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9/15/12 Joliet-Bolingbrooks Aaron Bailey looks for an open receiver with pressure from Joliet Wests Diondray Hood. Stacia TImonere/for Sun Times Media
Bolingbrook at Lincoln-Way East. It doesn’t get any better.
On a weekend when several high school football teams are playing games that eventually will help determine whether they qualify for the playoffs, the match-up Friday night in Frankfort that is likely to determine the SouthWest Suburban Blue champion is on another level.
Bolingbrook (5-0) is No. 1 and Lincoln-Way East (5-0) is No. 2 in the Herald-News rankings. But regardless of whose rankings you use, the Raiders and Griffins, both definite playoff teams, are among the best in Illinois.
No better example of what these teams have to offer than last year’s get-together in Bolingbrook, which East won 20-14.
Raiders QB Aaron Bailey, then a junior, ripped off scoring runs of 60 and 86 yards in the first quarter to give coach John Ivlow’s team a 14-0 lead. It appeared Bailey, who later committed to Illinois, was too much for anyone to handle.
However, the Griffins’ defense made adjustments and limited Bailey and the Raiders the rest of the way. Discarding the two TD scoring runs, Bailey rushed for a net of 61 net yards in 20 carries and lost yardage on eight plays.
But East still had to score. A long touchdown pass in the second quarter made it 14-6 at half, and in the second half, the Griffins’ jumbo package, which they like to call “Tarzan,” resulted in two scores and was the difference in the outcome.
The conference championship would follow for East, but Bolingbrook achieved the ultimate. The Raiders rebounded from the loss and went to win eight straight and the Class 8A state title.
The point is not to suggest a repeat will happen this year, but it could. When these two teams collide, you more often than not witness a war worthy of a state championship game.
Coach Rob Zvonar’s teams at East pride themselves on being solid in all three phases, and that has been the case this season. Among the Griffins’ early victims were Montini, Carmel, Homewood-Flossmoor and Sandburg, and that has not happened by accident.
Bolingbrook has not faced as difficult a schedule but did beat H-F 45-28 last week and has scored at least 33 points in every game. With Bailey and RBs Omar Stover and Jaden Huff in the backfield and WR Chandler Piekarski leading the receiving corps, the Raiders are explosive.
Of course, Bolingbrook is no slouch defensively, either. East QB Tom Fuessel, a Northern Illinois recruit, has been getting the job done with his legs and his arm. Much as the Griffins’ defense must prevent Bailey from taklng over the game, the Raiders’ defense faces a similar challenge in Fuessel.
This match-up annually merits a thick red circle on the calendar. If you want to see two of the best in the state go at each other, head out to Frankfort.
Were the playoffs beginning this weekend, the Joliet area would boast 12 representatives: Wilmington (4-1) in 3A; Coal City (4-1) and Peotone (3-2) in 4A; Morris (5-0), Joliet Catholic (3-2) and Lincoln-Way West (3-2) in 5A; Lemont (5-0) in 6A; Lincoln-Way East (5-0), Providence (4-1), Plainfield North (4-1) and Plainfield Central (3-2) in 7A, and Bolingbrook (5-0) in 8A.
Yes, at this juncture, Coal City would be in the 4A field, Morris and Lincoln-Way West in 5A and Providence in 7A. Morris would be one of the smallest 5A teams while Lincoln-Way West would be the largest in 5A.
Minooka (2-3) has begun making its playoff push in 8A, and a couple of other area teams realistically could work their way into the playoffs. However, Public League schools that may be playoff bound have make-up games to play because of the Chicago teachers’ strike, and that will affect exactly how many 5-4 teams eventually get in. For example, Plainfield Central probably needs to finish 6-3 to qualify.