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Benet's Jack Toner (2) out runs the Nazareth defense for Benet's first touchdown of the game. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
As prep football heads into its second season, some parts of the landscape look pretty familiar.
The 32-team Class 8A field features four perennial powers who have reached the postseason every year since the beginning of the Clinton era.
Mount Carmel is making its 27th straight trip to the IHSA playoffs, while Stevenson is in for the 24th consecutive season and Maine South and Bolingbrook both are making their 21st straight appearance.
One class down in 7A, East St. Louis is in the IHSA field for the 33rd time in the 39-year history of the playoffs.
But some of the other usual suspects aren't around this year, including half of last year's Class 7A Final Four. Both 2011 runner-up Wheaton Warrenville South and two-time returning semifinalist St. Rita ended the regular season a win away from qualifying at 4-5, hurt no doubt by challenging schedules.
WW South started the season with back-to-back games against Glenbard West and Maine South — both of whom are 9-0 — before having to contend with the likes of 8-1 Glenbard North and 8-1 Wheaton North in the DuPage Valley Conference.
St. Rita, meanwhile, opened with 8-1 Marist at Soldier Field and then had to run the Catholic League Blue gauntlet, which included Loyola (8-1), Mount Carmel (8-1) and Providence (7-2).
It's the first time since 2002 WW South's season has ended with Week 9. St. Rita, out of the IHSA field for the first time since 1999, has some consolation: the Mustangs head to the Prep Bowl playoffs with the hope of finishing their season where they started it, back at Soldier Field.
Two other long playoff-appearance streaks also ended this year, with Carmel (3-6) missing out for the first time since 1999 and Downers Grove South (4-5) for the first time since 1996.
There's a flip side, too, with some new faces in this year's playoff field.
In the playoffs for the first time since 1989 are 8A Bloom (6-3) and 1A Luther North (5-4). The Blazing Trojans hadn't made it since Bloom and Bloom Trail's sports were combined in the mid-'90s, while Luther North is in two years after a successful fund-raising drive helped the school avoid a possible closing.
Two more feel-good stories belong to 7A entries Benet (8-1) and Willowbrook (6-3), playoff-bound a year after finishing 1-8 and 0-9, respectively.
And two local programs — 6A Perspectives (7-2) and Grayslake North (8-1) — are young programs making their playoff debuts.
It all adds up to a playoff field that's a little bit old and a little bit new.
Game of the week
Kaneland 33, Morris 30: The showdown for the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title lived up to the hype and anticipation as the host Knights won the battle of unbeatens on Drew David's five-yard touchdown pass to Zack Martinelli with 27 seconds remaining.
By the numbers
251 – Wins in 37 seasons by Marian Catholic coach Dave Mattio, who announced Sunday he was stepping down. He'll remain as athletic director at his alma mater, where he was on the football coaching staff for 42 years.
6 – West Suburban Silver teams in the IHSA playoffs.
5 – Central Suburban South playoff qualifiers.
Week 10 lookahead
There are a number of rematches in the first round of the playoffs, perhaps none more anticipated than Bolingbrook's Class 8A trip to Sandburg. It could be feature the return of the Raiders' Illinois-bound quarterback Aaron Bailey, one of the heroes of Bolingbrook's run to the Class 8A title last season. Bailey's been out with a knee injury suffered against Lincoln-Way East in Week 6.
Tag(s): Chicago Catholic Blue St. Rita Perspectives DuPage Valley WW South East Suburban Catholic Benet Academy Southland Bloom West Suburban Gold Willowbrook Featured Top News Northern Illinois Big 12 East Kaneland Morris