High School: Carmel
Coming off last week’s final stand at Addison Trail, the Corsairs had more confidence in themselves to reverse their regular-season fortune and pull out the tight games.
But on Friday, facing a third-and-3 and trailing by five points, the defense could not stop the Crystal Lake South offense as the Gators marched into Mundelein and beat Carmel, 14-9.
Though the Gators pride themselves on not having any star players, newly converted running back Reese Dziedzic was a handful for Carmel between the tackles, pacing the Gators offense with 30 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown.
“Last game was my first starting two-back game,” the senior said. “I’ve been playing linebacker all year but I’m happy to help the team in any way.”
The key matchup coming into the game was Carmel’s high-powered triple option offense and Crystal Lake South’s impenetrable defense. Carmel had a hard time running up the middle and was not able to get its running game going until late in the fourth quarter when it was too late.
Crystal Lake South head coach Chuck Ahsmann said that his 3-5-3 defense was able to handle Carmel’s offense because of its experience with the triple option within its own conference.
“Fortunately, we see this offense twice in our conference with Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge,” Ahsmann said. “We went to this defense about five years ago to try to stop those two teams and if we matched up against [Carmel] in the playoffs.”
The Gators started off fast on offense with a 13-play, 69-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Dziedzic. That drive immediately made a statement to Carmel and all of the spectators.
“It set the tone,” Ahsmann said. “Maybe they took us a little too lightly. They’ve pounded us pretty good the past couple times we’ve played them in the playoffs. Coming in and doing that and being able to maintain it for the rest of the game was huge.”
The Corsairs were only able to put three points on the board in the first half as senior running back Jordan Kos (19 carries, 83 yards) was only able to gain 42 yards on 10 carries by the break.
Like the first half, the Gators scored on their first drive in the second half as quarterback Austin Fowler found senior tight end Dom Winiecki on a slant for a 79-yard score putting them up 14-3. That touchdown was also the first of Winiecki’s career.
The momentum seemed to shift slightly in the fourth quarter when the Corsairs were driving and running back Mike Panico (12 carries, 54 yards) seemed to go out of bounds after a couple-yard gain. The Gators defense didn’t realize that he never actually went out and Panico scrambled for a few more yards and a first down. Panico later punched it in from one yard out for Carmel’s only touchdown of the game. The two-point conversion was no good as Kos, Carmel’s all-time leading rusher, ran into a wall of white at the 1-yard line, preventing Carmel from pulling within three.
On the following possession for the Gators, Ahsmann faced a fourth-and- 1 at his own 22-yard line. Ahsmann, who claims to not be much of a gambling man, told his punter Brad Walovitch to run for the first down if he thought he could make it. And if he didn’t make it?
“They’ll score and they’ll win.” Ahsmann said to Walovitch.
Luckily for Ahsmann and the Gators, Walovitch made it. By a nose.
Player of the game: In only his second start this year at running back, Dziedzic was impressive. He used his 6-0, 210-pound frame to plow over defenders and also showed nice ability to cut back to find the open lane.
Stat of the game: Austin Fowler was 1-for-4 passing for 79 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His only completion was a 79-yard strike that gave the Gators a boost to start the second half that continued for the rest of the game.
It was over when: After Carmel used up all of their timeouts, Dziedzic ran for seven yards on a third-and-3 to essentially seal the deal for the Gators.
Quote of the night: “We moved Reese from linebacker to running back and it’s made a huge difference. He’s a hell of a football player. During the course of the season, we felt we needed him on defense. We thought that we needed to stop teams first and then score a couple of points and we’ll probably win the game. Now that we are in the playoffs, some other guys have come along. But Reese is a heck of a running back.” – Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann on senior Reese Dziedic’s transition to running back.
ADDISON, Ill. -- Carmel’s Brian Brennan couldn’t squash the feeling of panic in the final minutes of Friday’s Class 7A playoff game.
Carmel led 28-20 as time was running down, but Addison Trail had the ball and with each completion was getting closer and closer to the end zone. Brennan understood the Blazers had to score and convert a 2-point conversion to even tie the game, but when you’ve lost games like Carmel has this season anything seems possible.
This time, though, there wouldn’t be a magical catch in the final seconds by Joliet Catholic’s Ty Isaac or any overtime heroics by Marist quarterback Ian Woodworth to crush Carmel’s spirits and send it home with a one-point loss.
This time, Carmel would prevail.
Addison Trail quarterback Trevor Bermingham’s final pass attempt from Carmel’s 12-yard line was knocked down and time expired Friday, giving visiting Carmel a 28-20 win in the Class 7A first-round playoff game.
Carmel, the No. 11 seed, will play No. 3-seeded Crystal Lake South next week in the second round. Crystal Lake South defeated Streamwood 35-7 on Friday.
“It was pretty nerve-wrecking,” said Brennan, who plays quarterback and defensive back. “We’ve been in that situation and haven’t come out on top. We know what it feels like. We were all playing are best, making sure we would win and come out next week.”
One thought kept going through Carmel coach Andy Bitto’s head while he watched the final plays unfold.
“‘One time,” Bitto said. “Just one time.”
The little breathing room Carmel (7-3) did have in the end came thanks to its early play.
On the opening drive, the Corsairs advanced 80 yards on 11 running plays and scored on a 9-yard run by Jordan Kos to go ahead 7-0. Two drives later, they went 98 yards, and Brennan snuck in from the 1-yard line to give Carmel a 14-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first half.
“That’s nice,” Bitto said. “It’s hard to chase in the playoffs.”
<p.It was a situation Addison Trail (8-2) wasn’t familiar with either. The Blazers had allowed 48 total points all season and never had given up more than 14 points to an opponent.
Despite that, they chased and nearly caught up.
Addison Trail cut its deficit to 14-8 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Anthony Messina and a 2-point conversion pass from Vince Beltrano to Mike Imperiale late in the second quarter. And when Carmel went up again 21-8 in the third quarter with a 14-yard touchdown run by Michael Panico, Addison Trail responded with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Bermingham to Nick Wisniewski.
Carmel built its lead to 28-14 with another 1-yard run by Brennan, and the Blazers answered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bermingham to Greg Schultz.
On Addison Trail’s final drive, it moved the ball 75 yards on five completions in 1:11. Addison Trail coach Paul Parpet Jr. wished he just had another 30 seconds.
“The way I feel about is we ran out o time,” Parpet Jr. said. “We didn’t do some things well in the first half that cost us toward the end of the game.”
Kos, the school’s all-time leading rusher, ran for 168 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries. Brennan had 82 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Panico rushed for 49 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
Bermingham was 20-of-37 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Kos was accustomed to a simpler approach as a running back throughout grade school. He was used to receiving the handoff, finding the hole and taking off.
“In our veer offense, you have to hit a mark first,” Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. “You get the ball, find your mark and then make moves.”
Kos has learned the triple option piece by piece over the past four years. Now as a senior, he’s nearly mastered it and is on the verge of becoming Carmel’s all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns.
Kos, who is the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, is 78 yards and five touchdowns shy of breaking Jimmy Potempa’s school records of 3,543 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns.
“I think it’s something cool to tell my kids someday that I one time had the Carmel all-time rushing record,” Kos said. “But I just want the team to do well this season. That state championship is the obvious goal. Whatever happens, happens. It’s a team sport. We do it for the person next to us. That’s what we always say.”
As much as Kos tries to stare the spotlight away from himself and onto his teammates, his performances have been hard to ignore this season. He has rushed for 1,179 yards and 15 touchdown through eight games. In just the past two weeks, he’s had 501 yards and seven touchdowns.
It all goes back to him hitting his mark, according to Bitto.
“He’s a creative runner,” Bitto said. “I’m a discipline guy. We sometimes butt heads. He sometimes gets ahead of himself. He’s having his best year because he finds his mark and then gets creative. In terms of running, he’s been out of his mind the last two weeks.”
Bitto is so confident in his triple-option offense that he says a running back can gain 3-4 yards by hitting his mark and falling forward. Where all those other yards come from is up to the ball carrier.
When the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Kos hits his mark, he utilizes his speed, strength and creativity to move him ahead. In last week’s game against Marist, he broke touchdown runs of 62 and 71 yards by using those tools.
“He has the potential to get 1 yard on fourth down if you need it or sprint 70 yards for a touchdown,” Bitto said. “He has an inside-outside running ability in our option. He’s a good receiver, good faker, good blocker. He’s really worked on his blocking. He’s tried to become a complete back.”
Kos’ growth was especially evident in a win over Notre Dame earlier this season. While Kos had one of his quieter days with 101 yards and no touchdowns, he helped set up three touchdowns with blocks.
“I think that’s the happiest I’ve been in a game,” Kos said. “Brian [Brennan] and Mike [Panico] each scored touchdowns as a result of me hitting my block. It just felt good. Those guys thanked me and gave me a hug on the sideline. It’s a change of pace. Something to do for someone else. It’s a lot better feeling than scoring on your own as a the result of everyone else’s blocking.”
Kos now hopes college coaches are aware of his development as a complete back. He’s heard from a number of FCS and Division II schools, but there’s still a possibility some FBS program could come knocking.
“I’m not focusing on that right now,” Kos said. “Most likely I’ll have some stuff on the table after the season. I’m definitely confident in my ability. I’m looking to play somewhere I can start for two or three years. I’m definitely being realistic about it.”
Batavia coach Dennis Piron: We have traditionally run a pro I attack, but this year run more I out of the shotgun. We also mix in one-back misdirection with spread concepts.
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No. 1 Maine South (4-0) at New Trier (3-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Maine South hasn’t lost in the Central Suburban South since 2000. New Trier has proven it’s a good team this season with three consecutive wins since losing its season opener to Schaumburg, but the question is if it’s a good enough team to dethrone Maine South. The Hawks haven’t allowed more than 12 points in a game this season and have scored 40 or more points in three of their wins. It’ll take a special game for the Trevians to defeat Maine South.
Maine South player to watch: Pat Barrett, a two-year starter, is one of the team’s quiet leaders and hardest workers.
New Trier player to watch: Quarterback Jack Nykaza has the Trevians’ offense running smoothly. Maine South’s defense will be another challenge for him.
Quote: Maine South coach David Inserra – “I like how we are progressing, but we still need more consistency from the receiving core. The O-line, with five juniors getting significant time, is doing very well. Paul Preston is as explosive as advertised, and Matt Alviti can only get better with the wide receivers improving. Defense is solid and will have a good match this week with New Trier. Specials are improving after a poor showing early.”
Prediction: Maine South 31, New Trier 14
No. 2 Glenbard West (4-0) at Oak Park (2-2)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West has to be considered right with Maine South as the area’s best team. The Hilltoppers have dominated on both sides of the ball and their defense has been remarkable. They’ve allowed an average of six points a game this season. That isn’t likely to change this week. Oak Park has been an up-and-down team under first-year coach John Hoerster. After two consecutive wins, the Huskies lost 35-7 to York last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Kicker/punter Dan Cavazos has been the Hilltoppers’ unsung hero. All of his kickoffs this season have been touchbacks. His punt hang time hasn’t allowed a return yard. He has not missed an extra point or field goal.
Oak Park player to watch: Jakari Cammon rushed for 178 yards on 25 carries in last week’s game against York.
Quote: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet - “We’re shaping up to be a solid team, great group of young men to coach.”
Prediction: Glenbard West 35, Oak Park 7
Sandburg (4-0) at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East took care of its first conference obstacle last week with a 38-21 win over Homewood-Flossmoor. Now comes the Griffins’ second test with undefeated Sandburg. The Eagles have gotten by all of their opponents, but just barely. They’ve won three of their games by seven points or less. Their defense will have to step up to contain Lincoln-Way East.
Sandburg player to watch: Anthony Adams completed 10-of-14 passes, including the game-winner with 1:52 left, to defeat Lincoln-Way Central last week.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Griffins fullback Nick Colangelo rushed for 102 yards and one touchdown on nine carries in the second half last week.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 45, Sandburg 20
Brother Rice (3-1) at No. 4 Mount Carmel (4-0)
When:Friday at 7 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: A week after Brother Rice and St. Rita hooked up on the South Side, it’s now time for Brother Rice and Mount Carmel to do the same. The Caravan have been running away with their wins for most of the season. This should be a good test for them. Brother Rice stuck right with St. Rita before losing last week. Brother Rice has proven it’s a quality team, but it still needs to knock off one of the conference’s powers to be move up the ladder. Both these teams will want to keep the ball on ground.
