Kroner: Opening-round breakdown
Milford/Cissna Park (5-4) at Ottawa Marquette (9-0)
7 p.m. Friday
Bearcat factoid: The program has lost five straight opening-round games. The last first-round victory was in 1994.
Bearcats to watch: Jacob Marquez (QB), Josh Marquez (WR/DB), Andrew Allen (OL), Jake Montgomery (LB), Jake Rogers (TE/LB).
Milford coach Clint Schwartz: “Ottawa Marquette is a lot like Bismarck-Henning. They have good size up front on offense and defense. The keys to success will be being able to stop the run and being able to take advantage of their mistakes. The keys for offensive success are being able to run the ball consistently and getting our athletes in space.”
About Ottawa Marquette: State-ranked in 2A all season, the Crusaders were one of three teams that dropped to 1A for the playoffs. The team scored at least 40 points in all but one game.
Chicago Leo (7-2) at GCMS (7-2)
7 p.m. Friday
Falcon factoid: GCMS has two wins by one-point margins.
Lion factoid: Lost to Chicago Mount Carmel (top-ranked in 7A) 59-13 in Week 9. Leo, with an enrollment of 286, played three schools with enrollments of at least 1,396 and was 2-1 in those games.
Falcons to watch: Ross Royal (QB/DB), Tyler Hinshaw (RB/DB), Drake Royal (WR/DB), Austin Rosenbaum (C/LB), Austin Hornstein (TE/DE).
Coach Mike Allen: “Going into the season we did not know what to expect as far as wins and losses. We knew this team would give it everything they had, and they have given even more.”
About Leo: “To be successful this week we have to play very fundamentally sound defense and be disciplined,” Allen said. “We cannot be intimidated just because they are from Chicago and a private school.”
Argenta-Oreana (7-2) at Greenfield (7-2)
2:30 p.m. Saturday
Bomber factoid: A-O’s balanced team has six backs with at least 145 yards rushing and three touchdowns for the season, plus two quarterbacks with at least 375 yards passing and five TDs.
Bombers to watch: Jesse Walker (OL), Conner Haltom (OL), Tremaine Willis (OL), Taran Trudeau (OL), Trey Porter (OL), Cameron Hupp (RB).
A-O coach Chad Eisenmenger: “I am really impressed how we have grown as a team. We have been through a lot with injuries and other off-the-field issues. Everyone has risen to the occasion and played well. We haven’t had a game since Week 3 that we have had all of our original starters on the field together. The way these players have grown together through adversity has really been impressive.”
Greenfield coach Joe Pembrook: “Argenta is extremely talented, and their overall team speed is phenomenal. They play in an excellent conference, and we are going to have an exceptional challenge slowing them down. We are very impressed with their team.”
About Greenfield: The Tigers are back in the playoffs following a three-year absence. Two of those years (2010 and 2012), the school was 5-4 but didn’t have enough points to qualify.
Villa Grove/Heritage (6-3) at Casey-Westfield (9-0)
1 p.m. Saturday
Blue Devil factoid: Chad Musselman is one of seven coaches who have guided the school into the playoffs. He has done so six times in the last seven years, more than any other coach in school history.
Blue Devils to watch: John Henderson (QB), Terrion Price (HB/LB), Noah Palmer (WR/LB), Austin Hubbart (HB/DB), Skylur Orwick (WR/LB), Tanner Bergner (OL/LB).
Villa Grove coach Chad Musselman: “Their team speed is tremendous. They run a similar option-based offense to ours, but they open it up and run trick plays. Our drives won’t be all about scoring but keeping the ball on drives.”
C-W coach Jim Sullivan: “Coach Musselman has done a great job of building a winning program at Villa Grove. They run a very similar offense to ours. Coach Musselman’s option attack will be very difficult for us to stop on Saturday afternoon. We will have to be very disciplined in our defensive assignments and gap responsibility. Our offense will have to deal with an athletic front eight. Needless to say, it will be a challenge.”
About Casey-Westfield: Multi-threat quarterback Nicco Stepina is tough for teams to contain. Zack Murphy (WR and LB) is one of the Warriors’ top all-around players.
Fisher (6-3) at Carrollton (8-1)
2 p.m. Saturday
Bunnie factoid: Quarterback Brody Farrar has more passes that he has intercepted (two) on defense than he has had intercepted (one) while on offense.
Bunnies to watch: Conrad Thomas (RB), Aaron Carter (RB), Brad Pettenger (RB), Tyler Rogers (RB), Brody Farrar (QB), Josh Wallick (OL).
Fisher coach Matt Leng: “I love the fact that we have played mistake-free football. We have carried out the game plans. We have a very focused group with no egos. We have a system, and we carry it out. We find a way to run the ball, we have running back depth and we have seniors up front with a great leader at QB. It is not exciting, but it is very effective. The chemistry of this team is off the charts.”
