Death Watch
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Team Death Watch 2002 has started it's first ever Team Death Watch. In essence what the IHSA likes to refer to as clinchers & hopefuls, we've given it a little spin of our own. So if you're sick of hearing who's going to make it, read on about who's hanging on for life and why that number one team may lose the big game.

While the IHSA and every other media outlet in the state will be looking for Friday night fanatics, as teams on the bubble look to beat top ranked teams in the state so they can face more top ranked teams in round 1 of the playoffs. We've decided to keep a running tally of all the semifinalists from the 2001 season. Just to see which ones have a junior class that's steppin' up and which one lost all their talent with graduation.

Teams are listed by State Champ, Runner-up, Semifinalist vs. State Champ, then Semifinalist vs. Runner-up.

8A The biggest class in the state will always be the toughest. Hands down. While some of the best teams may be in the lower classes 8A delivers the most punch. Average players are bigger, taller & quicker. The kids hit harder, throw farther & the position depth is enough to make the Metamoras &New Lenox (Providence)s of the state sick with envy. Winning here isn't easy & repeating is almost a myth. More surprises happen here than any other class.

Downers Grove (South) (8-0)
- The Mustangs are looking tough on defense (16 points allowed through week #8) and are walking over teams. Except the Lockport (Twp.) Porters, who gave them a 7-3 scare in week #1. The truth is DGS hasn't faced more than one good team this year. Top that off with the fact that a statewide consensus preseason #1 rarely wins the state title & since 1985 only one other team has had back to back championships in the IHSA's top class. Take all that and you're crowning a new king this year.
Naperville Central
(4-4) - One of the teams we started the Death Watch for. The Red Hawks are 4-4 as of week #8 with one game left against Bob Stone's 4-4 West Chicago (H.S.) team the Hawks could be out of the loop for the first time since 1991 if they fall to West Chicago.
Park Ridge (Maine South) (7-1)
- While Maine South is a lock for the playoffs, the Hawks suffer from the same fate as Downers, lack of a tough schedule. Even conference rival Winnetka (New Trier)'s team wasn't a real test for the Hawks. The Hawks lone loss came from a drubbing by the Griffins of Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) in week #1. The Griffins who are in the wild SICA (Blue) have been matched up with a slew of title contenders in that conference who are more than eager to knock off a DGS or Maine South and act like the Chicago Bears do when they win on last minute plays, like it was suppose to happen.
Wheaton (North) (8-0)
- The Falcons are looking to be one of the strongest teams in the state, at 8-0 the only close game they had was against Naperville Central, so the only problem they might have in the playoffs is Naperville Central who beat them last year in the semifinals.

7A No class is more up for grabs than 7A. With Chicago (Hubbard) &Buffalo Grovelooking to be the only undefeated teams in that playoff. Champs Prospect & runner-up Edwardsville are looking good, but still have one more loss each than they should.

Mt. Prospect (Prospect) (6-2) - The Knights had one tough game on their schedule,Buffalo Grove. The team they beat twice last year, the only losses BG saw last season. This year BG was out to settle the score & they did. Chances are if the Knights & Bison face off again it could be a role reversal from last season. The Knights armor may be dented as they let one go toArlington Heights (Hersey)in week #7.
Edwardsville (H.S.) (7-1) -
Edwardsville may repeat again as runner-up in 7A, but not because they're better than most of the field, but because the IHSA will place them in a bracket heavily laden with southern teams who have yet to form a dominant team. The Tigers bring a lot of experience & talent, but may fall short with better teams from up north.
Bolingbrook(7-1) -
Stagg! That's really all there is to say. Stagg! The Raiders lost to Palos Hills (Stagg) in week #7, but not on some last second fluke play. They were served up 23-2. While in the past games like these have served as wake up calls for championship teams, let's not forget it also means there's something is wrong with your hi-powered offense when the school known as "Running Back High" can't put 6 on the board on a clear October day.
Chicago (St. Rita)(6-2) -
St. Rita entered the playoffs last season 6-3 and made the semis. Their only two losses this season came from two of the topped ranked teams in the state. While they might be one of the more underrated teams state wide, their 6-2 record might make return trip to the semis a bit difficult as they could end up facing some of the big dogs in 7A, but things could be a lot more interesting as a class bubble team, where St. Rita may play in 6A.

6A They only conference that still has all four 2001 semifinal teams undefeated as of week #8. 6A could have an all undefeated semifinals, but with some tough competition from Freeport (H.S.), Normal (Community) &Chicago (St. Rita). Plus Providence possibly going to 5A, look for the possibility of a new addition to the final 4.

