Southland Athletic Conference
Crete-Monee (4-3, 3-0) at Rich South (5-2, 3-1)
When: 6 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: The Warriors can win the Southland Athletic Conference title outright with a victory over the Stars, who are coached by former Bloom Twp. boss Bret Tucker. If successful, the conference crown would be Crete-Monee's fourth straight. The Warriors have won three of their last four games and would become playoff eligible with a win tonight in Richton Park. Crete-Monee beat Rich Central 41-8 last week, while Rich East defeated Rich South 20-8. Crete quarterback Jaylan Bailey threw for four touchdowns and ran for another last week. WRs LaQuon Treadwell, Thurman Lesley, Lexus Jackson and Lance Lenoir have given the Warriors deep threats, while RB Julius Spicer continues to power the ground game. OLs Cody Hock and Zach Nevels have cleared the way all year. LB Mike Jamison and DL John McCaskel anchor a tough defense. Jamison has 41 solo tackles and 28 assists, including five tackles for loss. McCaskel has 14 solos and 10 assists, including four tackles for loss. Crete's defense knows what it has to do: stop Stars QB Brandon Kelly and WR Iman Kelly. RB Byron Moore has had a good year as well for the Stars. Some of the Warriors remember how they started 0-3 in 2008 and won six in a row to reach the playoffs. They know they need to finish strong to return to the postseason. -- Mike Nieto
South Suburban Blue
Oak Forest (5-2, 3-2) at No. 1 T.F. South (6-1, 4-1)
When: 7 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: Through the years, the Bengals have been a nemesis for the Rebels, but this contest should favor the locals. Oak Forest beat Evergreen Park in Week 7, but needed an overtime period to do so. The Bengals' offense took a hit when starting QB Tim Longawa went down with a leg injury the week before versus T.F. North. Backup QB Luke Huerta scored the deciding TD last Friday, but Oak Forest totaled only 13 points against a Mustangs squad that had surrendered almost 70 in its previous two outings. RB Tevin Coleman is a threat because of his speed, but both Evergreen and T.F. North were able to limit his effectiveness. T.F. South, by contrast, has seen its offense improve dramatically during the course of the season. Granted, struggling Hillcrest didn't exactly present a stern challenge last Friday, but the Rebels also made sure the Hawks knew right away that they had no chance. South racked up 440 total yards and six TDs in the first half, meaning the subs got extended playing time after the break. While they were in the lineup, regulars such as QB Kevin Hallberg (4-of-6, 95 yards, two TDs), RB Giovanni Canty (four carries, 118 yards, one TD) and WR Cody Krilich (scoring catches of 43 and 28 yards) did what was expected. Oak Forest's defense got roughed up by T.F. North, so it's not a stretch to envision South being similarly successful against it. -- Ken Karrson
T.F. North (5-2, 3-2) at Lemont (7-0, 4-0)
When: 7 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: The Meteors have 35 playoff points and should get into the postseason, but they also want to do so on a good note. They struggled last week in a loss to Tinley Park, and it doesn't get any easier this week when North visits Class 6A No. 2 Lemont. If the Meteors can pull off the upset, it could create a tie for first between the Indians and T.F. South, assuming the Rebels beat Oak Forest. North's execution will have to be much better than it was in Week 7, when the locals failed to capitalize on some scoring opportunities and didn't come up with any stops in crucial situations. DE Jamal Redmond is back after being asked to leave last week's game. LBs Delon Perry and Carl Golston Jr. have been playing well, but they will have their hands full against Lemont. North QB Calvin Lindsey has been a leader, and he and RB Devonte Stevenson are both capable of big games. WRs Brandon Carroll and Rob Austin are big-play threats. Lemont LBs Kyle Krull, Mike Hayes and Brad Uher gave Bremen fits last week in the Indians' 41-6 win. QB Mike Hall has passed for a TD and ran for another, while RB Mike Anzalone has been a workhorse this season. -- Mike Nieto
SouthWest Suburban Blue
Joliet Central (0-7, 0-5) at Homewood-Flossmoor (5-2, 4-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Internet radio: rrsn.com.
