Week 9 mattered.
The IHSA announced Saturday the 256-team field, seeds and first-round pairings for the annual high school football postseason extravaganza.
What happened in Week 9 was remarkable from a Joliet area standpoint. Bolingbrook, coming off a 33-16 loss to Lockport in Week 8, shocked No. 1-ranked Homewood-Flossmoor, 22-21, Friday night to finish 5-4 and earn its way into the playoffs.
Then there’s Minooka. The Indians (5-4) beat playoff-bound Plainfield North, 16-14, a week after North knocked off Oswego, which again wound up the Southwest Prairie champion.
The thing is, if history had been an indicator, Minooka did not appear to have enough playoff points (opponent victories) to get in at 5-4. But this season is an entity unto itself. Minooka is in the 32-team Class 8A field as the No. 31 seed.
The Indians finished with 35 playoff points. All 5-4 teams with 35 points statewide are in except for Toledo Cumberland. That means Lockport’s victory over Joliet West on Friday not only knocked out the Tigers, it provided Minooka with the final playoff point it needed to qualify because the Porters were one of two nonconference foes on the Indians’ schedule.
In all, 10 schools that finished 5-4 did not make the field, a group that includes Dwight.
The other hot item from an area perspective was whether Lincoln-Way West would play in Class 6A or 5A. It winds up being the 16-team south bracket in 5A. The Warriors are the largest 5A qualifier, while Peoria Notre Dame is the smallest in 6A. That does not include Montini and Sacred Heart-Griffin, which were moved up to 6A because of the IHSA’s success adjustment. Had those two still been in 5A, Lincoln-Way West would have been in 6A.
All of that being said, the breakdown for this area has Plainfield South (5-4) as the 26th seed, Bolingbrook (5-4) 27th and Minooka (5-4) 31st in 8A. Lincoln-Way East (7-2) is No. 14 and Plainfield North (6-3) is No. 22 in 7A. The 8A and 7A classes are seeded 1 through 32.
In the other six classes, two 16-team geographic brackets are in place. Lemont (8-1) is No. 3 in the south bracket of 6A. In 5A, Joliet Catholic (8-1) is No. 3 in the north and Lincoln-Way West (7-2) is No. 7 in the south.
Coal City (5-4) is No. 15 in the north bracket of 4A, while Wilmington (9-0) is No. 1 in the north bracket of 3A.
First-round games will be played Friday night or Saturday. Dates and times will be announced no later than Monday.
Here is a closer look:
First-round games include No. 26 Plainfield South at No. 7 Barrington (8-1), No. 27 Bolingbrook at No. 6 Naperville Central (8-1) and No. 31 Minooka at No. 2 Huntley (9-0).
Barrington has averaged nearly 40 points a game but has held only one opponent below 18 points. So while South’s strong defense will be tested, the Cougars’ offense may be able to help the cause.
If South wins, the winner of the East Suburban Catholic bowl between Notre Dame and Marist would be the next opponent.
Bolingbrook will face an opponent in Naperville Central that believes in defense. No opponent has scored more than 15 points. Central’s signature win is a 34-14 triumph over otherwise unbeaten Batavia.
If Bolingbrook can ride the momentum of beating H-F and move on, the Curie-Gurnee Warren winner would be up in Round 2.
In Huntley, Minooka will face a foe that averages more than 41 points and beat Lincoln-Way Central, 28-12, in Week 1. The Oswego-Belleville East winner would be next for the Indians.
No. 22 Plainfield North (6-3) will visit No. 11 Maine South in the opening round as the Week 9 loss to Minooka hurts the Tigers’ cause. Maine South, always potent, lost only to Montini and Loyola in Weeks 1 and 2 and now has won seven straight. The survivor will face the Normal Community-Schaumburg winner in Week 2.
No. 14 Lincoln-Way East will entertain No. 18 Jacobs (7-2), whose losses were to Huntley and Cary-Grove. Libertyville is the likely second-round opponent for the winner.
In the south bracket, No. 14 Chatham Glenwood (5-4) will travel to No. 3 Lemont. Glenwood can score points but has one-sided losses to Rochester and Sacred Heart-Griffin on its ledger. The Crete-Monee-Rock Island winner would be next for Lemont.
No.14 Vernon Hills (6-3) is scheduled to visit No. 3 JCA in the north bracket. No. 7 Lincoln-Way West will entertain No. 10 Dunlap (6-3) in the south bracket.
Vernon Hills won its first five games, and its first four victims finished the season with a combined four victories. JCA would get ESCC adversary Marian Central or Belvidere in Round 2. Lincoln-Way West is looking at a trip south to Troy Triad or Mattoon, should the Warriors knock off Dunlap.
In the north bracket, No. 2 Marengo (9-0) will host No. 15 Coal City (5-4). Marengo averages more than 43 points, so the Coalers’ defense will be under fire. If Coal City survives, a match-up against Plano or Ridgewood would be next.
No. 1 Wilmington is home against No. 16 Peoria Heights (5-4) in the north bracket. On paper, this is one the Wildcats should get, with Byron or Lisle up next week. Ominous is Bishop McNamara looming as a potential quarterfinal foe.