Who will be the surprise of the postseason as we start the IHSA football playoffs tonight?
The best first-round matchup is No. 5-seed Thornton at No. 4 T.F. South at 7 p.m. today.
Crete-Monee is the favorite in Class 6A as the 9-0 Warriors have been the No. 1 6A team all season in the Associated Press poll. Coach Jerry Verde and his team know not to look too far down the road, for that road could end in a hurry.
The Warriors host Springfield at 6 p.m. Saturday and will be ready to roll. A possible second-round matchup with Peoria Richwoods is not even being talked about, even though the game would be at Crete. Richwoods ended the Warriors' season in Peoria. When Verde says he is not putting the cart before the horse, he does not mean racing at nearby Balmoral Park.
Crete's regular-season schedule was not that tough, but there was nothing the team could do but go out and take apart its opponents. Some are wondering if the less-than-tough schedule will hurt the Warriors. The Southland Athletic Conference games are games the Warriors must play. The players talked all year about doing their jobs and getting ready for postseason. Crete played T.F. South, Glenbard South, plus conference foes Bloom Township and Rich East. All four are in the postseason.
Verde and his staff have kept the players wanting more and wanting to improve. Sure, if they look ahead and get too full of themselves, they can be upset. This is a talented group with several Division I prospects, but the most important thing is these kids are focused on one thing and it is not their press clippings or planning a college visit. This program has become a state power under Verde and his staff.
This team has the tools to go all the way if it keeps its focus.
There is Bloom Township which faces Simeon tonight in a Class 8A game at Gately Stadium. We have all heard about the program making its first appearance since Bloom and Bloom Trail merged athletic programs in 1995, and Bloom's first playoff appearance since 1989.
Coach Tony Palombi said earlier that he was "just happy" to be playing another week, but he and the Blazing Trojans would like to make some noise, though Simeon will be a tough game. Bloom cannot make the mistakes which hurt it in losses to Rich East and Glenbard South. It also must not play not to lose. The Blazing Trojans have nothing to lose.
You go from Bloom to playoff regulars like T.F. South, Thornton, Mount Carmel and Homewood-Flossmoor. Mount Carmel is making a record 27th-consecutive postseason appearance and has not allowed a point in its last three games. H-F, under Craig Buzea, has made nice playoff runs in his first two years.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.