Brother Rice player to watch: Running back Martez Walker was limited last week. He’ll look to make up for it against Mount Carmel.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Defensive lineman Vontrell Williams committed to Illinois last week.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Brother Rice 27
No. 5 Joliet Catholic (4-0) at Benet (0-4)
When:Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Joliet Catholic is one of seven teams in the state to score 200 or more points this season. The Hilltoppers are averaging 50 points a game. Benet hasn’t won a game, but its defense has been sharp. It hasn’t allowed more than 27 points. The problem is the offense hasn’t scored more than 14 points.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Running back Ty Isaac was one of five players to make ESPNU’s Class of 2013 watch list.
Benet player to watch: Jack Euritt had four receptions and a touchdown against Marist last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 42, Benet 7
Gordon Tech (3-1) at No. 6 Loyola (4-0)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Loyola crosses over into the Catholic League Red to host Gordon Tech this week. The Rams are coming off a 45-44 win over Hales. Loyola’s offense will be even more of a challenge for them. The Ramblers have been averaging a little over 40 points a game.
Gordon Tech player to watch: Quarterback Julian Russell threw for four touchdowns and rushed for two in last week’s win.
Loyola player to watch: Loyola’s unsung hero has been long snapper Dan Rafferty. He’s been accurate all season.
Prediction: Loyola 49, Gordon Tech 14
Providence (3-1) at No. 7 St. Rita (3-1)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: St. Rita pulled out a narrow win over Brother Rice last week and will have another challenging game this week. The Mustangs’ defense has been their strength all season. Providence struggled in last week’s 32-6 loss against Loyola. The Celtics have a chance to redeem themselves against another top-10 team this week, but their offensive will have to be more consistent.
Providence player to watch: Running back Andy Hoffmeister scored Providence’s lone touchdown in last week’s loss to Loyola.
St. Rita player to watch: Charles Elmore was last week’s MVP on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: St. Rita 28, Providence 14
No. 8 Carmel(3-1) at Wayzata, MN (3-0)
When: Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Dubuque
The story: Carmel’s lone non-conference game this season is against Wayzata, a Minnesota team. Carmel has won three straight since losing to Joliet Catholic. Its running game has been among the best in the area, but its defense has been good, too. The Corsairs’ last three opponents scored a total of 30 points. Wayzata is undefeated on the season and has been in control of every game. No opponent has scored more than 21 points against them.
Carmel player to watch: Running back Mike Panico has been picking up big yards every time he touches the ball.
Wayzata player to watch: Eric Roti has rushed for a team-best five touchdowns this season.
Prediction: Carmel 35, Wayzata 31
Downers Grove North (1-3) at No. 9 Downers Grove South (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Downers Grove South’s offense and its star running back Josh Williams have been getting a lot of the headlines, but the Mustangs’ defense has been stellar, too. They’ve allowed seven points all season and have out-scored their opponents 161-7. Despite their records, this still has a chance to be a good one. Downers Grove South squeaked out a 17-14 win over North last year. Despite having three losses, the Trojans have been in every game this season.
Downers Grove North player to watch: Quarterback Riley McGinnis has been airing it out for the Trojans.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Senior linebacker Korey Higgins is one of the players making a difference on defense.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 41, Downers Grove North 27
West Aurora (2-2) at No. 11 Glenbard North (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard North has plenty of tough games coming up, but it’s the team to beat in the DuPage Valley for now. The Rams have outscored their opponents 179-20 through four games. West Aurora has lost its last two contests. The Blackhawks scored a total of 20 points in their losses.
West Aurora player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Quintez Jones looks better each week.
Glenbard North player to watch: Justin Jackson has given Glenbard North a quality backup running back.
Prediction: Glenbard North 31, West Aurora 7
Crystal Lake Central (3-1) at No. 11 Prairie Ridge (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge has been as impressive as anyone in the state. It’s out-scored its opponents 195-14. This week begins the tougher part of the Wolves’ schedule. Crystal Lake Central marks the first winning team they’ve faced this season. Their previous opponents have a combined record of 1-15. Crystal Lake Central has a chance to prove itself in this game. The Tigers haven’t allowed more than nine points to an opponent, and their only loss was a 9-0 one to Crystal Lake South.
Crystal Lake Central player to watch: Running back Gage Harrah is a threat whenever he touches the ball.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Running back Jordan Getzelman can run with the ball or catch it out of the backfield.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 24, Crystal Lake Central 14
No. 12 Lake Zurich (3-1) at Mundelein (0-4)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lake Zurich should be able to cruise for one more week before the Bears’ schedule becomes difficult. They’ve won their last two games by a combined score of 61-14 after losing to Cary-Grove. Mundelein has scored just seven points over the last three weeks.
Lake Zurich player to watch: John Orlando had a 54-yard touchdown reception in last week’s win.
Mundelein player to watch: Drew Malcolm caught a touchdown pass against Libertyville last week.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 35, Mundelein 7
No. 13 Bolingbrook (4-0) at No. 14 Homewood-Flossmoor (3-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This has the makings of the game of the week. Bolingbrook is undefeated, but it still needs to prove itself in the conference. Homewood-Flossmoor wants to rebound from last week’s tough loss to Lincoln-Way East, and there would be no better way of doing that than beating Bolingbrook. Both teams’ numbers are similar. Bolingbrook has outscored its opponents 188-47. Homewood-Flossmoor has outscored its opponents 186-51.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Aaron Bailey has been as good as any quarterback in the area. This will be another chance to prove himself.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Sheldon Jones does a little bit of everything for the Vikings’ offense. He had two touchdowns last week.
Prediction: Homewood-Flossmoor 35, Bolingbrook 28
No. 15 Geneva (4-0) at St. Charles North (0-4)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva can’t overlook St. Charles North, but it can start peaking at next week’s game against Batavia. Both teams face winless teams this week and should be undefeated going into next week. St. Charles North was defeated soundly by Neuqua Valley and Streamwood, two quality teams, the past two weeks.
Geneva player to watch: Offensive lineman Bobby Byker has worked his way up the depth chart the last few seasons.
St. Charles North player to watch: Kicker Michael Schroeder has accounted for all of the team’s 12 points on field goals the last two games.
Quote: Geneva coach Rob Wicinski – “There are always parts of the game to improve on ... but, we have few complaints here at Geneva and the team seems to be making normal progress as past Viking teams have done.”
Prediction: Geneva 35, St. Charles North 10
No. 16 Crete-Monee (4-0) at Kankakee (0-4)
When: Friday at 6 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee has put itself in the driver’s seat in the Southland Conference. The Warriors have been playing at a different level than everybody else. They defeated Glenbard South 63-14 last week. Kankakee has had a rough season so far, losing all four games by 16 or more points.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Wide receiver Lance Lenior has been the Warriors’ unsung hero. He has a team-high 25 receptions and is the team’s punt returner.
Kankakee player to watch: Chris Jackson can make an impact on the offensive and defensive line.
Quote: Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde – “We are pleased with where we are after four weeks, but we still need to improve each week leading up to week 10.”
Prediction: Crete-Monee 49, Kankakee 7
No. 17 Crystal Lake South (4-0) at McHenry (2-2)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Crystal Lake South’s defense has continued to lead the way. The Gators allowed a season-high 12 points in a win over Huntley last week. They should be able to contain McHenry before next week’s test against Prairie Ridge. McHenry already has more wins than it did last season. The Warriors haven’t been blowout this season and will look to continue to play solid football against Crystal Lake South.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Defensive end Josh Beveridge leads the Gators in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss.
McHenry player to watch: Quarterback Robert Tonyan has put up some impressive numbers this season.
Quote: Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann – “We are very happy with where we are at. We had a tough schedule to start our season. We feel our toughest games are yet to come, so we will need to continue to prepare well.”
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 34, Huntley 14
No. 18 Cary-Grove (3-1) at Jacobs (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: This is another game that will help decide the Fox Valley. Jacobs is undefeated at home, but it will still be the underdog against Cary-Grove. Jacobs has won all its games this season by 15 points or more. Cary-Grove bounced back from its narrow loss to Crystal Lake South with a win last week over Hampshire. The Trojans’ defense should be tested in this one.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Quinn Baker rushed for four touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, in last week’s win.
Jacobs player to watch: Quarterback Jason Judson threw two touchdowns and ran for one in last week’s win.
Prediction: Cary-Grove 21, Jacobs 17
Tinley Park (4-0) at No. 19 Lemont (4-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Lemont’s defense is tied for first in the state in points allowed. The Indians have given up just six points this year. They have shut out three opponents and allowed six points against Richards. Tinley Park’s game is its offense. The Titans have scored 40 points in all their games and gone over 50 twice. One of these trends will have to change this week.
Tinley Park player to watch: Running back Preston Thompson has been helping the Titans put up a lot of points this season.
Lemont player to watch: Defensive lineman John Tomala has been one of the bright spots on the defensive line.
Quote: Lemont coach Erich Michaelsen – “We are a work in progress. We have many areas to improve on.”
St. Charles East (0-4) at Batavia (4-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Batavia has been one of the season’s bigger surprises. The Bulldogs have been overwhelming on both sides of the ball, including in quality wins over Bartlett and Marmion. They haven’t allowed a first-half touchdown this year. St. Charles East has faced some good teams, but just hasn’t been able to stop them offensively for a whole game.
St. Charles East player to watch: Carter Reading rushed for 178 yards last week.
Batavia players to watch: Defensive tackles Mackenzie Brown and Austin Lewis have been providing pressure all season.
Quote: Batavia coach Dennis Piron – “I’m very pleased with how the team has come together and the relationships developing between the classes and the players. We had a great offseason and feel that has spilled over into our year. The challenge now is to improve as much in season.”
Prediction: Batavia 31, St. Charles East 13
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Here's a look at Week 4 football action in ESPNChicago.com's top 20.
Niles North (1-2) at No. 1 Maine South (3-0)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Maine South is shooting for its third unbeaten season in the last four years, and Niles North is the next step in that ladder. Maine South’s offense returned to form in last week’s 48-7 win over Deerfield after struggling the previous week against Wheaton Warrenville South. Look for the Hawks to have a similar night against Niles North, which is coming off a 33-25 loss to Waukegan.
Niles North player to watch: Linebacker Romeo Montiel caused the safety that gave Niles North a 2-0 win over Niles West two weeks ago.
Maine South player to watch: Offensive and defensive lineman Pat Barrett has been making big plays on both sides of the ball.
Quote:Maine South coach David Inserra -- “The kids are willing to put in the time and energy to improve. Our main goal is to focus on us as a team and individuals and learn to push ourselves to the limit. When we learn to do this, the team will soar.”
Prediction:Maine South 49, Niles North 10
Hinsdale Central (2-1) at No. 2 Glenbard West (3-0)
When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West’s defense has been as good as advertised in the preseason. The Hilltoppers have allowed 10 points over their first three games, and the lone touchdown given up was without Penn State recruit Tommy Schutt on the field. Hinsdale Central opened the season with two consecutive wins, but struggled in last week’s 30-22 loss to Proviso West. Hinsdale Central allowed Proviso West to score 23 consecutive points in the second half. As a side note, Glenbard West assistant coach Mike DiMatteo was Hinsdale Central’s head coach for the past five years.
Hinsdale Central player to watch: Nick Sellinger can break a punt return at any given time.
Glenbard West player to watch: Kicker Dan Cavasos has been nearly perfect in all areas this season. He’s put all but one kickoff in the end zone for a touchback, made 15-of-15 extra points and connected on his only field goal opportunity, a 38-yarder.
Quote:Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet – “I feel like what I know about my team is they don’t get rattled, and we play extremely fast on both sides of the ball.”
Prediction: Glenbard West 41, Hinsdale Central 10
No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (3-0) at No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor (3-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This should be the game of the week. Both teams have been extremely dominant on both sides of the ball through three games and came into the season highly ranked. Lincoln-Way East has out-scored its opponents 132-35. Homewood-Flossmoor has beat up its opponents by even more, out-scoring them 165-13. A year ago, this game decided the Southwest Suburban Blue with Lincoln-Way East winning 31-21 at home. The Griffins went undefeated in conference, and it would be Homewood-Flossmoor’s only loss.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: The quarterbacks should be fun to watch in this one. With a few more inches, Lincoln-Way East quarterback Blake Winkler would be a major college recruit.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Vikings quarterback Tim Williams has been as good as any quarterback around this season. Colleges are interested in him, but basketball still may be his best sport.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 42, Homewood-Flossmoor 41
No. 4 Mount Carmel (3-0) at St. Joseph (0-3)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti is likely going to break the state’s career wins record on Saturday. He tied former Richards coach Gary Korhonen with his 306th victory last week. Lenti has compiled a 306-54 record with nine state championships in his 28 seasons. St. Joseph has lost 19 consecutive games.
