin, Louis Stec, Jonathan Harris, Cameron Leach and Chaddrian West anchor the Roadrunners’ ballhawking defense.

Nathan Lugo is an impact player as well.

The Roadrunners held a 338-120 scoring advantage over nine games this season. Their only stumbling block occurred in Week 7, a 34-13 loss at home against Marist.

We always view failure as an opportunity to learn and get better,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said after the loss. “Winning can mask some flaws that team needs to work on and losing can expose flaws that need to be addressed as well. The important issue is not to overreact to adjustments you must make.”

Finally, Racki is a master motivator and the Roadrunners’ focus and humility have served very them well in past playoff runs.

Good luck to all the teams, especially Nazareth. And remember 7A entrants, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to win five games to be the last team standing.

Otherwise, to borrow another cliché’ (this time, basketball), you’ll be “Gone Fishin'” with Ernie, Shaq, Kenny “The Jet” and Sir Charles.

FIRST ROUND (Melvin’s picks in bracket order)

Simeon over Rockford East

Lincoln-Way West over Machesney Park Harlem 

Nazareth over Andrew

Hersey over Lincoln-Way Central 

Batavia over Granite City

Moline over Glenbrook North

Willowbrook over Lincoln Park 

Benet over Maine West

Glenbard East over Prospect

East St. Louis over Hoffman Estates

Mount Carmel over TF South 

Lake Zurich over DeKalb 

Rockton Hononegah over Buffalo Grove

Wheaton-Warrenville South over Belleville West

Rolling Meadows over Alton

Normal Community over St. Charles North

 

SECOND ROUND 

Simeon over Lincoln-Way West

Nazareth over Hersey

Batavia over Moline

Benet over Willowbrook 

East St Louis over Glenbard East

Mount Carmel over Lake Zurich 

Wheaton-Warrenville South over Rockton Hononegah 

Rolling Meadows over Normal Community

QUARTERFINALS 

Nazareth over Simeon

Batavia over Benet

East St Louis over Mount Carmel 

Wheaton-Warrenville South over Rolling Meadows

SEMIFINALS 

Nazareth over Batavia 

East St Louis over Wheaton-Warrenville South

CHAMPIONSHIP

 East St Louis over Nazareth 

 

-Marty Farmer contributed to this story