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Neuqua Valley's Eric Bonner sacks Bartlett quarterback Kyle Garcia on Friday, October 19, 2012 at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
The inevitable news came late in the afternoon for Burlington Central and football coach Rich Crabel when the Illinois High School Association released its field of 256 state-qualifying teams prior to a later release of actual pairings.
The Rockets had made the dreaded list. They made the one with 16 five-win teams statewide who failed to advance into the playoffs rather than getting on the list of 40 five-win teams who will play again.
“We had told our kids that we didn’t think we would have enough playoff points to get in and we figured there was only about a 10 percent chance we would get in,” Crabel said. “We had figured early in the week we would be six (teams) out with a 5-4 record.
“When we lost, we said not to give up hope on that, but realistically it didn’t look good.”
Ultimately, the regular season-ending loss to North Boone Friday kept the Rockets from a playoff berth. Four area teams did make it in, including 6-3 teams Bartlett, Huntley and St. Charles East and 5-4 Jacobs. All will be on the road in the first games.
Bartlett will be at Leyden in 8A. In 7A, St. Charles East is at Wheaton North, Huntley is at Fenwick and Jacobs is at two-time defending state champion Rockford Boylan.
As it turned out, Central would have needed to leapfrog seven teams to get into the field. Central’s opponents had 36 wins, and to make it the Rockets needed opponents to get 38 wins. Herrin was the final 5-4 team with 38 wins by opponents to make it into the playoff field.
“The big thing was our younger kids got experience,” Crabel said. “We started four sophomores all year and played more at the end of the year because of injuries, and we have a junior class with some talented players. Our message to them was remember the feeling you have going after the loss Friday because that loss might be what knocked you out.
“Realistically, we were so young that it might have been tough to match up with someone if we’d made it. But it would have been good experience for our young guys.”
Only four area teams made it into the playoffs in an obvious off year for football in the upper Fox Valley. Bartlett, Huntley and St. Charles East made it in easily with 6-3 records while Jacobs made it by a comfortable margin with five victories and 42 wins by its opponents this year — four more than needed.
Bartlett coach Tom Meaney was a bit surprised his 10th-seeded team was sent to face seventh-seeded Leyden. In recent years, the Hawks’ grouping seemed predictable. But one of his freshmen coaches did pick Leyden ahead of time.
“We don’t know much about them other than they run a 4-4 (defense) and Tom Cerasani (Jr.) is their coach,” Meaney said. “We’ll get the film out and get to work on them, do our research. Facing someone you don’t normally play is part of the fun of it.”
With a win, Bartlett could be facing second-seeded Loyola Academy, which hosts 5-4 Evanston in Round 1.
St. Charles East coach Mike Fields has his 12th-seeded team in for the first time since 2009 and they travel to fifth-seeded Wheaton North of the DuPage Valley.
“We played West Aurora in nonconference this year but none of the big dogs (from the DVC), so we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Fields said. “We’re just glad to be at the dance. The kids are excited. I’m kind of one of those old-school coaches who wishes they still did a 1 vs. 32 pairing instead, and you could be facing from someone from another part of the state in Round 1, but this is how it is.”
If the Saints advance, they play the winner of the game between fourth-seeded Glenbrook North and 13th-seeded Mt. Prospect.
Jacobs is lumped into the same four-team bracket with Fox Valley Valley rival Huntley, but both will be underdogs in Round 1. The Golden Eagles, in the playoffs for the third straight year under coach Bill Mitz, face an unbeaten Boylan team. Huntley coach John Hart, in his first year, has a 10th seed going to face a 7-2, seventh-seeded Fenwick squad.
Times and whether the games will be Friday or Saturday will be finalized on Monday.