St. Joseph player to watch: Dominique Richards had a 35-yard touchdown catch against Lake Forest Academy.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Junior quarterback Don Butkus has quickly picked up the Caravan’s offense.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 45, St. Joseph 7
St. Viator (0-3) at No. 5 Joliet Catholic (3-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: No one has been able to contain Joliet Catholic’s running game of senior Malin Jones and Ty Isaac. The duo combined for 515 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in last week’s win over Peoria Richwoods. St. Viator’s defense will have to step up from previous weeks to have a chance. The Lions have allowed 149 points this season.
St. Viator player to watch: Junior quarterback Mickey Macius will look to bounce back from last week’s rocky performance.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Tyler Reitz is lesser known Joliet Catholic running back. He rushed for two touchdowns last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, St. Viator 13
No. 6 Loyola (3-0) at Providence (3-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This is the first of two potentially great games in the Catholic League Blue on Friday. Loyola has proven it is again among the top teams in the state. Providence is looking to prove that again. After last week’s struggle, Providence has started the season off strong with wins over Morgan Park, Minooka and St. Laurence. The Celtics’ defensive will be tested against Loyola. The Ramblers have scored 40 or more points in all three games this year.
Loyola player to watch: Running back Willie Palivos helps keep opposing defenses on their toes. They can’t just focus on Loyola’s passing game.
Providence player to watch: Offensive lineman Ryan Ward is one of the best in country. He’s committed to Iowa.
Quote:Loyola coach John Holecek – “I believe we are a good football team, but the most challenging competition is coming up in the CCL Blue.”
Prediction: Loyola 31, Providence 17
No. 7 St. Rita (3-0) at No. 19 Brother Rice (3-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Like Providence, Brother Rice has a lot to prove this week. The Crusaders have looked like one of the area’s top teams, and they can verify that with a win against St. Rita. Brother Rice’s strength is its running game. Running backs Andre Walker and Martez Walker have big-play ability. Of course, St. Rita likes to keep it on the ground, too. Guerby Minister has been getting the bulk of St. Rita’s carries. He scored twice in last week’s win over Fenwick.
St. Rita player to watch: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay has emerged as an offensive weapons for the Mustangs.
Brother Rice player to watch: Quarterback Scott Thomas completed 9-of-11 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns last week.
Quote:St. Rita coach Todd Kuska – “We need to continue to work on our ball security on the offensive side.”
Prediction: St. Rita 28, Brother Rice 24
Marian Catholic (2-1) at No. 8 Carmel(2-1)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: This has a chance to be another hard-fought East Suburban Catholic matchup. Carmel struggled with Notre Dame until late last week. The Corsairs’ offense will look to get going earlier on Friday. Marian Catholic had quality wins over St. Viator and Benet the first two weeks, but lost 35-19 to Nazareth last week. Its defense will have to be better against Carmel and its running attack. Carmel won last year’s meeting 24-0.
Marian Catholic player to watch: Jeruel Taylor is one of the area’s top running backs. He had 197 rushing yards two weeks ago.
Carmel players to watch: Offensive linemen Shane Toub and Michael Dyer have been creating massive holes for the Corsairs’ running game.
Quote:Carmel coach Andy Bitto – “I really think our defense and specials team are playing really well. We need to become more consistent with our overall offense and especially our passing game.”
Prediction: Carmel 37, Marian Catholic 20
No. 10 Downers Grove South (3-0) at Leyden (0-3)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Downers Grove South running back Josh Williams has been one of the year’s biggest playmakers. He’s been terrorizing defenses all season. He accounted for six touchdowns in just last week’s win. Williams could have another monstrous night this week. Leyden is 0-3 and has allowed 25-plus points a game.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Kicker Anthony Farinella has been converting all of the extra points on Williams’ touchdown. Farinella made eight of them last week.
Leyden player to watch: Adam Morrison picked off two interceptions in last week’s game.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 45, Leyden 7
No. 11 Glenbard North (3-0) at Glenbard East (1-2)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard North hasn’t been tested yet and probably won’t be again this week. The Panthers have out-scored their last two opponents 90-0. Glenbard East is coming off a 48-7 loss to Naperville Central.
Glenbard North player to watch: Junior quarterback Brian Murphy has improved each week. The Panthers’ offense has scored 40 or more points each week.
Glenbard East player to watch: Junior running back Javonte Burnett can break long runs if given some room.
Quote:Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens – “Offensively, our team needs to improve its ability to block up front as well as to develop our pass game. In the future, our team will face adversity and how we respond is essential to success.”
Prediction: Glenbard North 42, Glenbard East 7
No. 12 Wheaton Warrenville South (1-2) at Naperville North (1-2)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: It’s still early in the season, but this could be an important game for both these teams. Neither one of them want to suffer their third loss in four games. Wheaton Warrenville South got back on track with a 20-6 win over West Aurora last week. The Tigers’ defense has been the team’s strength this season. Like Wheaton Warrenville South, Naperville North’s offense has struggled this season. The Huskies have scored 27 points over the last two weeks. They lost to Wheaton North last week.
Wheaton Warrenville South players to watch: Linebackers Adam Dansdill, Dan Roadmen and Brandon Peterson have been coming up big this season.
Naperville North player to watch: Running back Danny Puknaitis has scored a touchdown in all three games this season.
Quote:Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – “The clock might be the most important factor in the game as both teams try to establish their running games.”
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 17, Naperville North 10
No. 13 Montini (2-1) at Marian Central (3-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Montini’s schedule continues to be a rough one. After battling Marmion and pulling out a 13-7 win last week, the Broncos travel to undefeated Marian Central this week. The Broncos’ offense will be looking to improve on last week’s performance. Marian Central has won two of its three games by six points or less. Its defense allowed 41 points to Oswego in Week 1, but has held opponents to under 10 points the last two weeks.
Montini player to watch: Linebacker Franklin Bruscianelli had 17 tackles in last week’s win.
Marian Central player to watch: Quarterback Chris Streveler can get his offense going. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for two against Oswego in Week 1.
Quote:Montini coach Chris Andriano – “We need to be consistent on offense. Turnovers and missed assignments are a big problem.”
Prediction: Montini 34, Marian Central 20
Dundee-Crown (0-3) at No. 14 Prairie Ridge (3-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge’s schedule is loaded toward the back of it, but it still doesn’t take away from that fact the Wolves have been impressive offensively and defensively so far. They’ve out-scored their opponents 140-14 this season. Their schedule will pick beginning next week with Crystal Lake Central. Dundee-Crown is 0-3, but has been competitive in all three games.
Dundee-Crown player to watch: Sophomore running back Cody Lane has the makings of a quality player. He’s scored the past two weeks.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Jordan Getzelman scored on touchdown catches of 9, 17 and 68 yards last week. He also had 54-yard touchdown run.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 49, Dundee-Crown 7
Lakes (3-0) at No. 15 Lake Zurich (2-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lake Zurich didn’t have the start against Warren it desired last week after losing to Cary-Grove the previous week. But after trailing 14-3 following one quarter, the Bears responded and pulled out a 33-14 win. It’s the sort of win that could build some momentum for Lake Zurich. Its defense has been stellar, and the offense should be better now with the return Zach Till at quarterback. Lakes is off to a strong start with three consecutive wins. Its defense hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game this season.
Lakes player to watch: Running back Direll Clark has scored six touchdowns this season. He had three last week.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Kicker Mike Leiva made field goals of 27, 30, 39 and 40 yards in last week’s win over Warren.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 27, Lakes 13
Joliet West (0-3) at No. 16 Bolingbrook (3-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: While a lot of attention has gone to Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln-Way East in the Southwest Suburban Blue, Bolingbrook has been just as terrific. The Raiders have out-scored their opponents 139-35 this season. Quarterback Aaron Bailey has matured as a junior, and the defense is led by Florida recruit Antonio Morrison. Joliet West’s offense finally got going in Week 3 and scored 28 points in a narrow loss to Sandburg.
Joliet West player to watch: SaVaughn Alexander rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown in last week’s game against Sandburg.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Linebacker Antonio Morrison, a Florida recruit, has been living up to the hype.
Quote:Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow – “We are hungry for win, and they are working hard in practice and executing on both sides of the ball.”
Prediction: Bolingbrook 45, Joliet West 13
Elgin (1-2) at No. 17 Geneva (3-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva’s wins have come easy, but they still all count the same. Last week, the Vikings trailed at halftime before rallying to a 35-17 win over St. Charles East. Geneva will be looking for less drama against Elgin. Elgin has lost the past two weeks to Bartlett and Streamwood and allowed 70 points in those two games. Geneva has been averaging 30-plus points a game.
Elgin player to watch: Running back Dennis Moore can burn defenses with his ability.
Geneva player to watch: Bobby Byker has been one of the surprises for Geneva this season. He’s stepped up on the offensive line.
Quote:Geneva coach Rob Wicinski – “I feel that they really do not panic … a little laid back. With saying that, I feel like I almost know them less since Week 1?”
Prediction: Geneva 38, Elgin 10
Glenbard South (1-2) at Crete-Monee (3-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee has been dominant on both sides of the ball this season. Quarterback Marcus Terrell has been lighting defenses up, and Michigan recruit Anthony Standifer and company have been shutting opposing offenses down. Wide receiver/defensive end LaQuan Treadwell has been assisting on both sides. Glenbard South will have its hands full with the Warriors. Glenbard South lost 23-19 to Rich East last week.
Glenbard South player to watch: Wes Sanders has been a threat to score rushing or receiving the ball.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Quarterback Marcus Terrell has thrown for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through three games.
Quote:Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde – “This team's focus is different from my teams the prior four years. They expect victory and put in the work needed to be prepared and conditioned.”
Prediction: Crete-Monee 49, Glenbard South 10
Huntley (0-3) at No. 20 Crystal Lake South (3-0)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Crystal Lake South still has to be feeling pretty good after pulling out a 10-7 road win over rival Cary-Grove last week. The Gators have set themselves up to be 5-0 headed into their Sept. 30 matchup with Prairie Ridge if they can take care of business against Huntley and McHenry. Crystal Lake South’s defense has been leading the way. It has allowed 13 points all season. Huntley has struggled so far this season. It lost 43-2 to Prairie Ridge last week.
Huntley player to watch: Crystal Lake South will try to contain quarterback Jake Brock. He can run and pass the ball.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Defensive lineman Josh Beveridge has 11.5 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season.
Quote:Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann -- ”We still need to work on offense and special teams. In order to win championships, you need to have good balance.”
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 31, Huntley 7
No. 1 Maine South (2-0) at Deerfield (0-2)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Last week's narrow win over Wheaton Warrenville South wasn't pretty, but Maine South escaped and continued to be the top team in the area. The Hawks should have an easier time this week against Deerfield. The Warriors fell to Homewood-Flossmoor 47-0 in Week 2. Maine South also has an explosive offense and will be looking to get back on track after scoring 13 points last week. Deerfield has suffered a handful of early injuries.
Maine South player to watch: Tyler Fahey, an all-area selection last season, has continued to be one of the top linebackers in the state. He made an impressive one-handed interception last week.
Deerfield player to watch: Running back Marc Pagano has scored two touchdowns on the season.
Prediction: Maine South 42, Deerfield 7
No. 2 Glenbard West (2-0) at Lyons (1-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lyons pulled off one of last season's bigger upsets against Glenbard West, beating the Hilltoppers 31-13 on the road. Glenbard West is looking for revenge, and coach Chad Hetlet has used last season's loss as motivation. He used the same tactic against Wheaton Warrenville South in Week 1, and it worked. The Hilltoppers' defense has been stellar through two weeks and has allowed just seven points. Lyons opened the season on a strong note with a win over Stevenson, but lost 28-0 to Downers Grove South in Week 2. Lyons' offense will need a better day if it's going to pull off another win against Glenbard West.
Glenbard West player to watch: Offensive lineman Johnny Caspers has attracted interest from Nebraska and Stanford after playing well on ESPN2 a few weeks ago. Stanford will be in attendance on Friday.
Lyons player to watch: Rennick Thompson was one of the few offensive bright spots last week. He had seven receptions for 112 yards.
Quote: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet – "You always want to beat a team that you lost to the previous year. They ended our 18-game win streak in conference."
Prediction: Glenbard West 24, Lyons 10
Lockport (2-0) at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East hasn't been challenged the first two weeks, but Lockport should present a step up in talent as both teams open their Southwest Suburban Blue schedules. Last season, the Griffins rolled to a 45-14 win at Lockport. The Porters relied on a balanced running game last week to defeat Plainfield North. They had three different running backs score in the win. Their task this week will be stopping Lincoln-Way East's potent offense. It has scored 94 points in its first two games.
