State championship matchups
Saturday's championship games provide some monster matchups
Class 8A -- Maine South (13-0) vs. Marist (11-2) at 7 p.m. on Saturday
The story: Maine South is the favorite here. The Hawks are the defending state champs, have won 27 consecutive games and have a key weapon in Matt Perez, ESPNChicago.com's High School Football Player of the Year. They're coming off a 21-14 win over Loyola, one of the state's top defensive teams. Marist is the underdog and doesn't mind being so. In that role last week, the RedHawks upset Glenbard North with a last-second field goal to advance to their first state championship game since 1986. Mike Perish is one of the state's best quarterbacks and has been on a tear in the playoffs. He has thrown 35 touchdowns this season.
Maine South player to watch: Matt Perez suffered a thigh injury and was held to less than 100 yards in last week's win over Loyola. The Hawks will need more from him this week.
Marist player to watch: Wide receiver Dan Piko is Perish's favorite target. He had 10 catches and a touchdown in last week's win.
Class 7A -- Glenbard West (13-0) vs. Wheaton Warrenville South (12-1) at 4 p.m. on Saturday
The story: Glenbard West and Wheaton Warrenville South were the area's two best Class 7A teams all season. Glenbard West has a stellar defense, uses a variety of quality running backs and quarterback Tyler Warden can make plays. Wheaton Warrenville South's defense has come a long way since the Tigers' 27-9 loss to Maine South in Week 2. Tigers quarterback Reilly O'Toole has emerged as one of the state's top junior quarterbacks. He threw for 1,990 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Wheaton Warrenville South also has one of the state's top kickers in Nick Immekus.
Glenbard West player to watch: Adam Bruere leads the Hilltoppers with 913 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He averages 7.4 yards per run.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Mack Tracey does a little bit of everything for the Tigers. He returns kicks. He catches passes. He also punts. In one way or another, he could affect this game.
Class 6A -- Cary-Grove (13-0) vs. Providence (12-1) at 1 p.m. on Saturday
The story: This could be one of the more intriguing games of the day. Cary-Grove runs a wicked triple option with quarterback Tyler Krebs and running backs Alex Hembrey and Eric Chandler leading the way. The Trojans scored 584 points this season. Providence's strength is its defense. Defensive lineman Steve Laski and defensive back Pete Houlihan are among the best at their respective positions. The Celtics allowed 169 points this year.
Cary-Grove player to watch: It would be hard to pick between Alex Hembrey and Eric Chandler. They seem to take turns having big games. They've combined for 45 touchdowns this season.
Providence player to watch: The Celtics will need to score to beat Cary-Grove, and running back Tim Hanrahan will be a key to that. Hanrahan rushed for 1,733 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
Class 5A -- Joliet Catholic (11-2) vs. Montini (9-4) at 10 a.m. on Saturday
The story: Joliet Catholic has been the favorite to win Class 5A all season and will be shooting for a state-record 14th state championship. The Hilltoppers have outscored their playoff competition 184-33. They had four running backs gain 600-plus yards this season. Montini has been the biggest surprise of the playoffs. The Broncos lost four times during the regular season, but they have been a different team since the playoffs began. Quarterback Brandon Pechloff has been the key to that.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Josh Ferguson and Malin Jones are a dominant one-two punch at running back. They combined for 2,632 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns this season.
Montini player to watch: Brandon Pechloff has been one of the state's premier players during the playoffs. He has thrown for 3,005 yards and 41 touchdowns this season.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.