What can we expect? Well, I've seen Phillips three times this season, against Carmel, Naperville North and Johnsburg last week. (And once last year against De La Salle.) The Wildcats, who outscored their opponents this year, 449-39, are led by Illinois State-bound quarterback Dewayne Collins. According to Clyde Travis of the Sun-Times:
Four of Collins’ teammates join him on the [Sun-Times All-Public League team], including junior wide receiver Quayvon Skanes, who had 33 catches for 847 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Wildcats also are well represented on defense with junior linebacker Amani Jones, sophomore defensive tackle Chris Elmore (10 sacks) and strong safety Jamal Brown (Illinois State).
(That's Head Coach Troy McAllister, above, flanked by Collins, left, and Skanes, right.)
The No. 5-seed Phillips (10-1) is ranked No. 19 in the Tribune, No. 20 in the Sun-Times and No. 40 in MaxPreps, behind Wilmington (11-0) and ahead of Lakes (9-2).
Besides Carmel (6-3), Phillips played only two other winning teams during the regular season, King (8-1) and Raby (5-4), as well as last year's 3A champ, Stillman Valley (2-7), on the road. They may not have played the most challenging schedule in Illinois, but the Wildcats did record six shutouts and won their first two playoff games against a very respectable Plano (6-3) and a once-beaten Johnsburg (9-1).
Here's their 2014 schedule in detail (home team in CAPS):
Phillips 51, STILLMAN VALLEY 0
Carmel 20, PHILLIPS 13
Phillips 40, Naperville North 7
PHILLIPS 69, Julian 0
Phillips 21, BROOKS 6
Phillips 35, KING 0
Phillips 48, RABY 0
Phillips 58, Urban Prep/Bronzeville 0
PHILLIPS 49, Lane 0
PHILLIPS 24, Plano 6
Phillips 41, JOHNSBURG 0
Founded in 1964, fewer than half of Rockford Lutheran's students are actual Lutherans. (I wonder if that's true of other schools with a domination in its name. Is Joliet Catholic, for example, less than half Catholic?)
According to Mike Helfgot of the Trib, the football team outscored its opponents this year, 592-83. Wow. Also:
Lutheran may have an answer to Phillips standout Dewayne Collins in James Robinson. On pace to break the state career rushing record, the junior running back has 33 rushing TDs and is about 25 yards shy of 2,000 this season.*
Yep, that's right. According to Head Coach Bruce Bazsali, James (above) is the best running back he's ever coached.
So what? Who the heck is Bruce Baz -- I can't even pronounce his name! From that same piece (my emphasis):
Baszali knows football. He has been coaching football for more than 40 years at schools such as Knoxville, Elgin St. Edward, Mundelein Carmel, Rolling Meadows, Prospect and Elk Grove. He was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.
“The best football player I ever coached was Dave Casper at Elgin St. Edwards,” Baszali said. Casper, a tight end, went on to play at Notre Dame and for the Oakland Raiders. He is in both the college and pro football halls of fame. “James is the best running back I’ve ever coached.”
What about the rest of the team? Well, the No. 1-seed Crusaders (11-0) are ranked No. 19 in the state by MaxPreps, behind Wheaton Warrenville South (7-4) and ahead of Edwardsville (9-2).
Rockford Lutheran, which competes in the Big Northern (West) Conference,
Here's the full 2014 schedule:
LUTHERAN 35, Quincy Notre Dame 6
Lutheran 76, ROCKFORD CHRISTIAN 12
LUTHERAN 47, Dixon 0
LUTHERAN 41, Winnebago 6
Lutheran 42, OREGON 14
LUTHERAN 56, Mendota 15
Lutheran 65, BYRON 7
LUTHERAN 48, Stillman Valley 2
Lutheran 63, ROCK FALLS 14
LUTHERAN 63, Payton 0
LUTHERAN 56, Herscher 7
Now, who do I think is going to take this one and play the winner of the Coal City - Manteno game (who?) next week? Honestly, I have no idea. Who does? The two teams had one common opponent this year, Stillman Valley, and they both crushed 'em. The Crusaders also beat three teams that played Johnsburg: Rockford Christian, Mendota and Oregon. While the Skyhawks easily handled the first two, they lost in Week One to Oregon, 13-7. Is that helpful? Not really.
I don't know who the heck is going to win this tilt, but it could be a good one. Gately is a great place to watch a football game (plenty of parking and seating, and there's no track around the field so you're close to the action). The forecast for game time is 27 degrees with zero percent chance of precipitation. With a couple of burgers from Top Notch Beefburgers to fortify you before the game (and some hot chocolate from the concession stand), you'll feel just fine for the kickoff. Oh, and don't forget to buy some of those homemade cookies from that lady who sells them just outside the ticket window. They're really good!
Enjoy the game. But if you can't make it, I'll be live-tweeting the contest @BoringOldWhtGuy.
* Caleb Pratt is the state’s all-time leading rusher, collecting 8,477 yards for Westville from 2004 through 2007.