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
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
Nazareth over Simeon
Batavia over Benet
East St Louis over Mount Carmel
Wheaton-Warrenville South over Rolling Meadows
Nazareth over Batavia
East St Louis over Wheaton-Warrenville South
East St Louis over Nazareth
-Marty Farmer contributed to this story