Goss: Beating Sandburg would be big lift for Joliet West’s playoff hopes
By Dick Goss email@example.com September 18, 2013 10:09PM
Joliet West quarterback Anthony DiNardo. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 20, 2013 7:39AM
Among the story lines to follow this high school football season is the fate of Joliet West.
Will the Tigers qualify for the playoffs for the first time?
Historically, all teams finishing 6-3 or better quality. Some 5-4 teams get in, others do not. That’s where playoff points (opponent victories) are vital.
When we reviewed West’s schedule before the season, it appeared to set up in such a way that the Tigers (2-1) could win their first two games (which has happened) and their last three, which are against Stagg, Joliet Central and Lockport.
The four games from Weeks 3 through 6 would be the SouthWest Suburban Blue gauntlet. That run began Friday with a 48-14 loss at Homewood-Flossmoor. Next up is Saturday’s home game against Sandburg, followed by match-ups vs. Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East.
Based on where West stands with playoff points through Week 3 (15), and what has been the cutoff number in recent years, the Tigers will have a good chance to qualify with five victories. But that is not as comfortable as six wins would be.
Six would look very possible with a victory over Sandburg (2-1). However, if West comes out of Saturday 2-2, knocking off either Bolingbrook or Lincoln-Way East would have to happen to reach six wins. So the importance of beating Sandburg is evident.
To accomplish that, quarterback Anthony DiNardo must have an accurate passing game, the Tigers offensive line must create at least small creases for running back Jordan Brown and the defensive line, led by Billy Myers, must get enough penetration to disrupt Sandburg’s offense. Limiting turnovers and penalties also will be crucial.
For the historians, Joliet Central was in the Class 4A playoffs in 1976, losing to Lake Park 28-22 in Round 1. The combined Joliet Township program reached the second round in 6A in 1993 and 1994. That is it for Joliet Township teams in the postseason.
Many of our other area schools, of course, visit the playoffs much more regularly.
Joliet Catholic, Bolingbrook, Lincoln-Way East, Wilmington and Seneca are 3-0 and already in good shape to qualify. In fact, the Hilltoppers, Raiders, Griffins and perhaps Wildcats look like candidates to go deep into the playoffs.
Not many in Class 5A are going to outscore Mike Ivlow and that Joliet Catholic offense. Or in 8A, solve that Bolingbrook defense led by safety Parrker Westphal. Or in 7A, prove better than Lincoln-Way East.
If Providence (2-1) does not beat Loyola, St. Rita or Mount Carmel, three of the state’s best, the Celtics, with tailback Dominic Lagone fueling their high-powered offense, will have to knock off Fenwick and Brother Rice to get in. There is not much wiggle room against their rugged schedule.
Lincoln-Way West should move to 3-1 this week, then finishes with five tough ones in Andrew, Bradley, Lincoln-Way North, Thornton and Lincoln-Way Central. But not only will five victories be enough for the Warriors, they figure to get more than that because they are good enough to beat their share of difficult SouthWest Suburban Red foes.
Lincoln-Way Central, Lemont, Morris and Coal City are 1-2 and must defeat at least a couple of strong opponents to qualify. The same goes for Peotone, which is 2-1.
Last but not least, there’s our favorite mad scramble, the Southwest Prairie. Plainfield South, Romeoville and Plainfield East are 2-1, and Minooka and Plainfield North 1-2. All five may qualify if they can get to five victories, but a couple may wind up needing six.
Oswego being 1-2 and Oswego East 3-0 only serves to make projecting Southwest Prairie qualifiers more difficult. And Plainfield Central (0-3) could jump up and bite an opponent or two, thus dealing their playoff hopes a severe blow.
Perhaps in another couple of weeks, the Southwest Prairie will begin to sort itself out as far as which teams will go to the postseason and which will stay home. Or, maybe this will be a league where everyone hovers around the .500 mark, where almost everyone has a shot until Week 9.
Wouldn’t that be wild?