Prep Zone: Prairie Ridge, Harvard football teams peak at right time

OK, show of hands, who, a month ago, had Prairie Ridge as the last Fox Valley Conference football team standing?

Sorry Wolves’ fans, you don’t count.

OK, anyone else?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Prairie Ridge did not look like it would make the playoffs after six weeks of the regular season, yet here are the Wolves, the last of seven FVC playoff teams alive.

Harvard, the Big Northern Conference East Division champion and the other remaining area team, was undefeated in the regular season, so a quarterfinal appearance for the Hornets was more expected.

What Harvard and Prairie Ridge have in common is they both are playing their best at the most important time.

Prairie Ridge has won five consecutive must-win games – three just to reach the playoffs, two in the playoffs – with its solid defense and a highly productive option offense.

The Wolves’ offense struggled through six games but has been unstoppable at times since then. The past five games make the first six seem like some out-of-body experience.

Prairie Ridge missed the playoffs last season, so Saturday’s 21-20 comeback victory over Marmion was the Wolves’ seventh straight postseason win.

If the Wolves (7-4) can beat Boylan (11-0) on Saturday, it would mean the last four times in the playoffs they had made the semifinals.

Harvard finished its first unbeaten regular season since 1988, but has kicked it up a couple of notches in its two playoff games, a 40-22 win against St. Edward and a 56-16 shellacking of Chicago King.

The Hornets were no strangers to dramatic wins in the regular season, but they removed any tension in their playoff games with rock-solid defense and an offense that racks up yards and points with ease.

Harvard (11-0) meets Rockford Lutheran (10-1) in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday in Rockford. The Hornets are in the quarters for the first time since 2007.

“It’s special [to still be playing],” Harvard senior offensive tackle and defensive tackle Adam Freimund said. “A lot of excitement. We worked for it this whole offseason, everyone put in their time. No one person stood out. We all put the time in. We’re making the journey.”

• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at joestevenson@shawmedia.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.