Providence Catholic (2-6, 1-3 Catholic League Blue) at No. 2 Mt. Carmel (6-2, 3-1)
When: 7 p.m. today.
Where: Gately Stadium.
Breaking it down: Not too long ago, this clash would have drawn much of the Week 9 attention, but that isn't true this year. The Celtics, who usually play a demanding nonconference schedule in addition to their rugged league slate, overextended themselves and were officially eliminated from playoff consideration by Fenwick in the sixth week. Providence survived the in-game loss of RB Dan Potempa to knock off De La Salle 21-19 last Friday. Despite Potempa's absence, the Celtics gained 229 rushing yards. What made winning a struggle was the lack of a complementary passing attack -- Providence netted only 22 yards through the air. That kind of one-dimensional offense won't get it done against Mt. Carmel, which dominated a run-oriented St. Laurence club last Friday. After falling behind 7-3, the Caravan scored 49 unanswered points, doing so largely on the legs of RB Draco Smith and QB Chris Sujka, who garnered nearly 300 rushing yards between them while scoring four times. Sujka also tossed a TD pass to Frank Kelly. The offensive line of Sal Arceo, Jack Scanlon, Juan Beltran, Adam Connors and Ed O'Connor has done a particularly good job the last two weeks -- over that span, Mt. Carmel has amassed almost 1,000 total yards while out-scoring its foes 94-14. That would be enough to throw a scare into most future opponents, but seeing as how Providence has already gotten up-close looks at St. Rita, Loyola, Morgan Park and Joliet Catholic -- and their combined 29-3 record -- the New Lenox group should be pretty shockproof. !~ Ken Karrson
T.F. North (5-3) at Argo (4-4)
When: 7 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: The Meteors are looking to snap a two-game losing streak after being shut out 44-0 last week by Lemont. T.F. North ran 13 plays for negative yardage against the Indians. North already has 40 playoff points, however, so it is in the postseason for the first time since 2006. Still, the Meteors do not want to go into the playoffs with a three-game losing streak. QB Calvin Lindsey and WRs Brandon Carroll and Rob Austin have been a good offensive threat all year. RBs Devonte Stevenson and Braxton Dupree will have to provide a good ground attack against the Argonauts. That will depend on the line doing a good job up front. The Argonauts need a win to have any shot at the playoffs, but it remains an uphill climb for them since they have only 28 playoff points heading into this South Suburban crossover game. Richards beat Argo 35-20 last week. Argo RB Kaylen Sturges rushed for 146 yards and a TD against the Bulldogs. QB Steven Paul and WR Anthony Meier also hooked up for a score. North has been resilient all season and needs to step up tonight and get the momentum it had during the first six weeks. The team has struggled on both sides of the ball since it won at Oak Forest in Week 6. LBs Carl Golston and Delon Perry have been impressive and need to have a good game tonight. -- Mike Nieto
No. 1 T.F. South (7-1, 4-1 South Suburban Blue) at Tinley Park (6-2, 3-2)
When: 7 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: Richards is not on the Rebels' schedule this season, but the Titans represent a worthy Week 9 substitute. For many years, T.F. South-versus-Richards was a marquee matchup that pitted two of the south suburbs' most respected football programs against one another. This contest could be equally intriguing, since both the Rebels and Tinley are enjoying superb, playoff-qualifying campaigns. South's latest conquest was Oak Forest, which was routed last Friday, thanks to the Rebels' generating of more than 450 yards' worth of offense. Junior RB Giovanni Canty (12 carries, 137 rushing yards) and QB Kevin Hallberg (142 passing yards, three TDs) led the attack, which also got a boost from senior WR DeAndre Thurman, who caught four of Hallberg's throws and turned two of them into scores. The Titans were also stout in Week 8 as they ran roughshod over a decent Evergreen Park club. Tinley's attack is powered by RB Hassan Abdullah, who ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns against T.F. North two weeks ago, and QB Kyle Sheridan, who fired two TD passes in that same contest. Lemont has beaten both South and Tinley, but each team fell by single digits. The Titans also dropped an overtime decision to Oak Forest. The winner of this game will enter the postseason on a definite high note. !~ Ken Karrson
St. Viator (4-4, 2-4 East Suburban Catholic Conference) at Marian Catholic (6-2, 4-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: The Spartans won their third one-point game of the season last week when they scored on the final play. John Rhode hit Randall Wells for a 39-yard score as time expired and Jabari Danzy kicked the PAT to give Marian a 29-28 win at Nazareth Academy. RB Jeruel Taylor broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark and leads the conference with six TDs. The Spartans are seeking a seven-win season for the 23rd time in program history, according to the school's website. Marian has secured its second straight playoff berth, while the Lions, who are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, need a win to get into the postseason. They have 40 playoff points. Eight of the nine ESCC teams have either clinched spots or are playoff eligible. St. Viator won last year 25-0 at Forest View High School and has captured the last two games in the series. Marian leads the overall series 12-4. The Lions won 16-10 in Chicago Heights two years ago. DLs Marc Grkinich and Mike Toliver will have to stop the Lions' ground attack. LBs Marc Crosetto and Byron Munoz have played very well in shutting down opponents' running and passing games. !~ Mike Nieto