New Lenox (Providence)(8-0) -
The undisputed #1 at the end of the 2001 season is making the top five in almost every state wide ranking. And with the Celtics looking to make the road to Champaign a happy trip back, Joliet Catholic's new & improved running game might be the only thing in the way of the Celtics bring home the trophy.
Oak Lawn (Richards) (8-0) -
The Bulldog are looking tough, but a schedule that wasn't as tough as last season may have the Dogs a little lax for the playoffs. If they lose to undefeated Lansing (Thornton Fractional South) in week #9, look for them to be pumped for the playoffs, but a relaxed undefeated Richard's team might think to cake walk to the semis. Setting them up for a second round challenge from teams likeChicago (St. Rita), Springfield (Southeast) or North Chicago .
Bloomington (HS)(8-0) -
The Purple Raiders are ready to go for a shot at the 6A title, the biggest obstacle they'll face is every other northern school who's after the title. With the advent of the 8A class playoff system southern teams seem to be playing a bigger role in the title quest. We'll see if this is a continuing trend or if last year was just last year.
Mundelein (Carmel) (8-0) -
The Corsairs are flying high this season & with good reason. After beatingChicago (Mt. Carmel)for the first time a big win against St. Rita last week has got the Corsairs looking to be the last of the Carmelite schools to bring home a state trophy. The only problem is Carmel is doing all right against the private schools it's going to have to worry about Gary Korhonen's Richard's team who beat them last year in the semis.

5A Let it be said, no class has as much class as 5A. From Rochelle to Springfield (S.H.G.) , & fromJoliet (Catholic)to Jerseyville (Jersey), nobody brings more banners, more tailgating, more cheering & more rabid fans than any other class. This class is now one of the most diverse and carries the most recognized teams in the state. Although it's been dominated by a set group of teams these things change from time to time. And with the IHSA using a new bracketing format, no class looks to be more affected than 5A. With the addition ofNew Lenox (Providence)most likely to 5A, this class may only see 1 or 2 of the semi finals teams return.

Joliet (Catholic)(6-2) - JC is legendary in the state of Illinois. Players who couldn't tell you how how many trips to the semifinals their team had maid can tell you that, Mike Alstott played here and they have more championship teams than anyone else. Unfortunately for Joliet none of those teams will be around come semifinals time, and with a 6-2 record they might not have to worry about the semis. JCA or Catholic High as they still are referred to from time to time have more to worry about from the 2nd round & quarter finals then they might if they are in the semis or finals. With a possible matchup between Morris &New Lenox (Providence)Joliet's quest for it's fourth title in a row might be in jeopardy.
Morris (8-0) -
Benji Kennedy id probably the best team leader in the state. With state final experience in his pocket & tons of talent, no one is more equipped to lead a team to a title. The biggest problem the Redskins face though is the loss of key players from last season, but, this hasn't affected their play during the season though.
Rochelle (8-0) -
Rochelle had their best season ever last year, only to belly flop in the semis with 44-8 loss toJoliet (Catholic). The Hubs have beaten a state champ already and are looking tough in their division. The only problem is the NCIC (Southwest) features teams 30 to 50% smaller than the Hubs. Will give credit where credit is due & Spring Valley (Hall) is a tough team, but the Hubs have yet to win a convincing game against a winning team.
Metamora (8-0) -
The Redbirds may have played against up to 6 teams that could qualify for the playoffs this season. The new playoff format could put them in the winners seat for a title shot, but Metamora has this two headed problem it can't seem to get around calledJoliet (Catholic)/New Lenox (Providence)which it may have to play again for finals glory.

4A The class that had the best finals game last year is looking to have one of the best races to the finals this year. With Mt. Carmel &Addison (Driscoll)still forces to be reckoned withBreese (Mater Dei), Princeton &West Frankfort (Frankfort) are looking for their piece of the pie.

Addison (Driscoll)(7-1) - While no one reported any heart attacks at last year's finals game, Driscoll might want to keep the paramedics close by come playoff time. While handling bigger schools like Olympia Fields (Rich Central) & Maple Park (Kaneland) , Driscoll will still face a big challenge in 8-0 Elmhurst (Immaculate Conception) , in what may be a good test for playoff performance. Driscoll's biggest worry on it's drive to protect it's title, making sure it doesn't lose another game to a team like 5-3 Lombard (Montini) .
Mt. Carmel (8-0) -
While second guessing went rabid after last years 4A Final game, the only guessing going on in Mt. Carmel now is whether they can beat a good team. The Aces may be Golden at 8-0, but their schedule is anything but. They have yet to have one opponent who has a lock on a playoff spot, with exception to next weeks game against 6-2 Robinson . Last years game against Robinson was a double overtime victory.
Huntley (3-5) -
Huntley is talking about Thanksgiving Shootouts.
Benton (5-3) -
The Rangers are struggling this year, after a big undefeated season, they are 1-3 versus winning teams. With winning teams being the only type of team that makes the playoffs, things won't be looking good for the Rangers if they go 5-4.