Carrollton coach Nick Flowers: “We are happy with our matchup because we do not have to play a conference school. The main key for our success will be to execute on offense to keep the ball out of their hands.”
About Carrollton: Seven sophomores started last year (three on the offensive line), including quarterback Jacob Smith and running back Luke Palan, for a team that lost to eventual state champion Maroa-Forsyth in the quarterfinals.
Tuscola (5-4) at Maroa-Forsyth (9-0)
1 p.m. Saturday
Warrior factoid: Ten athletes play full time on offense and on defense.
Warriors to watch: Clayton Turner (C/DL), Austin Beniach (OL/LB), Nick Bates (QB/LB), Tristan Williams (WR).
Coach Rick Reinhart: “I think it is a great opportunity to see how much we have improved and find out what we’re made of. Pairings are like the weather, no use complaining about something you have little control over at the end of the season. We are in now (and will) make the best of it. Believe me, I would rather see the No. 1 team on the field rather than from the bleachers.”
About Maroa-Forsyth: Quarterback Jack Hockaday received a scholarship offer from Nebraska last week. He is projected as a defensive back.
vs. Salt Fork (8-1) at Jamaica
1 p.m. Saturday
Knight factoid: A-L/A-H’s seven wins have been by an average of 34.5 points, and the team has allowed the fewest points of any Little Okaw Valley Conference school.
Storm factoid: Salt Fork had the top scoring offense in the Vermilion Valley Conference and didn’t score fewer than four touchdowns in any of its games.
Knights to watch: Tyler Schuring (QB), Jordan Feagin (RB/WR/FS), Logan West (LB), Ethan Gingerich (DL).
Storm to watch: Cole Taylor (RB/LB), Steven Meade (G/LB), Taylor Kirby (RB), Jacob Hughes (QB), Jordan Lamb (C/DE).
A-L/A-H coach Dale Schuring: “Compared to last year’s team, again, I think the O-line is vastly improved: Drake Nelson, Logan West, Dylan Black, Colton Yeakley, Graeme Stewart and David Rosenbaum. This is an excellent first-round matchup. I think the game can go either way, and both teams will need to be at their best to pull out a victory.”
Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner: “Arthur-Lovington is blazing fast and (has) two outstanding skill kids in Schuring and Feagin. All of the other skill kids look like versions of us, and the O-line blocks option well. Their defense is led by West, who is the best linebacker I have seen on film in quite a while. It will be a huge challenge with two very equal teams. We must defend the option and pass very well this week.”
Spring Valley Hall Township (6-3) at Bismarck-Henning (9-0)
2 p.m. Saturday
Blue Devil factoid: B-H has run the ball on 84 percent of its non-punting plays from scrimmage, and the backs are averaging 8.7 yards per carry.
Blue Devils to watch: Patrick Ganley (RB), Mo Abbed (RB), Donnie Powell (RB), Braedon Lappin-Pratt (ILB), Reid Schendel (ILB), Dylan Allen (QB).
B-H coach Mark Dodd: “Definitely a team which has overachieved. No one expected a 9-0 season from this group. We may not have the most talent, but our players have an excellent work ethic in practice which has allowed us to be in games in the fourth quarter. They play very hard and never quit.”
Hall coach Randy Tieman: “In our mind, we have met expectations. Our preseason goal was to get better each week, and I think we’ve done that. This team has a ton of heart and a great work ethic. Bismarck-Henning has great size and good speed; it will be a tough game for us.”
About Spring Valley Hall: Coming off a 1-8 season, the Red Devils were beaten by two sub-.500 teams and allowed at least two TDs in every game.
New Berlin (5-4) at Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement (9-0)
1 p.m. Saturday
Bronco factoid: In the program’s last 15 playoff appearances, it is 11-4 in the first round.
Broncos to watch: Steve Isbell (RB/DB), Sean Reed (OL/MLB), Jay Woods (MLB), Cole Blickensderfer (QB).
CG/D-W/B coach Andy Kerley: “What has impressed me has been their focus on getting better. A lot of teams would be satisfied just scraping by, but our kids have been focused on making themselves better for a long run in the playoffs hopefully. With what we had returning skillwise, we knew by the end of the year we’d be a pretty good team. I think we were a little surprised at how well we played right off the bat, but I think by the end of the year we expected to be playing at the level we are now.”
New Berlin coach Barry Creviston: “We were 2-7 last year and started out (this year) 3-0. The team as a whole has been improved, and everybody has been working hard to get to this point. They are a close-knit group, and we have really grown together as a team.”
About New Berlin: Quarterback Jake Hunt has more than 1,600 yards passing, and receiver Chase Creviston has receptions for more than 650 yards.
Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman (5-4) at Carlinville (7-2)
2:30 p.m. Saturday
Buffalo factoid: Josh Cavanaugh is the third G-RF/C coach to guide the program into the playoffs three years in a row. Dick Powell did it (1988-90) and Greg Edwards did it (1992-94). A threepeat happened one other time with two coaches (2004, Tom Oliphant) and 2005-06 (Jason Baccadutre).
Buffaloes to watch: Dylan Bina (RB), Troy Rodriguez (RB), Ethan Sliva (QB), Dakota Chapman (LB), Jake Osborn (DE).
Coach Josh Cavanaugh: “The way we played in the Coal Bucket (33-13 victory Friday at Westville) is what we have been striving for all year.”
About Carlinville: The Cavaliers have amassed more than 3,000 yards rushing as a team and have run the ball on 400 of 505 plays from scrimmage.
Decatur St. Teresa (6-3)
at Unity (7-2)
1 p.m. Saturday
Rocket factoid: Unity has played 56 consecutive playoff games since it was last shut out in the postseason (in 1995).
Rockets to watch: Tyler Crowl (DL), Anthony Vasquez (DL), Christian Whicker (DL), Conner Grace (RB).
Unity coach Scott Hamilton: “Our team is still a work in progress, and we have some work to do to meet our team’s expectations. We have made a lot of improvements over the last several weeks but will need to continue to get better this week. The most impressive thing so far has been the change in our work ethic since the St. Teresa game (31-21 loss on Oct. 4). We have a different approach on a daily basis, and hopefully that will help us this Saturday.”
About St. Teresa: Six-foot-five quarterback Christian Williams has a scholarship offer from Iowa for basketball.
St. Thomas More (6-3)
at Monticello (8-1)
2 p.m. Saturday
Saber factoid: STM has the area’s top tackler (Chase Kangas, 121) and the top rusher among freshmen (Josh Parker, 1,187 yards).
Sage factoid: Monticello has promoted 10 freshmen to the varsity roster, which not only allows them to get the feel for the playoff atmosphere but also to have additional practice.
Sabers to watch: Chase Kangas (LB), Storm Joop (QB), Mike Plecki (WR), Josh Parker (TB), Dennis Freeman (K).
Sages to watch: Dylan Knisley (RB), Clay Becker (LB), Jacob Burton (LB).
STM coach Dan Hennessey: “Our kids have had phenomenal years, broken records and are playing good football. We’re waiting for that game where we put it all together on one big stage. Our offense has to establish drives and hang onto balls. Monticello is doing something right to stop the run and pass, giving up 8.3 points per game.”
Monticello coach Cully Welter: “It’s fun to play someone you haven’t played before. They’re a little like St. Teresa, with a mobile quarterback who can throw. Defensively, they’re pretty aggressive. (Last week) was a big win, but I’m still frustrated by some aspects of our play. I’m pleased we persevered with our backs to the wall.”
Petersburg PORTA (6-3) at St. Joseph-Ogden (7-2)
5 p.m. Saturday
Spartan factoid: SJ-O is 18-5 in first-round games under coach Dick Duval.
Spartans to watch: Seth Griswell (C), Orion Ciota (TB/LB), Wyatt Sage (LB), Jake Stewart (WR/DB).
SJ-O coach Dick Duval: “We are somewhat disappointed with our two losses. We did not play well in either game, but with both of them going undefeated, maybe they were just better than us. What is the most encouraging thing is we have been playing better each week for the last five weeks. That’s what you want at this time of the year.”
PORTA coach Rich McMahan: “I would say our 15 seniors get my vote for most improved. We were 0-9 last year and 1-8 the year before. Most of these kids started on both of those teams. They have made tremendous strides to put us where we are.”
About PORTA: Tailback Jesse Setzer is the go-to back (1,974 rushing yards).
at Mahomet-Seymour (8-1)
1 p.m. Saturday
Bulldog factoid: M-S has completed 93 passes and is averaging 18.8 yards per completion even though only two have gone for more than 50 yards. A 56-yard completion to Andy Livingston is the team’s longest.
Panther factoid: Junior quarterback Ethan Kaufman leads the Kankakee area in passing with 2,373 yards on 175-of-316 accuracy. To reach the playoffs, Manteno beat a 7-1 Seneca team 54-6 in Week 9.
Bulldogs to watch: Joe Kenney (QB), Grant Farchmin (LB), Cully Day (WR/S), Thomas Bane (LB), Tyler Francisco (RB).
M-S coach Keith Pogue: “I admire our resiliency. We bounced back well in Week 9 after a poor performance against Normal U-High. This team expects excellence of themselves and (is) driven to succeed. I think (overall) we performed close to our potential. Our offense has been a pleasant surprise this season.”
About Manteno: The Panthers’ eighth-year head coach is R.J. Haines, who has directed the school to the playoffs four consecutive years. In 2003, he guided Iroquois West (13-1) to the Class 2A state title. “After 10 years, it has evolved, but we are running some of the same concepts and same formations as in ‘03,” Haines said.