Thornwood (4-4, 2-4 SouthWest Suburban Red) at Lincoln-Way West (6-2, 4-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: It's playoff time for the Thunderbirds one week early. That's the mind-set Thornwood athletes have to carry into tonight's contest since, just as in the postseason, there's no tomorrow in the event of a defeat. A Week 7 loss to Andrew put the heat on the T'birds because that meant they had to beat either Thornton or Lincoln-Way West to receive an invitation to the state tournament. Actually, Thornwood put up a good fight against the Wildcats last Saturday. What made the exhibition especially noteworthy is that it occurred with sophomore QB Patrick Bolton running an offense that also lost its No. 1 wide receiver, two running backs and a lineman during the game. RB Raheem Gardner (22 carries, 120 rushing yards) stayed healthy enough to inflict some damage on Thornton, but he can't go it alone against a Warriors team that has already qualified for the playoffs for the first time in program history. RB Nick Bellamy (18 carries, 180 rushing yards, three TDs; two catches, 73 yards, one TD) and QB Justin Butterfield (13-of-21, 263 yards, two TDs) headlined for a Lincoln-Way West attack that rolled up 516 yards against an out-manned Stagg club, which was whipped 47-7. Thornwood hasn't played beyond Week 9 since 2001, but ending that streak will not be easy. !~ Ken Karrson
Crete-Monee (5-3, 4-0 Southland Athletic Conference) vs. Bloom Twp. (1-7, 0-4)
When: Noon Saturday.
Where: Bloom Trail High School.
Breaking it down: The Warriors did everything right -- save for a few fumbles -- last week in routing Rich South 35-0. QB Jaylan Bailey has thrown eight TD passes over the last two games, including four on Friday. The Warriors are wary of Bloom Twp., as the Blazing Trojans have a history of staging Week 9 upsets and will probably throw caution to the wind. WRs LaQuon Treadwell, Lance Lenoir and Thurman Lesley are a deep threat at any time, while RB Kenneth Kidd is another threat in the backfield for Crete. LB Mike Jamison and DL Johnnie McCaskel lead a tough Warriors defense that has posted two shutouts this season. DB Anthony Standifer had two big interceptions against the Stars. Crete-Monee would like to take a three-game winning streak into the playoffs. Bloom Twp. has lost five in a row, but played tough in a 10-7 loss to Rich East. Blazing Trojans QB Levonta Treadwell scored their TD last week. If Bloom Twp. gets ahead early and can force Crete into some mistakes, it could be an interesting afternoon. !~ Mike Nieto
Homewood-Flossmoor (6-2, 5-1 SouthWest Suburban Blue) at Joliet West (2-6, 2-4)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Breaking it down: The Vikings have won three in a row since losing to Lincoln-Way East and are gearing up for their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season. The winning streak is H-F's longest since it captured three playoff victories in 2007 and fell just one game short of qualifying for the Class 8A championship contest. RB Malik Norman ran for three TDs in limited action last week in a 48-0 win over Joliet Central. QB Tim Williams also threw for three TDs and WR Willie Ross caught two scoring passes. Defensively, H-F held the Steelmen to 114 yards of offense, including minus-2 passing. LB Denzel Wilkins and DB Jalyn Johnson each had an interception. Purdue recruit and DT Michael Rouse has been a force on the line, while LBs Wilkins, Cody Cooper and Antione Dantzler have also done a great job. First-year coach Craig Buzea has really turned the program in the right direction, and the Vikings want to carry the enthusiasm and success into the playoffs. !~ Mike Nieto
No. 3 Thornton (7-1, 5-1 SouthWest Suburban Red) at Thornridge (4-4, 3-3)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Breaking it down: It's win-or-stay-home time for the Falcons, who got knocked around by SWSC Red co-leader Lincoln-Way North last Friday. Not having Michigan State-bound Mika'il McCall available for duty because of a calf injury obviously hampered Thornridge's offense, but his absence shouldn't have had any bearing on the Falcons' defensive effort. The Phoenix roughed up Thornridge for over 400 yards as QB Jack Irace (15-of-26, 206 yards, two TDs) and RB Tyler Willig (146 rushing yards, two TDs) led the charge. The Falcons can't afford a repeat of that performance if they desire a playoff berth because District 205 sister school Thornton will surely exploit it. Then again, all bets are off in a rivalry game, which was evident last Saturday when Thornwood pushed the Wildcats hard before succumbing by a 27-14 score. The Thunderbirds hung tough despite using a sophomore quarterback and losing their top wide receiver during the game. Taje Frazier delivered a huge defensive play for Thornton with his forced fumble and recovery late in the third quarter that preserved a five-point 'Cats lead. RB Damien Bell (177 rushing yards, one TD) and QB Charles Knowles (196 passing yards) did their part to rebuff Thornwood, but they'll likely need to do more versus Thornridge. Thornton's assured of a playoff appearance, but it doesn't want to enter the tournament without a fair share of momentum on its side. !~ Ken Karrson