Lockport player to watch: Running back Richie Guess ran in for the game-winning touchdown in last week's win.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Quarterback Blake Winkler has lived up to his preseason hype. He has the Griffins offense rolling.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 35, Lockport 17
De La Salle (2-0) at No. 4 Mount Carmel (2-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Mount Carmel crosses over to the Catholic League White to meet De La Salle this week. De La Salle has put up points in its first two games, but Mount Carmel will present a stiffer challenge than Gordon Tech and Lane. The Caravan were dominant on both sides of the ball in their wins over Simeon and Morgan Park. The offense hasn't lost a beat this season with quarterback Don Butkus and running back Brandon Greer running the show.
De La Salle player to watch: Running back Mikale Wilbon will be looking to prove himself this week. He rushed for 247 yards and three touchdowns last week.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Defensive lineman Vontrell Williams is considered one of the best in the state. He's being recruited by a number of top programs.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, De La Salle 14
Peoria Richwoods (0-2) at Joliet Catholic (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Peoria Richwoods ended Joliet Catholic's season last year in the Class 5A state quarterfinals with a 17-14 upset. This isn't the same Richwoods team that went 12-1 last season, but the Hilltoppers would still like some revenge. Joliet Catholic's running game has been off the charts the first two weeks with Northwestern recruit Malin Jones and junior Ty Isaac leading the way. Joliet Catholic defeated Notre Dame 42-0 last week. Richwoods' defense has struggled the first two weeks, allowing a total of 60 points.
Peoria Richwoods player to watch: Kendrick Foster rushed for 216 yards on 33 carries in last week's loss to Washington.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Joliet Catholic does possess a defense, too. Linebacker Nick Collofello had three sacks in last week's shutout of Notre Dame.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 42, Peoria Richwoods 21
Lake Forest Academy (1-1) at No. 6 Loyola (2-0)
When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Loyola's offense couldn't do any wrong in last week's 41-24 win over Montini. Quarterback Malcolm Weaver threw for five touchdowns and rushed for another. Loyola coach John Holecek, a former NFL linebacker, wasn't as pleased with his defense. Look for the Ramblers to correct their defensive mistakes against Lake Forest Academy. The Caxys dropped their season opener to Antioch, but responded with a 42-7 win over St. Joseph last week.
Lake Forest Academy player to watch: Lake Forest Academy defensive end Faith Ekakitie has 18 offers already on the table. Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Tennessee are among the schools after him.
Loyola player to watch: Marquese Martin-Hayes is one of the many talented receivers Weaver can throw to.
Quote: Loyola coach John Holecek – "Alignment and assignment errors are costly against good teams. More common sense and understanding of the defensive call is a must. We need to go back to the basics of responsibility and key."
Fenwick (1-1) at No. 7 St. Rita (1-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: St. Rita traveled nearly five hours to East St. Louis on Sunday and came back with a 7-0 loss against a tough team from Tennessee. The Mustangs struggled in the red zone and will be focused on cleaning that up in this week's game. Fenwick moved over to the Catholic League White this season. The Friars are coming off a 6-0 loss to Marmion.
Fenwick player to watch: Junior quarterback Pat Hart continues to make strides for the Friars. He'll look to bounce back from last week's shutout.
St. Rita player to watch: Quarterback Scott Thomas had his positives and negatives in last week's loss. He'll be a key to the offense again this week.
Quote: St. Rita coach Todd Kuska – "I think playing two very good opponents on the road will help us down the line in the playoffs when we have to travel and face some adversity. Obviously, I would have rather won the game on Sunday, but sometimes it takes a loss to refocus the team."
Prediction: St. Rita 31, Fenwick 14
No. 8 Carmel (1-1) at Notre Dame (0-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Nearly every week matters in the East Suburban Catholic title race this season with teams playing eight conference games in 2011. Carmel bounced back from its season-opening loss to Joliet Catholic with a 27-3 win over Nazareth last week. Jordan Kos rushed for 127 yards and is now about 1,200 yards away from the school record. Notre Dame has struggled in its first two games. The Dons fell at home to Joliet Catholic 42-0 last week. The defense will have to do a better job stopping the run to have a chance this week.
Carmel player to watch: Linebacker Tyler Lees is one of the area's best. He had an interception in last week's win.
Notre Dame player to watch: Senior wide receiver Matt Livingston had six receptions for 84 yards in last week's loss.
Quote: Carmel coach Andy Bitto – "Our team has played well the first two weeks of the season. We have played solid defense, great special teams, and our offense is getting better every day. They responded very well after a tough loss and having been practicing extremely hard."
Prediction: Carmel 42, Notre Dame 10
No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor (2-0) at Lincoln-Way Central (1-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor's offense has put up astronomical numbers so far. The Vikings have scored 123 points in two games with quarterback Tim Williams leading the way. Lincoln-Way Central may not be able to contain the Vikings, but they should slow them down. Lincoln-Way Central is coming off a 41-20 win over Thornridge.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Gerald Butler had two touchdown receptions in last week's 47-0 win over Deerfield.
Lincoln-Way Central player to watch: Brett Ditchman rushed for 271 yards and three touchdowns against Thornridge last week.
Prediction: Homewood-Flossmoor 35, Lincoln-Way Central 10
Morton (1-1) at No. 10 Downers Grove South (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Downers Grove South has shown signs so far this season it can be a state title contender. The offense and defense came up big in wins over South Elgin and Lyons. Running back Josh Williams has flourished this season. Morton will likely have its hands full. Morton lost 49-0 to Downers Grove North last week.
Morton player to watch: Quarterback Ismal Ledezma is a threat to run or pass the ball.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Quarterback A.J. Simoncelli's experience is a major reason why the Mustangs' offense has run so smooth this season.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 49, Morton 7
West Chicago (0-2) at No. 11 Glenbard North (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard North has coasted so far this season. The Panthers had no troubles against Oak Park or Fenger. Their offense and defense have been equally as dominant. This week they have a chance to continue that trend. West Chicago is coming off losses to Addison Trail and Larkin. Glenbard North won last year's matchup 42-14.
strong>West Chicago player to watch: Quarterback Matt Green had a passing and rushing touchdown in last week's 18-16 loss to Larkin.
Glenbard North player to watch: Junior quarterback Paul Murphy has run the offense consistently well. He had 185 all-purpose yards last week.
Prediction: Glenbard North 48, West Chicago 7
West Aurora (2-0) at No. 12 Wheaton Warrenville South (0-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Wheaton Warrenville South hung right with Maine South and Glenbard West, but its offense couldn't capitalize on its chances. Tigers coach Ron Muhitch used senior Thaddeus Armstrong and sophomore Ryan Graham at quarterback last week. He may continue to experiment with both until someone gives his offense some consistency. West Aurora isn't the same caliber of team as the Tigers' previous opponents, but it does have talent. West Aurora out-scored East Aurora and St. Charles East 68-13 in the first two weeks.
West Aurora player to watch: Senior linebacker Brandon Warren can cause offenses fits. He forced a fumble and scored a touchdown in last week's win.
Wheaton Warrenville South players to watch: Running backs Dan Vitale and Patrick Garner each have scored a touchdown this season.
Quote: Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – "What we learned from Weeks 1 and 2 is that we are able to play with two of the top teams in the Chicagoland area this 2011 season. We need to eliminate mistakes on offense that have been self destructive. "
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 24, West Aurora 10
Marmion (1-1) at No. 13 Montini (1-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Montini edged Marmion 27-21 in last year's Suburban Christian Blue meeting. Montini ended up in the Class 5A state championship game last season, and Marmion played in the 6A title game. Montini will be favored again this season. The result may also depend on which Marmion defense shows up. Marmion allowed 36 points to Batavia in Week 1 and then shut out Fenwick last week. Montini's defense was abused by Loyola last week and was challenged in practice this week.
Marmion player to watch: Senior lineman Ryan Glasgow is receiving Division I interest. He's 6-4 and 270 pounds.
Montini player to watch: Senior linebacker Frank Bruscianelli will be one of the key players if Montini's defense is going to improve.
Quote: Montini coach Chris Andriano – "We are a long way off on defense from being a great team. Too much poor tackling and bad angles in pursuit."
Prediction: Montini 28, Marmion 10
No. 14 Prairie Ridge (2-0) at Huntley (0-2)
When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge has been as good as anybody through the season's first two weeks. The Wolves have put away their opponents quickly and have out-scored them 97-12. Prairie Ridge's starters haven't had to play more than a half so far. Huntley should give them more of a game. The Red Raiders have a physical defensive line.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Quarterback Nick Nissen took a step forward in the offense last week. He ran the option better and had two big passing plays.
Huntley player to watch: Running back Ethan Connor broke a 33-yard touchdown run in last week's game.
Quote: Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp – "I am not surprised that we've scored that many points. We have a great defense and special teams that gives our offense very good field position. For teams that are outside of our conference, they tend to struggle with stopping our option. It's a hard offense to prepare for if you don't see it every year."
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 38, Huntley 7
Antioch (2-0) at No. 15 Libertyville (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Libertyville has quickly become the only undefeated team remaining in the North Suburban Lake. The Wildcats had an easy time with Urban Prep, winning 24-0 last week. They'll be favored again this week, but Antioch isn't to be overlooked. It has won two close games, and its defense has contained opponents. The Sequoits defeated Lake Forest Academy 14-12 and Waukegan 17-7.
Antioch player to watch: Running back Danny Arden has three touchdown runs on the season. He scored twice in last week's win over Waukegan.
Libertyville player to watch: Austin Williams will find a way to impact Friday's game. He has kicked field goals, punted, rushed with the ball and caught passes this season.
Quote: Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski – "This season feels entirely different than any other because I don't want to have any regrets in any anything that I do."
Prediction: Libertyville 27, Antioch 10
Crystal Lake South (2-0) at No. 16 Cary-Grove (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Crystal Lake South won its first Fox Valley Conference title last season since 1992. To do so, the Gators defeated rival Cary-Grove 28-14. Cary-Grove would like to redeem itself on Friday. The Trojans are the riding the momentum of last week's 10-7 upset of Lake Zurich. Cary-Grove's defense has allowed only one touchdown this season. Crystal Lake South's defense hasn't been bad itself. The Gators have given up six points this year.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Senior Brad Walovitch is always around the ball whether at wide receiver or defensive back. He had an interception in last week's win.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Junior defensive back Zach Marszal intercepted two passes in last week's win over Lake Zurich.
Prediction: Cary-Grove 14, Crystal Lake South 13
Warren (0-2) at No. 17 Lake Zurich (1-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lake Zurich's offense will look to respond after managing just one touchdown in a loss to Cary-Grove last week. The Bears' running game looked dominant in the opening week, but struggled last week. Lake Zurich's defense gave up only 10 points last week and continues to be among the area's best. Warren has had a disappointing start with back-to-back losses, but did face top-ranked Maine South and an improved New Trier team.
Warren player to watch: Kicker Patrick Kenney gives Warren another offensive element. He's connected on field goals of 29 and 44 yards this season.
Lake Zurich players to watch: Running backs Connor Schrader and Mike Shield had a tough time against Cary-Grove and will try to bounce back.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 24, Warren 13
Joliet Central (0-2) at No. 18 Bolingbrook (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Bolingbrook is off to a hot start and looks to be the real deal this season. The Raiders' offense has scored 79 points this season and cruised to wins over Plainfield South and Belleville East. The next few weeks shouldn't be much more challenging for them. Joliet Central has dropped its first two games by a combined total of 75-8.
Joliet Central player to watch: Quarterback Carlos Curry rushed for a touchdown and threw for a two-point conversion against Lincoln-Way West.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Junior quarterback Aaron Bailey has already received an offer from Northwestern. Plenty of other schools are likely to follow.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 49, Joliet Central 6
Geneva (2-0) at St. Charles East (0-2)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva needed a little luck to pull off last week's 33-24 win over Wheaton North with two onside kicks going the Vikings way. They should be able to stay away from a similar scenario this week. St. Charles East has struggled to score points in its first two games. It's been out-scored 48-7 so far with losses to Cary-Grove and West Aurora.
Geneva player to watch: Quarterback Matt Williams can do a lot of things on the field. He executed two onside kicks last week.
St. Charles East player to watch: Nick Devor returned a kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown against West Aurora. Devor also doubles as the team's nose guard.
Quote: Geneva coach Rob Wicinski – "We need to continue to play consistent football, protect the ball, go for ball and be the most excited to play."