3A The first of the real small school classes, nothing is more exciting than traveling to to the middle of no where to see good football. It truly is what the game is all about. And of course there's always the pork chop sandwiches. 2A may only have 1 team that is 5-4, with the other teams finishing 6-3 or better.

Spring Valley (Hall) (6-2) - With 2 losses Hall is still in a good place if you consider their losses came to teams outside of 3A. Their not sitting pretty if you consider that this means they have a lot more work to do to return to the state finals. If the Red Devils do make it they will have earned it.
LeRoy (8-0) -
The Panthers may just be a sure bet in 1A. Yes that's right, 1A, because of Downs (Tri-Valley) starting their own varsity football program the 2001 3A runner-ups are getting a chance to try their luck in 1A. Best reason why they may not? BecauseDowns (Tri-Valley) started it's own program, meaning it took kids off the team. Come one follow along why else would they be playing in 1A.
Stillman Valley(6-2) -
Stillman has a big game againstByron(7-1) in week #9. A win places them on the higher seeded side of the bracket, a loss may put them in harms way come round one.
DuQuoin (7-1) -
The Indians looked to be a the top contender on paper in the preseason, but a surprising loss to Herrin (6-2) and a near loss to Pinckneyville (3-5) has the tribe faithful crossing their fingers as they head into the playoffs most likely 8-1.

2A Currently no class may have more undefeated teams, they have 6 as of week #8.

Aledo(8-0) - The Green Dragons rules & so does their defense. They're definitely on their way to a couple of post season victories, but with 5 other possible undefeated teams it will be a hard fought battle to return to the top. Especially when you consider that all 5 teams have a higher playoff points total than Aledo (22 as of week #8). WithCarthageleading the pack with 32.
Moweaqua (Central A &M) (7-1) -
A week #8 loss toArgenta (A.-Oreana)(7-1) and a week #9 matchup against undefeated Decatur (St. Teresa) , could but the 2A Runner-up in a sticky situation come round one or two of the playoffs.
Forreston (5-3) -
Being in the lower seeds of 16 Forreston will be looking the whole time it's in the playoffs for the light at the end of the forest. Unless another low seeded team pulls an upset, the Cardinals could make an early exit.
Peru (St. Bede) (3-5)
- Officially talking about next season. Actually St. Bede has a chance only if they win & conference teams Manlius (Bureau Valley) & Eureka both lose.

1A With teams likeFreeport (Aquin)(8-0) with a total enrollment of 101 kids don't be surprised to see a some one like 5'7" 150 pound running back like Cort Jackson of Kewanee (Wethersfield) (class of 2002) score two touchdowns in a finals game. 1A is similar to the biggest class in the respect that the title game is usually not the teams everyone expected. With sizes ranging from extra large to puny and maybe one D-1 prospect in all of 1A, execution is the name of the game. Teams here are only as good as their worst player & one mistake is all it takes to seal your fate.

Kewanee (Wethersfield) (7-1) - The defending 1A Champs are back in the hunt for the title again. But a week #9 matchup with 2001 semifinal opponent could mean a 7-2 record for the Geese if they're not careful. And with the 1998, 1999, & 2000 ChampionCarthagelooking strong, be sure the Blue Boys will be looking to knock off all challengers after they faltered after a teacher's strike filled season last year.
Lexington (4-4) -
The Minutemen are looking more like thirty second men. Now you can take that as half of a minute or as 32nd as in the place they may be hoping to slip into after taking a bruising 49-0 loss from Tremont in week #8. If Lexington has any idea of being a playoff caliber team they'll have to step on 6-2 Colfax (Ridgeview) or it's all about basketball season for them.
Monmouth (M.-Roseville) (7 -1)
- Warren will be looking for some revenge as it gets an early shot at revenge in week #9 as it takes on 1A Champion (and the team that knocked them from the playoffs last year) Kewanee (Wethersfield) . If the Warriors falter next week it could be rough sailing to return to the semis let alone making the finals this year.
Cambridge(4-4) - Cambridge faces 3-5Alexis (United)in week #9. A loss almost definitely places them in singlets for wrestling while a win just puts them in harms way as the Vikings best games were in week 1 & 2. They've lost their last 3 straight by a combined 67-18.

Football Powerhouses
Orland Park (Sandburg) (1-7) -
18 years and two coaches. That's how long it's been since the Eagles haven't made the playoffs. Most of the kids on the team weren't even born yet & 6A was still a new thing. This leaves 8 teams left who have qualified for the playoffs for at least the last 13 seasons. Although with it's loss to Wheaton (North), Wheaton (W. Warrenville South) at 4-4 may be joining the ranks.





























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