Class 6A No. 5 Huntley (9-1) at No. 13 Grant (7-3)
When: 7 Friday
Winner gets: No. 1 Lemont or No. 9 Morgan Park
Playoff appearances: Huntley (1st since 2001); Grant (3rd consecutive)
Players to watch: Huntley -- RB/LB Jordan Neukirch (184 att., 1,615 yards, 19 TDs); RB/LB Brett Kleckner (80 att., 659 yards, 9 TDs); RB Tanner Stearns (62 att., 587 yards, 4 TDs)
Grant -- DE John King (71 tackles, 9 for loss); DE Bud Staton (57 tackles, 17 for loss); FB Dan Hourihan (156 att., 898 yards, 10 TDs); QB Justin Cokefair (43-78, 481 yards, 2 TDs; 144 attempts rushing, 691 yards, 11 TDs)
Scouting Huntley: Last Friday, Huntley knocked off Batavia 70-63 in a historic battle. The teams 133 combined points shattered the old record of 106.
Huntley racked up 702 of its 710 total yards on the ground thanks to big-time performances from senior Jordan Neukirch (265 yards) and junior Brett Kleckner (246 yards, 4 TDs). Neukirch had 265 yards rushing on 23 carries with four touchdowns, while Kleckner ran for 246 yards on just 12 carries, and also tallied four touchdowns. Through 10 games, Neukirch has scored 19 TDs and is second in the area in rushing with 1,615 yards on 184 carries, good enough for an average of 8.8 yards per carry and 161.5 yards per game. Huntley is averaging 35.8 points per game.
"Huntley, they're scary," said Grant coach Kurt Rous. "Any team that can put up 70 points and 700 yards rushing is a force to be reckoned with. We've squeaked along this year and it's gonna be a monumental task to contain their running attack, so hopefully we're up to the challenge."
As for Huntley's game plan this week, coach Steve Graves is sticking to the format that got the Red Raiders this far.
"Our plan of attack is very simple -- put our good running backs behind the offensive line," Graves said. "We don't have a confused plan and I think that's one of our strengths. We know what we're gonna do each week which is what we keep doing. Someday it might not be good enough. But that's what we do. We're either gonna win with it or lose with it."
Defensively, the Red Raiders are looking to return to form.
"This is a defense that hadn't been scored on for almost three games," Graves said. "It's a defense that's been very good for us all year and we'd be surprised if we didn't come out and play football again this week."
Scouting Grant: Grant had a crazy game of its own last week as the 13th-seeded Bulldogs needed two overtimes to beat fourth-seeded Vernon Hills 32-31. Grant earned the win despite losing to Vernon Hills 7-6 one week prior. The Bulldogs' first win of the season came in a 20-10 win over Johnsburg in Week 1.
Johnsburg is the same team that handed Huntley its only defeat of the year, a 17-7 loss on a soggy final week of the regular season. Grant finished third in the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division behind Antioch and Vernon Hills.
In his third season at the helm, Rous has his team in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Bulldogs had their undefeated season come to an end last year in the second round of the playoffs in a 21-7 loss to Lemont and finished the season at 10-1.
The Bulldogs started off 5-0 this year. Grant is averaging 20.7 points per game, has given up 16.1 points per game and its seven wins on the year have come by an average of 14 points.
Defensive ends John King and Bud Staton are the main staples of a strong front.
"They play real stingy defense and we know points are gonna be real hard to come by," said Graves. "After having a week that you score 70, you're gonna have to be very patient and look for your opportunities, because we believe it'll be a low-scoring game from our standpoint."
Erik Jacobsen's pick: Huntley