Prediction: Geneva 35, St. Charles East 7
No. 20 Waubonsie Valley (2-0) at Bartlett (1-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Waubonsie Valley is off to its best start since 1992. The Warriors have been solid on both sides of the ball in wins over Naperville Central and Oswego. Last week, they shut down quarterback Ryan West, one of the area's best. This week, they face another talented quarterback in Bartlett's AJ Bilyeu, an Air Force recruit. Bilyeu threw for four touchdown in last week's win over Elgin. Bartlett lost to Wheaton North in Week 1.
Waubonsie Valley player to watch: Dee Gray is one of the area's top receivers. He had four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown last week.
Bartlett player to watch: Linebackers Mike Partyka and Kevin Kirchhoff helped key Bartlett's 42-0 win over Elgin last week.
Quote: Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy – "What I hope to see this week is the same as the past two weeks -- play with confidence, execute the game plan and be ready to play 48 minutes of rocke'em, sock'em football. It's going to be a war on the field this Friday night."
Prediction: Waubonsie Valley 28, Bartlett 24
Here's a look at the second week of action for the teams ranked in ESPNChicago.com's top 20.
No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South (0-1) at No. 1 Maine South (1-0)When: Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: This game could have been No. 1 vs. No. 2, but it’s still one of the most anticipated games of the year. Two years ago, Maine South won 27-9 at home. Last season, Wheaton Warrenville South rolled 44-7 at home. Now with the game back in Park Ridge, Maine South is looking for revenge. The lopsided loss was the low point of last season for the Hawks. They did rebound from it and win out. The tables have turned, at least on paper this season. Where Wheaton Warrenville South was the experienced team and Maine South was the young squad last year, it’s now the other way around.
Wheaton Warrenville South players to watch: The Tigers’ young offensive line took its lumps against Glenbard West last week. This is will be another test for it.
Maine South player to watch: Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti was an inexperienced sophomore the last time these teams met. He’s grown up since then.
Quote: Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – “Maine South is a dynamic spread offense.”
Prediction: Maine South 31, Wheaton Warrenville South 20
Willowbrook (0-1) at No. 2 Glenbard West (1-0)When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West’s defense gave Wheaton Warrenville South little chance last week. With Penn State recruit Tommy Schutt applying constant pressure up front and Glenbard West possessing speed everywhere else, most opponents will experience a similar fate. The Hilltoppers will look to improve their offense this week. Turnovers were a problem last week. Willowbrook lost its opener 35-14 to Glenbard East.
Willowbrook player to watch: Dom Battaglia scored both of Willowbrook’s touchdowns last week. He had a rushing and receiving touchdown.
Glenbard West player to watch: Running back Avery Balogh provided a bulk of the offense last week. He’s a threat once he turns the corner.
Quote: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet – “I was impressed last week with how confident we played even when the game was tight.”
Prediction: Glenbard West 42, Willlowbrook 7
No. 4 Montini (1-0) at No. 10 Loyola (1-0)When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Montini possesses one of the state’s most high-powered offenses. Loyola’s defense is in that same class. Something will have to give. A year ago, Loyola won 31-9. Montini lost its starting quarterback prior to last year’s Loyola game, and that’s the case again this season. Junior quarterback Mark Gorogianis filled in for John Rhode last week and held his own. This week will be an even larger challenge against Loyola’s dominant defense. If Gorogianis can get the ball to Nebraska wide receiver recruit Jordan Westerkamp and company, the Broncos will have a chance. Loyola quarterback Malcolm Weaver was sensational in the opening week, throwing for three touchdowns.
Montini player to watch: Defensive tackle Josh Rogers had 12 tackles in last week’s win over Palatine.
Loyola player to watch: Wide receiver Charlie Dowdle had touchdown catches of 24 and 33 yards last week. He’ll be a major target for Weaver all season.
Quote: Montin coach Chris Andriano – “Up front on both sides of Loyola is big, athletic and very well coached. Defensively, they are very good at mixing up coverages and blitzes which can confuse the offense.”
Prediction: Loyola 24, Montini 21
Dunbar (0-1) at No. 5 Lincoln-Way East (1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East’s offense will have no trouble putting up points this season. The Griffins scored 45 points on Edwardsville last week and that was without Illinois recruit J.J. Robertson playing. Robertson missed the game because he violated team rules. Dunbar’s defense struggled to stop Vernon Hills last week. Dunbar lost 58-34.
Dunbar player to watch: Darvell Harris rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one in last week’s game.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Jay Yancy stepped up in Robertson’s absence last week and caught seven passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 56, Dunbar 17
No. 6 St. Rita (1-0) at Whitehaven, Tenn. (2-0)When: Sunday at 4 p.m. in East St. Louis, Ill.
The story: St. Rita will face its second out-of-state opponent in as many weeks. The Mustangs defeated Portage, Ind. 32-21 last season. This week should be a tougher task. Whitehaven went 12-2 and lost in the state semifinals last year. In its two games this season, Whitehaven has out-scored it opponents 104-0.
St. Rita player to watch: Linebacker Will McNamara is a three-year starter for the Mustangs. St. Rita’s defense will have to come to play in this one.
Prediction: St. Rita 21, Whitehaven 17
Morgan Park (0-1) vs. No. 7 Mount Carmel (1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: Both these teams played at Soldier Field last week. A lot of people came away impressed by Mount Carmel’s play on both sides of the ball in their win over Simeon. Morgan Park dropped its game 21-6 to Providence. Morgan Park is a work in a progress under first-year coach Jeremy Gold.
Morgan Park player to watch: Quarterback Andrew Newell delivered a touchdown pass against Providence and showed he has potential.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Brandon Greer ran the ball once for negative five yards in the first half against Simeon. In the second half, he broke out for 160 yards.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 28, Morgan Park 7
Cary-Grove (1-0) at No. 8 Lake Zurich(1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Cary-Grove first-year coach Brad Seaburg took care of his first win with last week’s 28-0 victory over St. Charles East. It gets tougher this week. Lake Zurich put together a dominant 35-3 win over Fremd in the season opener. Cary-Grove’s option offense against Lake Zurich’s speedy defense should be entertaining to watch.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Quarterback Corey Laktas ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win.
Lake Zurich players to watch: Running backs Connor Schrader and Mike Shield each ran for 100-plus yards last week.
Quote: Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz – “Week 2, we need to work on fundamental things, more importantly, finishing. We played hard, but we missed some tackles and didn’t finish blocks on every play. So, we need to get better in those areas.”
Prediction: Lake Zurich 27, Cary-Grove 17
No. 9 Joliet Catholic (1-0) at Notre Dame (0-1)When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Joliet Catholic pulled out a miracle 32-31 win over Carmel last week. While there’s plenty of East Suburban Catholic play remaining, Joliet Catholic is the team to beat now. Notre Dame dropped its conference opener 35-21 to Marist last week.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: All eyes should be on running back Ty Isaac this week. He could be a special one.
Notre Dame player to watch: Quarterback Nick Pieruccini scored three touchdowns in last week’s loss.
Quote: Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp – “We have to play better than we did last week. I feel like we have to validate last week’s win with a better performance.”
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 42, Notre Dame 21
Nazareth (1-0) at No. 11 Carmel (0-1)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Carmel is looking to bounce back from last week’s heartbreaker. The Corsairs’ running game was as good as advertised despite the loss. The big plays were what did the defense in. Nazareth won 17-0 over Benet last week.
Nazareth player to watch: Linebacker Joe DeSimone led the defense last week. He returned an interception for a touchdown.
Carmel player to watch: Mike Panico rushed for three scores in last week’s game. He would have been the hero if it weren’t for Joliet Catholic’s late touchdown.
Prediction: Carmel 24, Nazareth 10
Deerfield (0-1) at No. 12 Homewood-Flossmoor (1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor’s offense went off for 76 points in last week’s win over Senn. The Vikings won’t be able to put up that many points every week, but you can see the offensive potential they have. Deerfield lost 27-13 to Zion-Benton last week.
Deerfield player to watch: Running back Jeremy Kritt has big-play ability. He rushed for 10 touchdowns last season.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Quarterback Tim Williams was efficient last week. He completed 4-of-4 passes and three of them went for touchdowns.
Prediction: Homewood-Flossmoor 52, Deerfield 7
No. 13 Downers Grove South(1-0) at No. 17 Lyons (1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This should be one of the more competitive games of Week 2. Both teams are coming off solid wins. Downers Grove South took care of South Elgin, and Lyons defeated previously-ranked Stevenson. Lyons junior quarterback Connor Onion’s debut went smoothly with 20 completions, 190 yards and a touchdown. The Lions will try to get running back Jaimie Jones going after a rocky opener. Downers Grove South running back Josh Williams was nearly impossible to take down last week. He rushed for a school-record 336 yards and added three touchdowns.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Williams came flying out of the gate in Week 1. What can he do for an encore?
Lyons player to watch: Evan Booth found the ball wherever he was in the opener. He had two interceptions on defense and four receptions on offense.
Quote: Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg – “Downers Grove South has a phenomenal running back. One of the best I’ve seen in 18 years.”
Downers Grove South coach John Belskis – “What impresses me about Lyons is their offensive timing and their execution is way ahead of most teams.”
Prediction: Downers Grove South 28, Lyons 24
No. 14 Glenbard North (1-0) at Fenger (1-0)When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: Glenbard North put Oak Park away quickly last week. The Panthers will look to do the same with Fenger on Saturday. This will also be another opportunity for Glenbard North’s offensive line to get some more experience. Fenger opened its season with a 40-19 win over Reavis last week.
Glenbard North player to watch: Mario Rodriguez made an impact last week on offense, defense and special teams.
Fenger player to watch: Junior Darrien Boone is a smart and athletic quarterback. He’ll test the Panthers.
Quote: Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens – “Our team needs to shore up our special teams’ phases of the game. In addition, our offensive line needs to continue to gel.”
Prediction: Glenbard North 49, Fenger 17
Mundelein (0-1) at No. 15 Prairie Ridge (1-0)When: Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge’s offense, defense and special teams were impressive in the Wolves’ opening week 55-12 win over Glenbard South. Coach Chris Schremp did feel as if his team had to run its option quicker to be more effective. Overall, a good start, though. Mundelein dropped its opener 29-20 to Wheeling. The game was tied at halftime.
Mundelein player to watch: Running back L.D. Frison ran for a touchdown almost every time he touched the ball last week. He rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Playing tight end and kicker, Nick Margiotta can often fly under the radar. Last week, he was well above it. He caught two passes for 130 yards and a touchdown and had five touchbacks off kickoffs.
Quote: Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp – “We always strive to force turnovers on defense, and we forced four last week. We are looking to continue that this week.”
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 31, Mundelein 14
No. 16 Wheaton North (1-0) at Geneva (1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Wheaton North survived its first test with a last-second touchdown to defeat Bartlett and its star quarterback A.J. Bilyeu. Now the Falcons have to face another quality team in Geneva, which has a quality quarterback in Matt Williams, a Northern Illinois recruit. Geneva defeated Rock Island 27-14 last week. Williams had an up-and-down day and will be looking bounce back against Wheaton North. This has a chance to be a good one.
Wheaton North player to watch: Cole Hrgich was the hero last week with a 21-yard touchdown catch as time expired.
Geneva player to watch: Parker Woodworth rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ win last week.
Prediction: Wheaton North 35, Geneva 30
No. 18 Simeon (0-1) vs. Jefferson City, Mo. (1-0)When: Sunday at 2 p.m. in East St. Louis, Ill.
The story: Simeon coach Dante Culbreath expected his young team would experience some bumps in the road early in the season. The Wolverines showed their youthfulness in last week’s loss to Mount Carmel. Culbreath’s hope is they’ll be better this week against out-of-state opponent Jefferson City, which defeated McCluer North 39-7 in its opener last week.
Simeon player to watch: Quarterback Robert Gregory committed to Arkansas earlier this week. His new fans will have an eye on how he does.
Prediction: Simeon 33, Jefferson City 27
Urban Prep (1-0) at No. 19 Libertyville (1-0)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Libertyville is riding the momentum of last week’s overtime win over Barrington. The Wildcats persevered despite trailing Barrington on three different occasions. Urban Prep pulled out a 14-6 win over Maine West last week.
Libertyville player to watch: Brian Swift ran for 127 yards on 11 carries and put the Wildcats in position for a number of their scores.
Quote: Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski – “What impressed me last week was our ability to come back and win the game.”
