1. Missing piece?
During the regular-season meeting between Washington and Dunlap — a 28-14 victory by the Eagles, Panthers linebacker Jacob Urban sustained an injury in the first quarter and did not return. Urban is considered the top pass coverage linebacker by head coach Darrell Crouch. He thinks he can make a difference if he stays healthy in the rematch. "I came out really hard in the beginning of the game and I was just ready to play," Urban said, "and watching that film, I really wish I would have finished that game because I think it would have been a lot different."
2. Stopping the run
Washington has found its offensive identity in running the football out of the wishbone formation. The Panthers line up RBs Josh Schellenberg and Sam Walter side-by-side behind fullback Brendan Durr. Washington is averaging 299.9 rushing yards per game this season and has rushed for 1,055 yards in three playoff games (351.7 per game). “We’ve definitely had to make some adjustments defensively, because we haven’t seen what they do," Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet said. "Nobody runs it around here, and they’re good at it, so that’s going to be a challenge."
3. Limiting explosive plays
Washington allowed five plays of 20 yards or more in the first meeting, three of those Luke Bennyhoff touchdown runs of 39, 50 and 61 yards. Another was a 38-yard pass to Isaac Guyton that got the Eagles inside the 5, leading to a 1-yard Bennyhoff touchdown run. "We had a play stopped up and it bounces," said Washington coach Darrell Crouch. "Most of the plays that we gave up touchdowns on were third-down plays, and third-and-long away from our goal line. I think our guys have to come, be focused and do their job."
4. Tough up North
The Dunlap-Washington winner will play for the Class 5A state championship at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb against Sterling or Chicago Phillips. Both are unbeaten behind stout defenses. The Golden Warriors have allowed 89 points this season (7.4 per game) and no more than 20 in a single game. Phillips has allowed 102 points (8.5 per game), the highest amount 28 points to 4A semifinalist Chicago Raby. Phillips beat Class 8A semifinalist Wilmette Loyola 20-14.
Aaron Ferguson can be reached at 686-3207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.