Breaking it down: With each passing week, Craig Buzea's debut season at Homewood-Flossmoor is becoming more and more impressive. Lockport became H-F's latest victim as it dropped a 28-21 decision to the host Vikings in Week 7. Senior RB Malik Norman was his usual self, running for 255 yards and three scores in the game. That performance gave Norman 1,039 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns on the season. QB Tim Williams threw for 131 yards and a touchdown. Norman's running ability is giving Williams a lot of open looks to WRs Willie Ross and Lantz Sims. The Vikings' win over Lockport clinched a trip to the playoffs after a 1-8 season a year ago, but don't expect H-F to have a letdown against Joliet Central. To say the Steelmen have struggled this season would be a massive understatement. Central is 0-7 and has only managed to reach double figures in scoring once, that being in a 41-12 loss to a 1-6 Lincoln-Way Central club. The closest the Steelmen have come to victory was a 32-8 loss to sister school Joliet West. If the Vikings can pick up the expected wins against Central and West in the season's final two weeks, they will have a good chance of hosting their first-round playoff game. -- Scott Ritter
SouthWest Suburban Red
Thornridge (4-3, 3-2) at Lincoln-Way North (6-1, 4-1)
When: 7 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: The task at hand is a clear one for the Falcons: win and they're in. Thornridge took care of business last week with a 47-0 romp over Stagg, the Falcons' fourth win of the year. With 36 playoff points already on the board, one more triumph will guarantee Thornridge a spot in the postseason. Picking up that fifth victory won't be easy, though, with six-win Lincoln-Way North and six-win Thornton remaining on the schedule. The Phoenix have rebounded nicely from a Week 5 blowout loss at Thornton, picking up big wins over Lincoln-Way West and Bradley-Bourbonnais. RB Tyler Willig rushed for 93 yards against the Boilermakers, and QB Jack Irace threw a 70-yard TD pass to Nolan Gonciarczyk. The play of Thornridge's defensive line will be crucial, not just in stopping Willig but also in pressuring Irace into turnovers, which Thornton was able to do. Offensively, the Falcons will need Michigan State-bound Mika'il McCall to once again put them on his shoulders, as he did in a 31-25 OT win over Andrew two weeks ago. But Thornton was able to do a lot of damage with screen passes against North. If Thornridge QB Derrick Martin can get the ball to WR Gary Ford with room for the latter to run, the Falcons will have a shot at pulling off the upset. -- Scott Ritter
No. 2 Thornton (6-1, 4-1) at Thornwood (4-3, 2-3)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Breaking it down: Safely tucked into the playoffs following a pulsating win over Lincoln-Way West last Saturday, the Wildcats can now concentrate on securing an SWSC Red championship and higher tournament seed. Thornton demonstrated its mettle against the Warriors by embarking on a late 69-yard drive and scoring the deciding TD with only five seconds remaining. Jamel Frazier, who also tallied on a 68-yard reception during the game, caught a 6-yard toss from QB Charles Knowles (223 passing yards) to put the 'Cats over the top. RB Damien Bell (252 rushing yards, two TDs) was his usual stellar self, and Thornton's defense stiffened when necessary. Allowing two punts to get blocked is something Wildcats coach Bill Mosel would prefer to avoid this week, but all in all, the Harvey group enters their District 205 clash with Thornwood with plenty of momentum. The same can't be said of the Thunderbirds, who wasted a golden opportunity to become playoff eligible by letting a mediocre Andrew team dictate the action for much of last Saturday's conference game. Thornwood coach Wilber Milhouse felt homecoming was a bit of a distraction for his athletes, who put in what he described as a poor week of practice. Raheem Gardner's 63-yard touchdown run was one of the T'birds' only highlights in a 30-12 loss. To return to the postseason for the first time since 2001, Thornwood must beat either the Wildcats or Lincoln-Way West in Week 9 -- or, depending on how playoff points shake down, perhaps both. -- Ken Karrson
East Suburban Catholic Conference
Marian Catholic (5-2, 3-1) at Nazareth Academy (2-5, 0-5)
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
TV: CN100 (4 p.m., tape delay)
Breaking it down: The Spartans are looking to rebound after a 24-0 ESCC home loss to Carmel. They were held to 52 yards rushing and 88 yards of total offense while having their five-game winning streak snapped. Marian had just four first downs and ran 10 plays that resulted in negative yardage. RBs Jeruel Taylor, Trevor Woolfolk and Matt Simmons will need to get back to old form against the Roadrunners, who have lost five in a row. Taylor needs 164 rushing yards to hit 1,000 for the season. Marian has 35 playoff points going into the game, so it should qualify for the tournament with five wins, but it would certainly not want to back in to postseason play. Nazareth is the only ESCC team that is officially eliminated from playoff contention, so it may be hungry to pull off an upset. Marian won 16-10 last year and leads the overall series 4-3. Defensively, LB Jack Ziltz had a good game last week, and DT Mike Toliver continues to dominate up front. DBs Wes Fleming, David Sowell and Tony Alozie have done a good job defending against the pass. This is Marian's second Saturday afternoon game. The Spartans beat Bloom Twp. 38-0 in Week 2. -- Mike Nieto
No. 3 Mt. Carmel (5-2) at St. Laurence (4-3)
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Breaking it down: It's difficult to imagine the Caravan performing any better than it did last Friday, when it ambushed Brother Rice from every conceivable angle. Mt. Carmel's offense provided a 21-0 lead after running just eight plays from scrimmage, the defense held the Crusaders to 59 first-half yards and place-kicker Nikko Rodriguez continually forced Rice to begin series at its own 20-yard line by booting kickoffs into -- and sometimes beyond -- the end zone. QB Chris Sujka (10 carries, 177 yards, three TDs; 95 passing yards, one TD) was a virtual one-man gang as he led an attack that produced nearly 380 yards in the first 24 minutes. The Caravan finished with 499, as even the reserves were able to mount an 80-yard drive in the third quarter. RB Michael Banks (two carries, 54 yards, one TD) and WR Frank Kelly (three catches, 80 yards, one TD) are other weapons of whom St. Laurence must be wary in this Catholic League crossover contest. The Vikings are coming off a tough 28-21 loss to Bishop McNamara that wrecked their chances for a share of the Catholic White title. RB Steve Fiorella, the reigning White Offensive Player of the Year, did his part against the Fightin' Irish as he rushed 39 times for 182 yards. St. Laurence also displayed more of a passing game than usual behind QB Alex Flisk and WR Andy Javorka. The Vikings will need to be highly efficient in both areas if they want to hang with the Caravan. A win here secures a 25th consecutive postseason berth for Mt. Carmel, while a loss may lock out a playoff points-lacking St. Laurence team. -- Ken Karrson