Prediction: Libertyville 38, Urban Prep 10
Neuqua Valley (1-0) at Naperville Central (0-1)When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Neuqua Valley coach Bryan Wells was impressed by how his team never wavered in its 37-23 win over Naperville North last week. The Wildcats went up 13-0 early, but then allowed 16 unanswered points. Instead of dropping their heads, the Wildcats responded by closing out the first half on a strong note. Naperville Central lost 21-7 to a quality Waubonsie Valley team last week.
Neuqua Valley player to watch: Joey Rhatigan rushed for 161 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win.
Naperville Central player to watch: Senior Matt Randolph rushed for 129 yards on 27 carries last week.
Quote: Neuqua Valley coach Bryan Wells – “We need to play better defensively and keep doing the things we do on offense.”
Prediction: Neuqua Valley 34, Naperville Central 20
JOLIET, Ill. -- For Joliet Catholic senior Malin Jones to say teammate Ty Isaac’s 75-yard game-winning touchdown with 35.3 seconds left to defeat Carmel, 32-31, on Friday was the greatest play he ever witnessed carries some weight.
For Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp to make the same remark with 34 years of coaching experience, you understand just how grand it actually was.
Trailing 31-25 in the game’s final minute, Isaac ran a fade route, had to slow down to catch the ball over his right shoulder, avoided Carmel’s defensive back and tiptoed around the sideline, then gathered himself and sprinted the remaining 50 yards for the touchdown.
Isaac Grashoff connected on the extra point, and No. 11 Joliet Catholic defeated visiting No. 8 Carmel in the East Suburban Catholic season opener.
“Honest to God, my heart jumped out of my chest,” Sharp said of Isaac’s heroics. “It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in my professional career in 34 years coaching.”
Isaac had no trouble labeling the catch his greatest high school football moment.
“You can’t even explain it,” Isaac said. “It’s the best feeling getting the game-winning touchdown. Ah … overwhelmed.”
Isaac’s touchdown reception was only a percentage of the drama that occurred during the second half.
The third quarter began with Joliet Catholic scoring two quick touchdowns and building a 25-10 lead. Carmel wasn’t going away, though. The Corsairs scored a touchdown on a 17-yard run by Michael Panico in the third quarter to pull within 25-17.
The Hilltoppers held that eight-point advantage until Carmel’s offense answered again with a five-yard touchdown run by Jordan Kos with 4:28 remaining in the game. Carmel failed on its two-point conversion attempt, and Joliet Catholic led 25-23.
Carmel’s defense held Joliet Catholic on three consecutive plays and forced it to punt. The Corsairs took from their 26-yard line with 2:55 remaining. After moving the ball forward 18 yards, Panico provided the game’s first dramatic play by breaking a 56-yard touchdown run with one minute remaining. Carmel quarterback Brian Brennan ran the ball in for the two-point conversion, and the Corsairs led 31-25.
Minutes later, the tables would turn.
After the game, Sharp and Carmel coach Andy Bitto walked across to each other and embraced in a hug.
“As soon as the game ended, I thought of Andy,” Sharp said. “I know how that feels. He’s a great friend.”
Bitto would have loved to win the game, but he took the positives from it.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Bitto said. “We could have folded it in the third quarter; we came back. We could have folded it in the two-minute drills, and we score. It just wasn’t to be.”
Isaac finished with 221 yards on 17 carries. He rushed for touchdowns of 46 and 70 yards. Of course, he also had a 75-yard touchdown reception.
“I think Isaac might be the best back in the state,” Bitto said. “We couldn’t stop that kid.”
It was the third consecutive year a Carmel-Joliet Catholic contest came down to three points or less. Joliet Catholic won 19-16 in 2009. Carmel won 31-28 last season.
“It’s great to come out with a winning record against Carmel,” said Jones, who faced Carmel three times in his varsity career. “They’re just an amazing team. Their defense is crazy. They’re hard hitters. They’re not the biggest team, but they all play like they’re on a college team.”
Grashoff connected on two 36-yard field goals for Joliet Catholic. Jones also scored a touchdown for the Hilltoppers.
Carmel’s Steven O’Block made a 47-yard field goal in the first half.
Warren (0-0) at No. 1 Maine South (0-0) on FridayThe story: Maine South begins its quest to win a fourth consecutive Class 8A state championship with Warren. Maine South is widely considered the state’s top team this season. Maine South coach David Inserra will miss the opener due a one-game suspension due to incidents at last year’s state title game. Warren is looking for a stronger start to this season. The Blue Devils dropped two of their first three games last season. They’re expected to pass the ball more this season.
Warren player to watch: Linebacker Matt Goad should be a difference-maker for the Blue Devils this season.
Maine South player to watch: With the departure of Reilly O’Toole, Matt Alviti is the state’s next biggest star quarterback. He has already received offers from Illinois, Notre Dame and Northwestern.
Quote: Maine South coach David Inserra -- “The kids have taken it on as a motivation to work that much harder. We talk about opportunities. This is an opportunity that not many kids get to win a fourth state championship.”
Prediction: Maine South 42, Warren 21
No. 3 Glenbard West (0-0) at No. 2 Wheaton Warrenville South (0-0) on Sunday
The story: This will be one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season. The two teams have met in the playoffs last two seasons, and Wheaton Warrenville South won both times, including in the 2009 Class 7A state title game. Both teams are stacked with talent again and could very well meet up in the playoffs for a third consecutive season. To add to the excitement, the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Glenbard West player to watch: Quarterback Justice Odom is not only making his starting debut, but he’s also doing it against his former school. Odom previously attended Wheaton Warrenville South.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Thaddeus Armstrong replaces Reilly O’Toole at quarterback. Armstrong isn’t expected to be as dominant as last year’s ESPNChicago.com player of the year, but he does have ability and is expected to excel in the Tigers’ offense.
Quote: Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – “It’s a great chance to show off Illinois football, which is in the intent of signing this game up.”
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 28, Glenbard West 27
Palatine (0-0) at No. 4 Montini (0-0) on Friday
The story: How Montini does against Palatine and Loyola in its opening two weeks likely won’t determine whether it win another state championship, but it will show whether the Broncos can hang with the big boys and deserve to be ranked No. 4 in the area. The Broncos’ offense was unstoppable during the summer. Palatine hopes to build on last season’s success. After clawing into the playoffs, the Pirates made a run to the Class 8A state quarterfinals.
Palatine player to watch: Jesse Bobbit is one of the area’s biggest offensive threats. He was on the watch list for ESPNChicago.com offensive player of the year.
Montini player to watch: No one may have looked more polished this summer than wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. Defenses will have their hands full with the Nebraska recruit this season.
Quote: Montini wide receiver Anthony Taylor – “Every team is gunning for the top and knock off Montini. We’re gunning for another state championship. It won’t be easy, but I think we can do it.”
Prediction: Montini 28, Palatine 21
No. 5 Lincoln-Way East (0-0) vs. Edwardsville (0-0) at Illinois State on Friday
The story: Expectations haven’t been this high at Lincoln-Way East since the Griffins won a state championship in 2005. They return a talented group of offensive players, including quarterback Blake Winkler and wide receiver Jason Robertson. Lincoln-Way East cruised past Edwardsville when they met last season.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Quarterback Blake Winkler had a strong junior season. He has the potential to throw for some big numbers this season.
Quote: Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar -- “I think this group without being arrogant just wants to put that target on our back and be the group that turns the tide again.”
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 42, Edwardsville 17
No. 6 St. Rita (0-0) at Portage, Ind. (0-1) on Friday
The story: St. Rita will play two out-of-state opponents this season. The Mustangs defeated Portage 22-0 in Chicago last season. Portage dropped its season opener last week.
St. Rita player to watch: St. Rita relies on its running game, and junior Guerby Ministre becomes the Mustangs’ featured back this season.
Prediction: St. Rita 27, Portage 7
No. 7 Mount Carmel (0-0) vs. No. 10 Simeon (0-0) at Soldier Field on Friday
The story: Mount Carmel and Simeon are quickly developing into a South Side rivalry. Mount Carmel had the Wolverines’ number until last season when Simeon pulled off the upset at Soldier Field. This year’s game should be another classic. Both teams return a number of Division I recruits.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Mount Carmel’s option offense requires a skilled quarterback, and the Caravan believe they have one in first-year starter Don Butkus. He will make his debut at Soldier Field, which is where his great uncle Dick Butkus used to star.
Simeon player to watch: Wolverines quarterback Robert Gregory was one of the most entertaining players in the state last season. He ran and passed with the best of them.
Quote: Simeon coach Dante Culbreath -- “It’s Mount Carmel. It’s the best of Illinois. You get an opportunity to play those guys, and you just got to play hard. It’s been Mount Carmel for years. What those guys have done over there is legendary. We’re just a small group out here working.”
Prediction: Mount Carmel 48, Simeon 42
No. 8 Carmel (0-0) at No. 11 Joliet Catholic (0-0) on Friday
The story: Don’t expect to see many passes thrown in this game. Carmel and Joliet Catholic possess the two best backfields in the state. Carmel’s running game is led by three-year starters Jordan Kos, Michael Panico and Matt Maher. Joliet Catholic is powered by Division I running back recruits Malin Jones and Ty Issac. A Carmel-Joliet Catholic game hasn’t been decided by more than three points the last two seasons. Carmel won 31-28 last season, and Joliet Catholic won 19-16 in 2009.
Carmel player to watch: Jordan Kos rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season. He is on the verge of breaking the school’s rushing record.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Malin Jones is the next in the long line of talented Hilltopper running backs. He’s headed to Northwestern.
Quote: Carmel coach Andy Bitto – “It’s a good chance right away to go to their stadium and play in front of a huge crowd on TV. You get to know where you’re at right away.”
Prediction: Carmel 41, Joliet Catholic 38
No. 9 Lake Zurich (0-0) at Fremd (0-0) on Friday
The story: Lake Zurich is the favorite headed into this game, but Fremd should never be counted out. Last year, Lake Zurich pulled out a 20-10 win. Two seasons ago, Fremd won 10-7. With the game being at Fremd, don’t be surprised if this comes down to the fourth quarter again.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Jack Lynn is one of the area’s top linebackers. He’s headed to Minnesota.
Fremd player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Sam Beutler stepped in as a freshman and helped the Vikings into the playoffs. He should be even better this season.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 20, Fremd 14
No. 12 Loyola (0-0) at Evanston (0-0) on Friday
The story: Loyola has reached the Class 8A semifinals the last two seasons and lost to Maine South. The Ramblers are hoping for more this season. They travel to nearby Evanston to open the season. The Ramblers defeated Evanston 35-0 in last year’s meeting.
Loyola player to watch: Quarterback Malcolm Weaver was impressive with his running and passing last season. He’s primed for another big season.
Evanston player to watch: Evanston linebacker Leonard Garron made ESPNChicago.com’s defensive player of the year watch list.
Quote: Loyola coach John Holecek – “Here, we play good defensive football. We expect that every year no matter who we play. We expect to be very tough on defense.”
Prediction: Loyola 31, Evanston 7
Senn (0-0) at No. 13 Homewood-Flossmoor (0-0) on Friday
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor surprised a lot of people last season by going to the Class 8A semifinals after having only won one game the year before. With that, the Vikings won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season. Senn went 9-1 last season, but all of its wins came against Chicago Public League opponents.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Quarterback Tim Williams was a major reason for the Vikings’ success last season. He may be the biggest and most athletic quarterback in the state.
Prediction: Homewood-Flossmoor 42, Senn 10
No. 14 Barrington (0-0) at Libertyville (0-0) on Friday
The story: This game should be entertaining from the start with Wayne Messmer singing the National Anthem and Libertyville wearing camouflage jerseys in tribute to it former players who have served in the military. Outside of that, the game should also be a good one. Barrington has an enormous offensive line and a talented running back in Chase Murdock. Libertyville is thought to be one of this season’s sleepers.
Barrington player to watch: Barrington have had some quality offensive linemen come through its program, but Dan Voltz may be the cream of the crop. He’s committed to Wisconsin.
Libertyville player to watch: Luke Mathewson is likely to make an impact on both sides of the ball at tight end and defensive end.
Quote: Barrington coach Joe Sanchez – “We open with Libertyville, and it’s a great opening game for both schools.”
Prediction: Barrington 27, Libertyville 21
South Elgin (0-0) at No. 15 Downers Grove South (0-0) on Friday
The story: This is a good test for both teams. South Elgin was nearly ranked after coming a strong season last year. South Elgin lost 10-7 in the Class 8A second round to Stevenson and returns a number of quality players this season. Downers Grove South should be a state contender this season if it can remain healthy. That was the Mustangs’ downfall last year.
South Elgin player to watch: Joe Slania earned all-conference honors at offensive tackle last season. He’s also play on the defensive line this season.
