LAST WEEK: The Panthers lost to East St. Louis 46-14 at home.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brian Ahle, sr., DL, Ronald Anthony, jr., WR/DB, Darryl Cobb Jr., sr., WR, Richard Cosey, jr., RB, Mason Hewitt, sr., RB, Deven Monahan, jr., LB, Deion Notfleet, sr., DB, Christian Perez, jr., QB, Zaine Roe, sr., LB, Burke Watts, jr., WR

O’FALLON NOTES: As Loyola head coach John Holecek said Monday, the No. 32-seeded Panthers shouldn’t be intimidated by any team. O’Fallon (5-4) plays in the Southwestern conference, which features East St. Louis (9-0)  and Edwardsville (8-1), two of the strongest programs outside of the Chicago area. O’Fallon finished fourth in league play at 4-3. Brandon Joggerst is making his sixth playoff appearance in 10 seasons as O’Fallon’s head coach, and the Panthers enter the postseason having won four of their last five games. “They’ve played some tough teams and have had some tough losses,” Holecek said. “They are a dangerous team with their size and speed. They have a lot of skill.” … Joggerst said the Panthers have been efficient on offense by mixing the run and pass well. Senior Mason Hewitt, a 6-foot, 195-pound running back, leads the team with more than 1,681 yards on the ground and has scored 11 rushing touchdowns. The Panthers average 6.3 yards per rush. Quarterback Christian Perez, a 6-3, 185-pound junior, has thrown for 1,531 yards and 17 touchdowns for an offense that averages 33.8 points a game. But he’s completed only 48 percent of his 200 passes and has thrown eight interceptions. Two of Perez’s favorite targets are Anthony (28 receptions, 494 yards, 4 TDs) and Cobb (22 receptions, 391 yards, 6 TDs). … Linebackers Deven Monahan, a junior, and Zaine Roe, a senior, headline the defense. Monahan is first on the team with 75 tackles, and Roe is second with 70. They each have four tackles for loss, and Monahan has two sacks. The 6-1, 225-pound Ahle is a disrupter on the line. He has 10 tackles for loss and two sacks. O’Fallon has 20 takeaways on the season. “We have improved in the last few weeks by being better positioned and tackling better,” said Joggerst, whose team has surrendered an average of 27.2 points a game.

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LOYOLA NOTES: Saturday signals the start of Loyola’s Class 8A title defense. The No. 1-seeded Ramblers (9-0) are looking to join select company by winning their second consecutive state championships without losing a game. There are 18 teams in state history which have accomplished the feat. Eight of them have gone at least three seasons without a loss. Pittsfield owns the record at seven. The Saukees did it from 1966-72. … At least one player doesn’t think the Ramblers will have trouble re-focusing themselves after beating Brother Rice 48-37 on Friday to capture the Catholic Blue championship. “It won’t be a problem,” Loyola senior center Paddy Kotowski said. “No matter who we will play, we give 100 percent. It’s about having a great week of practice and being leaders on and off the field.” … Loyola will be the most prolific offense O’Fallon has faced this season. The Ramblers average 44.2 points and 409.3 yards a game. They have only turned over the ball five times in 535 offensive snaps. Behind a standout offensive line, senior quarterback Tommy Herion has been solid all season long. He’s completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,524 yards and 15 TDs. He didn’t throw an interception in 192 passes during the regular season and didn’t turn over the ball once. He’s been helped out by a running game that includes senior Kyle Rock (103 carries, 636 yards, 12 TDs) and junior Hamid Bullie (88 carries, 610 yards, 7 TDs). Among Herion’s top targets include senior David Terrell Jr. (33 catches, 575 yards, 5 TDs) and senior Jake Marwede (29 catches, 408 yards, 5 TDs). Marwede has 15 total TDs on the season. “Loyola has an extremely balanced offense with the ability to run and throw the ball in any situation,” Joggerst said. … The defense — led by senior linebackers Mickey Kane, Graham Repp (pictured above) and Anthony Romano and senior defensive back Ian Swenson — has shown it can be a good one. Against Brother Rice’s high-powered offense, the Ramblers forced a four turnovers and now have 14 takeaways on the season. “They are very alignment sound and physical up front,” Joggerst said.

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola