Coalers, Redskins learn first-round opponents
There was a possibility that Morris would be assigned to Class 4A in the football playoffs, which is where another local school, Coal City, was headed.
Saturday night, Morris officially learned that it will not share a class with the Coalers. The Redskins ended up as the second-smallest school in the 5A field when the IHSA announced first-round pairings. They do, however, have plenty in common with the Coalers. Both teams enter the playoffs at home with 8-1 records and as No. 2 seeds. The other local playoff-eligible team, 5-4 Seneca, fell short in opponents' wins of qualifying.
Coal City opens Friday night at 7 p.m. against Peotone, an Interstate Eight Conference Large Division rival it defeated 28-7 on Oct. 5. Morris is much less familiar with the team it will host Saturday at 1 p.m., Rich East of the Southland Conference, though there is at least one tie between the two programs.
"Their coach, Barry Reade, I actually coached with him at Plainfield South for one year, so I'm familiar with his system," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "Watching them on film, they're definitely athletic. They have some decent-sized kids, and they're tough."
Peotone brings a 5-4 overall record to Coal City Friday night. In spite of the disparity in records and what happened three weeks prior between the teams, Coal City coach Lenny Onsen says he is taking nothing for granted.
"We know each other pretty well, but then they know you very well, too," Onsen said. "We beat them 28-7 the first time, so they have that revenge factor in their neighborhood. We know we're going to have to play extremely well going in.
Morris will have to navigate through what Thorson calls "one of the toughest classes in the state" to make it to Champaign. With a win, it would play the winner of No. 3 Urbana and No. 6 East Peoria. A possible matchup with Normal University, which is 9-0 and a No. 1 seed, awaits in the third round.
"It's pretty much what we expected going in," Thorson said of the Redskins' seed. "With one loss, it's hard to get that one seed. Last year, with the quadrants, we did get that one seed, but we weren't expecting it. We did expect top three and that's where we are."
If the Coalers survive Peotone in the opening round and the winner of No. 3 Sandwich and No. 6 Geneseo in the second, they could face Rock Island Alleman in the third. Of the four No. 1 seeds in 4A, only Alleman and Chicago VOISE Academy were projected to wind up in the class as of Week 8. Macomb and Harrisburg, which are both on the other side of the 4A bracket, were projected to go 3A.
"You're always hoping to be a No. 1, but if you can't be that, a No. 2 is the next best thing," Onsen said. "What we were hoping to is that if we were going to be a No. 2, we wouldn't be in that same quadrant as the No. 1. ... But we are, and it is what it is."