Week 12 | Helfgot's 5 games to watch

Joliet Catholic at Montini

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Records: Montini 11-0, Joliet Catholic 10-1.

On the offensive

Mike Ivlow (234 carries, 2,359 yards) was effective even when Joliet Catholic's offensive line was ravaged by injury, and he's been unstoppable since J.B. Butler returned. Alex Wills (165-for-259, 2,329 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs) is having the type of season Montini is accustomed to from its quarterback.

Getting defensive

Joliet Catholic was repeatedly burned through the air in allowing a total of 110 points in playoff losses to Montini the last two seasons. The unit has improved considerably this season, though it would just as soon stay off the field. For that to happen, the Joliet Catholic's offensive line must neutralize Ohio State-bound end Dylan Thompson, Nile Sykes and Anthony Ferraro, who have a combined 58 tackles for loss.

The number: 22

Consecutive playoff victories for Montini, the four-time defending 5A champion. Joliet Catholic's longest streak is 21 from 1975-81.

The talk

All three playoff games in the last four years were highly entertaining Montini victories. The Broncos scored late and went for two to win the Class 5A title 29-28 in 2009, trailed in the third quarter of the 70-45 shootout in the 2011 final and scored on fourth down in the final minute to win 40-37 in a semifinal last fall.

Helfgot's pick: Montini 31-28. Broncos have the Hilltoppers' number until proven otherwise.

Maine South at Loyola

When: Noon Saturday.

Records: Maine South 9-2, Loyola 10-1.

On the offensive

While Maine South still spreads the field, it has struck a nice balance between the run and the pass this season while developing sophomore QB Brian Collis. Loyola takes a similarly balanced approach, though the mobility of QB Jack Penn gives the Ramblers a third dimension.

Getting defensive

Both teams are difficult to drive on but susceptible to big plays. Jack Gleason and the secondary will need to be on the spot against Maine South's physical group of receivers. Vinny Labus and Maine South's 'D' recorded three shutouts during the Hawks' nine-game winning streak.

The number: 34

Maine South has scored at least that many points in every game since its 0-2 start.

The talk

Maine South's last state championship followed an 0-2 start, was led by a sophomore quarterback and included a 29-22 victory over Loyola in a Class 8A semifinal in 2010. Maine South also ousted Loyola in '08 and '09.

Helfgot's pick: Loyola 23-21. Per request. Not Loyola's.

Lake Zurich at Wheaton North

When: 6 p.m. Saturday.

Records: Lake Zurich 10-1, Wheaton North 9-2.

On the offensive

Wheaton North QB Clayton Thorson threw for 413 yards and five TDs to overcome a 25-point deficit against Fenwick in the second round. A punishing running game is a Lake Zurich staple, but the Bears are capable of big plays through the air, especially with linebackers Colton Wagner and Colton Moskal seeing action at receiver.

Getting defensive

Lake Zurich, a 20-0 winner over Rockton Hononegah last week, allowed an average of six points in its last six playoff games. Wheaton North's 'D' made last week's comeback possible with a second-half shutout.

The number: 40

Touchdowns by Thorson this season. The Northwestern recruit has thrown for 28 along with 2,772 yards and seven INTs and rushed for 534 yards and 12 TDs.

The talk

Lake Zurich is one victory away from its fifth consecutive Class 7A semifinal appearance and seventh in eight years. Wheaton North hasn't reached the semifinals since 2002.

Helfgot's pick: Lake Zurich 21-14. Semifinal rematch with Glenbard West.

Lake Forest at Batavia

When: 1 p.m. Saturday.

Records: Lake Forest 9-2, Batavia 10-1.

On the offensive

Batavia is averaging a school-record 45.6 points behind Micah Coffey (1,836 yards passing, 23 TDs) and Anthony Scaccia (1,405 yards rushing, 27 TDs). Hub Cirame has been Lake Forest's workhorse, but QB Regis Durbin did more of the damage in the Scouts' 27-7 second-round victory over De La Salle.

Getting defensive

Both like to get after the quarterback. Colgate-bound LB Trent Williams of Lake Forest is among the area's top pass rushers. Noah Frazier (9.5 sacks) and Josh Leonard (9) are battling it out for Batavia's single-season record.

The number: 2

Difference in enrollment between Batavia, the largest Class 6A playoff team with 1,964 students, and Plainfield East (1,966) the smallest in 7A.

The talk

Statistically, Batavia has been as impressive as any Class 6A team in the state. If 8A Stevenson and 7A Lake Zurich are as good as they looked last week, Lake Forest could be a sleeper. Lake Forest hung tough in losses to both.

Helfgot's pick: Lake Forest 27-26. Out from under the radar.

Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central

When: 6 p.m. Saturday.

Records: Neuqua Valley 10-1, Naperville Central 8-3.

On the offensive

In addition to 1,200-yard receiver Mikey Dudek, Neuqua Valley could finish the season with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in T.J. Scruggs (943) and Nolan Dean (909). Jake Kolbe (1,815 yards passing) threw five TD passes in Naperville Central's 58-35 victory over Neuqua in Week 2.

Getting defensive

Jack Wooldridge had another big game last week to help Central upset Homewood-Flossmoor 24-21. Wooldridge and Bobby McMillen form a terrific linebacking tandem. Neuqua allowed a lot of points early in the season but has been solid the past several weeks.

The number: 2,184

The Illinois-bound Dudek's all-purpose yards this season – 1,264 receiving, 253 rushing and 667 on returns.

The talk

Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus implored his players not to get caught up in the local rivalry this week. "We have to separate ourselves from who we're playing. The hoopla of us playing Central is for everyone else. We've got to focus on winning a game."

The pick: Naperville Central 34-31. Win over H-F too impressive to ignore.