No. 2 Harvard (11-0) at No. 6 Rockford Lutheran (10-1)
1 p.m. Saturday (at Guilford H.S.)
McHenryCountySports.com's Lester Johnson breaks down the game:
Harvard scouting report
When Harvard has the ball: Harvard averages 32.7 points a game but has averaged 48 in its two lopsided playoff wins. Everything the Hornets did last week against Chicago King worked. They scored on three of their first four plays from scrimmage and led 35-0 a little more than six minutes into the game. A solid line and plenty of weapons give Harvard balance. RB Christian Kramer leads the team with 1,133 rushing yards and has 11 TDs. FB Jose Mejia (818, 13) provides some power, and QB Peyton Schneider does not run much. RB Ben Platt (391, 3) could get some carries. Schneider has thrown for 1,025 yards, 11 TDs and three picks. His favorite target is WR Justin Nolen (699, 5), who is a playmaker for the Hornets. TE Tate Miller (83,1) can make a play when needed and provides leadership. Harvard is not always fancy, but it is efficient and fundamentally sound.
Stopping Lutheran: The Hornets recovered King fumbles the first three times they took the field last week. Nolen, who also plays DB, had a 48-yard interception returned for a TD. The Hornets give up an average of 11.7 points a game. They have three shutouts and have allowed 20-plus points (21, 22) twice this season. Lutheran will be their first test of the playoffs, and the Crusaders have a balanced attack. The Hornets have to stop Crusaders RB James Robinson and QB Kendall Lawson, who have combined for a staggering 59 TDs. Getting pressure on Lawson and preventing big plays by Robinson will be key. Hard-nosed, physical play is a trademark of Harvard, and that is what they'll need against Lutheran.
Lutheran scouting report
When Lutheran has the ball: The Crusaders won big in Round 1 of the playoffs and just got past Rochelle, 27-22, last week. Lutheran has scored less than 29 points only twice this season with their lowest total, 22, coming in their only loss (Winnebago). They average 42.9 points a game. Sophomore RB James Robinson leads the team with video-game type numbers of 2,360 rushing yards and 41 TDs. He had 201 yards and two TDs last week. QB Kendall Lawson has thrown for 1,760 yards and 18 TDs, with eight picks. Lawson connected with SB Austin Sikora for a 62-yard TD in Round 2. TE Zach Zanello leads the team in receiving with 455 yards, and has two TDs. The Crusaders will rely on their speed and big-play ability.
Stopping Harvard: The Crusaders had a couple of big defensive stands last week against Rochelle to seal the win, and that should give them some confidence. The Crusaders will have a tough time with the Hornets' running game and have to figure out a way to slow them down. Stopping Kramer and Nolen will be key. They have to stop the run first because that is Harvard's bread and butter. The Crusaders allow an average of 20.3 points a game. Last week their defense was on the field for 30 more plays than Rochelle's defense, and that probably won't work two weeks in a row.
Lutheran is on a seven-game winning streak, and Harvard hasn't lost this season. This is the first quarterfinal appearance in Crusaders history. They have four common opponents. They both shut out Rockford Christian in blowouts. They both beat Genoa-Kingston by one or two points. Harvard beat Rock Falls, 46-16, and Lutheran beat them, 66-45. Lutheran beat Oregon, 48-14, and Harvard beat them, 20-14. This will be Harvard's size and strength against Lutheran's speed. The game will be played at Guilford, on artificial turf, which should help both offenses and their dynamic RBs.
Lester Johnson's pick: Harvard 34, Lutheran 31