The two large school conferences in the immediate Peoria area each placed three teams in the IHSA playoffs announced Saturday night. Five of them sit in the lower bracket of Class 5A. All will have renewed vigor as the beginning of the post season breeds hope of new roads to be traveled and fresh goals to conquer.
Richwoods and Central both got in with 5-4 records and each wound up paired against a powerhouse in the first round. The Knights will go to Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin, newly crowned champs of the Central State 8 after the IHSA ruled Rochester must forfeit their 38-33 win over the Cyclones due to using ineligible players. That was the only blemish on the Cyclones' record as they have otherwise steamrolled the competition this year. This includes a resounding win down at Memphis Whitehaven who are defending state champions in Tennessee. Receiver Malik Turner is bound for Illinois and is a big time talent. QB Gabe Green has completed 76% of his passes, many to Turner, and can run the ball as well.
Central's prize for getting their much anticipated berth is a trip to unbeaten Washington. They will need their high powered offense to be in full gear against a stodgy Panther defense. This game could be a shootout as Washington can put the points on the board as well.
Notre Dame (7-2) will host Glenwood (7-2) in another game between teams from the Mid State 6 and Central State 8. Glenwood's only losses this year were to Rochester and SHG. Notre Dame is coming off a huge win at Rock Island and looks to have good momentum heading into the post season. The winner of this game will play the Richwoods-SHG winner.
The other Mid Illini team in 5A is Limestone. Nobody has talked much about the Rockets statewide, but they are 8-1 and seemingly on a mission. They will host 6-3 Jerseyville. The winner will play the Highland-Carbondale winner.
Surging Pekin got a berth in the 7A southern bracket. They will host 6-3 Bradley-Bourbonnais in round one. The Dragons have been decimated by injury this year and many were wondering just three weeks ago if a playoff berth was even in the cards. Now, with players on the mend, including Cole Henderson, they appear to be in good shape and primed for a run in the post season. The winner of this game will face the winner of the Tinley Park Andrew-Edwardsville game. Of local interest, former Richwoods Knight Matt Martin is at the coaching helm for the Tigers of Edwardsville, who have rolled to a 9-0 record and are impressive to say the least.
There are no predictions contained herein as predictions can go out the window when it comes to the IHSA Playoffs. Records are thrown out and it boils down to preparation, heart and execution for teams to advance. Of course, a little good fortune doesn't hurt. Good luck to all 256 teams in this year's extravaganza.