And then there was one.
Yes, that one — Prairie Ridge — who we all suspected to get this far again this year, has yet another a chance to book a trip to the state championship for the third-straight year.
Will the third time be the lucky charm?
The Wolves will have to travel to Batavia first to play undefeated and Class 6A’s top-seeded Bulldogs for tomorrow’s 1 p.m. semifinal doozy.
Whether it’s the fact both Cary-Grove in 2009 and Boylan last year went on to win state after defeating PR in the semifinals, the Wolves are here again. Except this time, I’m sure they tired of seeing the other team win at their expense and want the Bulldogs to be in the seat they were in last year: losing to the eventual state champion.
This is the first team Prairie Ridge will see that can legitimately score at will, and if not better than the Wolves.
The Bulldogs also have a stout defense that can stop the run in the 4-3 scheme. Batavia went into the quarterfinal game at Lakes allowing 2.9 yards per carry and nine rushing plays of 14 yards or more.
Cole Gardner and Alec Lyons are two defensive ends that can raise havoc, as well as Austin Lewis. Lewis and Gardner dominated the Bulldogs’ quarterfinal win over Lakes and the offense did their usual high-scoring act. They’ll have their hands full with the Wolves’ offense.
For Batavia’s offense, the lowest point total for the Bulldogs came in a 31-17 win over Lake Forest in the second round of the playoffs. Previously, their low came in a 35-13 Week 4 win over one of our area teams, Bartlett.
After their 35-point effort, which was a setback from a 50-point output the week before, Batavia scored 42 points or more in the five games leading up to the first round of the playoffs.
Batavia went from primarily pass to a balanced attack midway through the season and rely on Noel Gaspari to air it out consistently.
As for PR, they’ll have to show that defense once again is the reason why they are so potent this season. We all know how PR can run the ball in Connor Greenwald and have versatility at quarterback every year — as in this year with Nick Nissen (1,206 yards passing, 13 TD, 4 INT) — but the key comes down to their defense.
Can they stop the Bulldogs high scoring act? After Prairie Ridge’s dominant play against Nazareth last week, who’s to say they can’t?
In the 3-3-5, they’ve held opponents to roughly under 187 total yards per game. So far in the playoffs, only one team has scored an offensive touchdown on the Wolves. The Roadrunners scored on a fumble return last week. Glenbard South was the only team to do so in the second round. Those are the only points the Wolves have given up since their overtime loss to Cary-Grove in Week 9.
Both teams can score so while there’s a potential for a epic shootout to unfold, someone’s defense has to come ready.
This could be the final week of football picks for the 2011 season. We’re down to one team. We started with 10 games a week with nearly 20 area teams and as the playoffs entered the fray, our teams each week dwindled down considerably. It was August when we began, now it’s Thanksgiving. What a season it has been.
As for PR — they were in this position last year. Let’s hope we can see them go the distance for a state championship pick next week.
The Five Cents Semifinal Picks
Last week: 1-2
Playoffs: 9-6 – Playoffs overall: 33-17
Season: 71-19 – Season & playoffs: 80-25
THE FIVE CENTS SEMIFINAL GAME OF THE WEEK
(2) Prairie Ridge (11-1) at (1) Batavia (12-0) – 1 p.m.