Downers Grove South player to watch: When healthy, Josh Williams can be one of the state’s best running backs. The Mustangs hope he can stay healthy for an entire season for the first time in three years.
Quote: Downers Grove South coach John Belskis -- “I think there’s enough kids back where we should be competitive in every game we play. That’s all you can ask.”
Prediction: Downers Grove South 42, South Elgin 35
No. 16 Stevenson (0-0) at No. 20 Lyons (0-0) on Friday
The story: This is one of four games between ranked teams in the opening week. Lyons and Stevenson each had its season ended in the Class 8A quarterfinals last season. Both look to replace some holes due to graduation, but are traditionally strong programs.
Stevenson player to watch: Versatile quarterback Matt Miccuci takes over Stevenson’s offense this season. He will also kick field goals.
Lyons player to watch: Jaime Jones rushed for 866 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He should be among the area’s best this season.
Quote: Stevenson coach William McNamara – “We have to come out of the shoot ready to go.”
Prediction: Stevenson 24, Lyons 20
Oak Park (0-0) at No. 17 Glenbard North (0-0) on Friday
The story: Glenbard North had an impressive regular season last year, going 8-1, but were upset in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers are hoping for better this season. Oak Park is looking to rebound from last year’s 2-7 mark. This will be the debut for Oak Park first-year coach John Hoerster. He was previously an assistant at Mount Carmel.
Oak Park player to watch: Returning senior quarterback John Phelan will be in charge of a new offense this season.
Glenbard North player to watch: Running back Phil Jackson was among the area’s best last season. He could have a huge season this year.
Prediction: Glenbard North 24, Oak Park 14
No. 18 Prairie Ridge (0-0) at Glenbard South (0-0) on Friday
The story: Prairie Ridge has high expectations heading into the season coming off back-to-back Class 6A state semifinal appearances. The Wolves return a number of players on both sides of the ball and should be led by returning running back Connor Greenwald and an experienced group of linebackers. Glenbard South joins the Metro Suburban Conference this season. It opened last season with four losses in its first five games, but bounced back to have a 4-5 record.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Running back Connor Greenwald rushed for 1,172 yards last season. He’s added some speed this season.
Glenbard South players to watch: Running back Wes Sanders and quarterback Tyler Padera should be able to provide the Raiders a number of points this season.
Quote: Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp – “Our linebacker corp is the strongest we’ve had in the history of the school.”
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 33, Glenbard South 20
Bartlett (0-0) at No. 19 Wheaton North (0-0) on Friday
The story: Wheaton North undoubtedly will put up points this season. The Falcons’ offense is too potent not to. The question is whether their inexperienced defense will come through. Bartlett’s offense will be a good first test. Led by quarterback AJ Bilyeu, Bartlett is coming off an 8-3 season and a second round playoff appearance.
Bartlett player to watch: Quarterback AJ Bilyeu should one of the area’s best this season. He completed 105-of-157 passes for 1,437 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. He’s committed to Air Force.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wide senior Johnny Daniels was impressive in 7 on 7 player this summer. If he continues to impress, more Division I schools are bound to come knocking.
Quote: Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski – “I think we’ve got quite a few kids coming back on offense. We knew where the pieces were going to fit on that side of the ball. Defensively, we’re basically replacing everybody.”
Prediction: Wheaton North 37, Bartlett 31
Season ahead: Carmel coach Andy Bitto had to stop and think when asked whether he had ever possessed so much backfield experience.
After a moment's time, Bitto found his answer.
"We've never had as much experience," Bitto said. "All of them are three-year starters. That's kind of rare."
While Bitto describes it as rare, it's likely opposing defenses will find other adjectives for Carmel's rushing attack this season. With the Corsairs return three-year senior starters Jordan Kos, Michael Panico and Matt Maher in the backfield, defenses will have their work cut out of them with Carmel's option offense.
"Once you got kids who know what they're doing, you can use multiple formations," Bitto said. "You don't have to run different plays. You can use different kinds of motions. You can confuse the defense and make them prepare for more stuff."
With some size in the offensive line and another speed weapon in senior quarterback Brian Brennan, the Corsairs will look to improve on last season's 34.8 points per game.
Defensively, Carmel also possesses speed all over the field from its linemen to its linebackers to its secondary. Linebackers Tyler Lees and Kevin Cox will likely be leading the hunt on each snap.
"I heard Wayne Gretzky was so fast he could correct himself if he made a mistake before it fell apart," Bitto said. "When you got that kind of speed, you can make up for it. But we don't want to make too many mistakes."
Star power: Jordan Kos rushed for 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards last season. He's on track to break the school's all-time rushing mark. In the offseason, he added some bulk to his frame. "Jordan is 10 pounds heavier and 10 pounds stronger this season," Bitto said.
Breakout performer: Senior Brian Brennan was Carmel's quarterback on the sophomore team, but was moved to the secondary on varsity last season with the Corsairs already having a quarterback in place. Now, Brennan gets his opportunity at his original position. "He's another runner," Bitto said. "He's quicker than heck."
Defensive difference-maker: Tyler Lees was among the area's elite linebackers last season and made more than 100 tackles for the Corsairs. With the graduation of Luke Venegoni, Lees steps into the leadership role for Carmel. "Some kids can run," Bitto said. "Some kids can hit. He can run and hit. He makes plays."
Newcomer to watch: Senior Jack Schoen opted to run cross country instead of playing football last season. He was on the sophomore football team the year before. Now as a senior, he's returned to football and will be a starting wide receiver. "It's rare for a kid that doesn't come out and starts," Bitto said. "He's probably the biggest surprise in camp."
Schedule breakdown: A lot of attention will be paid to Carmel's season opener against Joliet Catholic, but the rest of the East Suburban Catholic should be tough, too. Starting this season, the East Suburban Catholic will play eight conference games and one non-conference game. Carmel is playing Wayzata from Minnesota in its non-conference game.
Key game: Aug. 26 at Joliet Catholic -- One game doesn't decide a season, but it could determine the East Suburban Catholic title. Carmel went undefeated in conference last season and was followed by Joliet Catholic and Marian Catholic, which each had one loss. Carmel won last year's meeting with Joliet Catholic, 31-28. In 2009, Joliet Catholic won 19-16. "It's a good chance right away to go to their stadium and play in front of a huge crowd on TV," Bitto said. "You get to know where you're at right away."
What they're saying: "At the end of last year, we were kind of disappointed on losing [to St. Rita,]" Bitto said. "It really came down to, ‘Are we tough enough?' We have to be tough physically and mentally."
Curie senior defensive lineman James Adeyanju
Adeyanju was the premier defensive lineman in the Public League and one of the best in the state this season. He had 71 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He will play at Wisconsin next season.
“He was able to go out and control football games despite being double- and triple-teamed every week,” Curie coach Tyson LeBlanc said. “He’s got a motor. He would fight through the first guy, fight through the second guy and go find the ball.”
St. Rita senior running back Jahwon Akui
Akui capped of his career by becoming St. Rita’s all-time leading rusher. As a senior, he ran for 1,650 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was co-Catholic League Offensive Player of the Year. He is being recruited by a number of schools for football and wrestling.
“He was the most physical running back that I have ever coached and was as sound a blocker as he was a runner,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. “Jahwon was as competitive a player as I have seen and will definitely be hard to replace”
Hinsdale Central senior offensive lineman Jack Allen
In his third year starting for Hinsdale Central, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Allen continued to be a menace for defensive linemen. Also a star wrestler, Allen possesses a perfect mix of strength and speed. He is committed to Michigan State.
“Jack Allen is one of the most intense players that I have had the pleasure to coach,” Hinsdale Central coach Mike DiMatteo said. “He brings a relentless attitude to practice each and every day. It’s one thing to be a great player, but Jack also has the ability to make those players around him better, thereby making his team better. He is one of a kind.”
Wheaton Warrenville South senior defensive back Caleb Bednarz
A four-year varsity player, Bednarz has been a consistent fixture in the Tigers’ secondary and in their return game. He will play in third state championship game this weekend. He had a team-leading seven interceptions this season. He picked off two passes in the state quarterfinals against Glenbard West.
“Defensively, I think he’s a great playmaker,” Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch said. “He has natural instincts to read and move athletically and jump on passes. He’s very cunning in that regard.”
Plainfield North senior running back Kapri Bibbs
The area possessed a number of quality running backs this season, but Bibbs was at another level. He rushed for 2,654 yards and 38 touchdowns on 300 carries. He also passed for two touchdowns. In his biggest game this season, he rushed for a state-record 520 yards and seven touchdowns against Oswego. He was the ESPNChicago.com Offensive Player of the Year. He is committed to Colorado State.
“Kapri had an outstanding year … the type of year that should put him on anyone’s all-state list and player of the year ballot,” Plainfield North coach Tim Kane said. “He is a well-rounded runner in that he runs between the tacklers for tough yards and has elite speed in the open field. He is ultra-competitive and did all he could to help us win games this year.”
Fremd senior offensive/defensive lineman Brian Bobek
Bobek, who is 6-3 and 275 pounds, is considered one of the top offensive lineman in the country. He helped pave the way for much of Fremd’s offensive attack this season while the Vikings reached the second round of the Class 8A playoffs. He is headed to Ohio State.
“Brian Bobek has lived up to his All-American status,” Fremd coach Michael Donatucci said. “He dominated at center against some of the top teams in the state and was also a mainstay as a defensive tackle. A leader on and off the field, Brian has been a huge part of our success as a program.”
“He just continued to do the things we needed him to do,” Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. “It’s become harder and harder for him because people continue to focus on him. He didn’t put up the big numbers as he did last year, but he continued to put up the performances that we needed.”
Simeon senior offensive lineman Chris Bryant
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Bryant was one of the state’s biggest offensive linemen, but also one of the most talented. Bryant was the key piece on a line that led to the Wolverines scoring 40-plus points in 11 games this season. He is being recruited by a number of elite schools.
“He was incredible in the things he was doing out there,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “He was dominant out there.”
Wheaton North senior quarterback Reece Butler
Butler emerged as one of the area’s top dualthreat quarterbacks this season. He led the Falcons in rushing and passing. He ran for 608 yards and six touchdowns. He was 187-of-275 passing for 1,956 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“I just think he’s more confident,” Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. “Last year, he felt a lot of pressure trying to fill in for Taylor Graham, who was a Big Ten recruit. He now feels like this is his team. He’s a senior. Guys look to him as a leader and not a fill-in guy. He’s always been kind of level-headed, a cool character. He doesn’t seem to get rattled too much.”
Kaneland senior quarterback Joe Camiliere
Camiliere had high expectations leading up to the season and met them. He was 194-of-299 passing for 2,955 yards, 36 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 687 yards and nine touchdowns while leading Kaneland to the state semifinals.
Vernon Hills senior wide receiver/defensive back DaVaris Daniels
Daniels did a lot of everything for the Cougars this season. He caught 23 passes for 513 yards and five touchdowns. He was 11-of-23 passing for 173 yards and one touchdown. He rushed for 637 yards and 10 touchdown on 59 carries. He returned two punts for touchdowns. He intercepted six passes with one for a touchdown. He also had 20 tackles. He will play at Notre Dame next season.
“He’s the most gifted athlete I’ve coached and an even better person,” Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken said. “ We’re going to miss him, but also can’t wait to watch him on Saturdays.”
Wheaton Warrenville South senior wide receiver Titus Davis
Davis emerged as the Tigers’ No. 1 receiver in the season and continued to flourish throughout the year as Reilly O’Toole favorite target. He caught 52 passes for 1,135 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is being recruited by a number of Division I schools.
“He’s unbelievable, just a great athlete,” Wheaton Warrenville South senior Reilly O’Toole said. “He can always get open. He has great hands. He’s just an unstoppable receiver. I want to get the ball in his hands.”
Prospect senior quarterback Steve Dazzo
Dazzo stepped in perfectly in the shoes of Illinois-bound quarterback Miles Osei and was one of the area’s top dual-threat quarterbacks this year. Dazzo threw for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 1,476 yards and 23 touchdown for one of the state’s top offenses.
“It was his first year playing quarterback,” Prospect coach Brent Pearlman said. “He led us not only with arm and his legs, but with his spirit.”
Maine South junior linebacker Tyler Fahey
Fahey was a major reason behind Maine South’s run to the Class 8A state championship game. After missing the first two games of the year – both losses – Fahey was an impact player on the defensive side the rest of the way. He had 81 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.
“He’s very athletic,” Maine South coach David Inserra said. “He probably studies more film than anyone I’ve coached. He’s always so prepared for a game. Sometimes, he’s coaching us. He hits. He’s our second biggest hitter.”
Marist senior kicker/punter Ben Falloon
Falloon was one of the area’s most accurate kickers this season. He connected on 7-of-11 field goals this season with all seven coming from 30-plus yards. His longest was from 50, and all four of his misses were from 50 yards and beyond. He also made 32-of-33 extra points and punted for a 38.2-yard average on 43 punts.
“He is by far the most mentally tough player I’ve been around,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “The kicks he’s had in high-pressure situations, I’ve never seen anyone so mentally tough. He also has one of the best work ethics I’ve been around.”
Lemont senior defensive back Clayton Fejedelem
Fejedelem was one of the area’s biggest threats whenever he touched the ball. He returned three punts for touchdowns and one kickoff. He also had 69 tackles, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and blocked three kicks.
“He was the strongest player on the team,” Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen said. “He has a nose for the ball and is physical and fast.”
Joliet Catholic senior running back Josh Ferguson
Ferguson was good for a first down almost every time he touched the ball. He rushed for 1,886 yards on 144 carries, giving him a 13.1 average. He finished with 25 rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown. He will play at Illinois next season.
“I think he had to be one of the greatest running backs I’ve had a chance to see let alone to coach,” Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp said.
Gregory was the motor for one of the state’s most high-powered offenses. He completed 84-of-120 passes for 1,600 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also rushed for 919 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is being recruited by a number of big-time schools.
“I was impressed with the way he was able to pick up the offense and run the team,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “He did a good job with the offense this year. He ran the team better. His decision-making got better. He got stronger. He got faster. I believe he got better overall.” Marmion senior linebacker/running back T.J. Lally
There were few in the state as good as Lally on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 1,264 yards and 16 touchdowns. Defensively, he had 130 tackles and six sacks while leading the Cadets to the Class 6A state title game. He is being recruited by a number of Division II programs.
“He’s an old-school football player,” Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. “He’s tough, physical and has a great heart. He’s just a playmaker. He has a lot more speed than people give him credit for, and he’s so physical.”
Naperville North senior linebacker Nick LifkaLifka was the Brian Urlacher of Illinois high school football this season. Wherever the ball was, Lifka was. He had 168 tackles (113 solo), 13 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. He also had an offensive touchdown. He was the ESPNChicago.com Defensive Player of the Year. He is committed to Boston College.
“A throwback player who plays the game the way it was meant to be played,” Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. “The best player I have ever coached, and quite possibly as good as a person as he is a player. We will never be able to replace a Nick Lifka.”
Schaumburg senior running back Shepard Little
Little made up for lost time after missing last season. He rushed for 1,897 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also caught two touchdown passes. Against Simeon in the playoffs, he rushed for three touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He is uncommitted.
“I think his vision is good,” Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. “I think he’s sneaky powerful for his size. I don’t think you expect someone of his size to hit you like he does. His ability to hit you and make you miss, that’s the tough part. His speed is good, but it’s not great. He’s not going to run past everyone on Friday night, but he’s going to make everyone miss.”
Lincoln-Way East senior linebacker Pat Meehan
Meehan led one of the top defenses in the area. He had 123 total tackles with 79 solo. He had 14 tackles for a loss, two sacks, two quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception and one touchdown. He is committed to Illinois State.
“Pat has set a new standard of linebacker play at Lincoln-Way East,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “He has every tool necessary to become a dominate college football player. A tremendous young man both on and off the field.”
Elk Grove senior quarterback Nick Meyer
No player in the state may have meant as much to his team as Meyer did to Elk Grove. He was the Grenadiers’ offense. Meyer was 180-of-293 passing for 2,258 yards and 20 touchdowns. He rushed 1,011 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also had 44 tackles and one interception on defense. He is uncommitted.
“Every time Nick touched the ball this season, you realized there was a chance he could do something very special,” Elk Grove coach Brian Doll said. “His ability to change the game so quickly put him in a special class of football players. He broke almost every offensive Elk Grove High School record during his three seasons on varsity. He will be missed.”
Wheaton Warrenville South senior quarterback Reilly O’Toole
Expectations were high for O’Toole this season after starting for last year’s state championship team and committing to Illinois , and he surpassed everything people thought he was capable of this season. O’Toole was named the ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year after completing 172-of-229 passes for 3,005 touchdowns, 40 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also rushed 393 yards and six touchdowns. He will play for the Illini next season.
“He’s a special kid,” Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet.
Lake Zurich senior linebacker JJ Raffelson
Raffelson was the catalyst behind the state’s top defense. He had 111 tackles and 23 tackles for a loss while helping the Bears to the Class 7A state championship game. He is being recruited by a handful of Division I schools.
“He spent a tremendous amount of time in the offseason working his speed development as well as in the film room,” Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. “He has logged a lot of hours studying the opponent. He knows how they’re going to act and what we’re going to do.”
Glenbard West junior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Schutt is considered one of the top junior defensive lineman in the country. He had 67 tackles, 14 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks this past season. He is being recruited by a number of high-profile schools.
Vernon Hills wide receiver/defensive back Evan Spencer
Spencer and DaVaris Daniels made for one exciting pair. Spencer had 23 catches for 410 yards and six touchdowns. He rushed for 266 yards and eight touchdowns. He returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns. He also had 25 tackles, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. He’s committed to Ohio State.
“He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever been around, and his ability to play the ball high, run strong with the ball and pull away from defenders sets him apart from all others,” Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken said. “He’s been a tremendous leader and role model for our program, and they’re going to love him at Ohio State.”
Mount Carmel senior quarterback Chris Sujka
No one in the area ran the option offense better than Sujka. A two-year starter for the Caravan, Sujka rushed for 1,344 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. He also was 50-of-104 passing for 728 yards and four touchdowns. He was named the co-Catholic League Offensive Player of the Year.
“He told me right from the beginning of the season that the game had slowed down for him,” Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti said. “As a junior, he was always real frantic. He made me nervous out there watching him. This year when he runs the option, he’s very confident and comfortable with what he does.”
Loyola senior defensive lineman Mark Sullivan
Sullivan was the Catholic League Defensive Player of the Year. He had 88 tackles, 10 sacks and one forced fumbled for one of the area’s top defenses. He is uncommitted.
“Mark is incredibly athletic for a defensive lineman,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “He has a great motor, good instincts and pursuits to the ball like no other defensive lineman I have coached. He has had a dominant senior year, ending the regular season as the total tackle, sack, and QB pressure leader for one of the best defenses in the area. While not yet the size of a D-I interior lineman, he has the height and frame to gain muscle and be a real force at the next level.”
Carmel senior linebacker Luke Venegoni
Venegoni was the defensive leader for one of the best defenses in the state. He was a three-year starter. He had 120 tackles, 63 solo tackles, six tackles for a loss and two sacks this season. He is being recruited by a number of schools.
“Luke Venegoni is extremely fast and strong,” Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. “He worked very hard in the offseason to position himself to be the defensive player of the year in the ESCC.”
Barrington junior offensive lineman Dan Voltz
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Voltz was a rock for this year’s Barrington offensive line. He opened many holes for the Broncos’ successful running game this season and helped Barrington turn last year’s losing record until a winning one this season. He is being recruited by some of the country’s top football programs.
“Dan is a relentless performer whose best attribute I believe is that he is a finisher,” Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. “He is very athletic for his size and is always looking to improve. He is a tremendous role model for our players both on and off the field. I firmly believe his best football is still front of him.”
Glenbard West senior offensive lineman Jordan Walsh
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Walsh is one of the top offensive linemen in the country. His blocking has been vital to the Hilltoppers’ offensive success the past few seasons. He will play next season at Iowa.
“Jordan, he’s an incredible player," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "He goes 100 percent all the time. When he gets that helmet on, and he gets between the lines, he flips that switch and gets that attitude. He'll just bury people.”
Montini junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp
Coming off a breakout sophomore season, Westerkamp took his game to another level this year and became the most dominant wide receiver in the area. He caught 82 passes for 1,485 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s being recruiting by a number of Big Ten schools.
“He is a special football player and the best I have ever had in my 32 years at Montini,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “A 40-inch vertical jump with great hands and body control, he makes all the catches in traffic with defenders all around him. His toughness and strength are also seen in his yards after catch and his blocking. He is a complete receiver and a Division I player at the college level.”
Glenbard North senior offensive lineman Paul Wisniewski
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Wisniewski has been a dominant offensive lineman in the DuPage Valley the past three seasons as a starter for the Panthers. He’s uncommitted, but has a number of schools recruiting him.
“He can run and pass block equally well for a player that is 6-4 and 300 pounds,” Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. “He has exceptional feet and is a great blocker.”
Richards senior defensive back/wide receiver Jarrell Williams
Williams was a jack of all trades for Richards this season. He had 65 tackles, three tackles for loss, five deflections, two caused fumbles and three interceptions. Offensively, he rushed for 402 yards and six touchdowns, caught 18 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns and had one punt return touchdown and one kickoff return touchdown. He will play at Northwestern next season.
“Jarrell was asked to do a lot for us this year,” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “He did a great job. He is so valuable, he can cover, hit, run the ball, throw the ball and catch the ball, and we asked him to do it all. He very rarely ever came off the field. He is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands.”
Stevenson senior linebacker Brion Wood
Wood anchored one of the area’s top defenses. He had 130 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, eight sacks and four forced fumbles. He is committed to Penn.
“He does a lot for us,” Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. “He’s basically another coach on the field. He’s a very smart young man. He scored a 33 on the ACT. When we need to make adjustments or an opposition comes out with a unique formation, he has the ability to line us up correctly and be ready to play football. He’s able to combine the physical and mental parts of the game.”
Sandburg senior kicker/punter Taylor Zalewski
Zalewski is ranked among the top kickers in the nation by ESPN. He connected on 11-of-13 field goals this season with his longest coming from 48 yards. He also was 28 for 29 on extra points and sent 41 of 55 kickoffs in the end zone. He is being recruited by Michigan, Minnesota and other Division I schools.
“He was a huge offensive weapon for us because of his ability to score points for us,” Sandburg coach Dave Wierzal said. “He also helped control field position because he also punts for us.”
Honorable mention all-area
Minooka senior running back Kyle Banks
Mount Carmel senior running back Michael Banks
Thornton senior running back Damien Bell
Crystal Lake South senior offensive lineman Jake Bernstein
South Elgin senior running back Brad Birchfield
Prospect senior running back/defensive back Peter Bonahoom
Glenbard West senior running back Nick Burrello
Minooka senior defensive lineman Zach Colvin
Wheaton Warrenville senior defensive lineman Will Davis
St. Patrick junior wide receiver Guy DiBalsamo
Stevenson senior quarterback Kevin Earl
Glenbrook North junior offensive lineman Brian Ermel
Montini senior defensive lineman Ross Ferraro
Mount Carmel senior linebacker Conor Flaherty
Bishop McNamara senior offensive lineman Matt Frazier
Glenbard West senior wide receiver Mark Hiben
Morgan Park junior quarterback Dae’Shaun Hurley
Schaumburg senior quarterback Mark Iannotti
Carmel junior running back Jordan Kos
Naperville North senior quarterback Matt LaCosse
Glenbard West senior defensive back Mike Laning
Warren senior running back Tom Lindal
St. Rita senior offensive lineman Brian Lurquin
Plainfield South senior quarterback Sheldon Magee
Thornridge senior running back Mik’ail McCall
Joliet Catholic senior linebacker Mike Mettille
Stevenson junior kicker Matt Micucci
Lincoln-Way East senior offensive lineman Joe Mizera
Waubonsie Valley senior defensive lineman Devon Morgan
St. Rita senior linebacker Matt Mullen
Maine South senior offensive lineman Victor Nelson
Homewood-Flossmoor senior running back Malik Norman
Crystal Lake South senior quarterback Drew Ormseth
Downers Grove South senior wide receiver Ryan Oruche
York senior defensive back Joe Paparone
Marist senior wide receiver Alex Puhar
Neuqua Valley senior linebacker TJ Rhattigan
Joliet Catholic senior offensive lineman Kyle Rouse
Homewood-Flossmoor senior offensive lineman Michael Rouse
Simeon senior defensive back Darius Scott
Kaneland senior defensive lineman/running back Blake Serpa
Lyons senior defensive back/wide receiver Mark Sewall
T.F. South senior linebacker Robert Sterling
Marian Catholic junior running back Jeruel Taylor
Prairie Ridge senior defensive back Devon Vance
Loyola junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver
Loyola senior wide receiver EJ Webb
Downers Grove South junior running back Josh Williams
Glenbard North senior defensive lineman Alex Wynn