High School: Maine South
Could that be the Big Ten's new motto? It's become the motto for nearly all of college football over the past decade with the advent of the spread offense.
Rich Rodriguez tried it at Michigan. Urban Meyer is bringing his to Ohio State. Penn State had its "HD Offense."
The Big Ten is no longer just a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust league. But it is nothing new for some of the high schools in the Midwest.
Rocky Pentello has been coaching at Westerville South in Ohio since 1991. He estimates his team has been running the spread offense for close to 15 years now. While Ohio and the Midwest are known for producing linemen, not every program is blessed with the horses up front year after year. Pentello and his staff began incorporating the shotgun-based spread to even the playing field.
Pentello implemented zone-blocking schemes for his offensive line, which, in its simplest terms, is predicated on blocking an area instead of just a man.
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Although the top two spots in Illinois are occupied by skill positions players -- WR Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) and RB Ty Isaac (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) -- six of the top 10 players in the state can be found along the lines. That isn't much of a surprise, as the Midwest is known for producing big boys.
Five offensive tackles are found among the top 10 players in Illinois, and another offensive lineman -- guard Kyle Bosch (Wheaton, Ill./St. Francis) -- comes in at No. 6. Overall, the top part of the state's 2013 class is heavy on offense as 12 of the top 14 prospects could all play on that side of the ball.
Two Big Ten teams without much success recently are hoping they found their quarterbacks of the future from the state.
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2. Whitney Young: The Dolphins haven’t been able to get past Bolingbrook the past three seasons. Last year’s Class 4A semifinal game was an instant classic with Bolingbrook pulling out a 50-49 win. They’ll be the favorites to get another shot at the defending champs. Whitney Young will be led by its backcourt of Linnae Harper, one of the country’s top juniors, and Janee Thompson, a nationally-ranked senior and Kentucky recruit. Whitney Young will also look to sophomores Khaalia Hillsman and Taylor Brame and seniors Tessa Haldes and Alexis Lloyd.
3. Trinity: The Blazers are looking to make that jump into the state’s elite teams this season and appear to have the talent and experience to do so. They went 29-4 last season and return DePaul recruit and all-area selection Megan Podkowa, who averaged 17 points and nine rebounds last season, junior guard Taylor Nazon, who averaged 11 points, senior guard Alyssa Dengler, junior forward Shannon McGinnis and senior center Vickie Harris. Lauren Prochaska and Mikayla Leyden should also contribute.
4. Maine South: The Hawks pulled off one of last season’s biggest upsets when they knocked off Whitney Young in the Class 4A third-place game. Whitney Young may not have been as motivated after losing in the semifinals to Bolingbrook, but it still was a big win for Maine South and could propel it this season. The Hawks return all five starters and their top six players from last year’s team. Senior guard Michelle Maher, who has signed with Western Illinois, and junior forward Jacqui Grant, who has an offer from DePaul, both averaged around 12 points last season.
5. Marist: The RedHawks look to be a state contender this season with all five starters back from last year’s squad that went 27-6 and lost to Marian Catholic in a Class 4A sectional championship game. Among Marist’s returnees is junior guard JeTaun Rouse, who was the lone sophomore on last year’s ESPNChicago.com all-area team. The other returning starters are seniors Randyll Butler, a Colgate recruit, and Asianna Bey, a Memphis recruit, and juniors Leah Bolton and Claire Ryan. All five starters will likely play Division I basketball.
6. Hillcrest: The Hawks have finished second in Class 3A the last two years. The goal this season is finally to win the title. They return four starters and four key reserves from last year’s 29-3 team. The group is led by Seton Hall recruit and all-area selection Shanise Heady and Southern Mississippi recruit Samirah Ali. Seniors Jasmine Sanders and Jahmia Phillips also are returning starters.
7. Morgan Park: The Mustangs return three of their top players from last season’s 27-5 team. Morgan Park will be led by small forward Kendyl Nunn, a Toledo recruit, center Gabrielle Richmond, a St. Bonaventure recruit, and point guard Debra Jenkins, the glue of the team. Sophomore guard Shami Goodman and freshman Marsha Howard are also expected to receive major minutes. Morgan Park’s sophomore team won the city championship last year.
8. Montini: The Broncos graduated four starters, including three Division I players, from last year’s Class 3A state championship team. This is a program that reloads, though. Senior forward Tianna Brown is the lone returning starter, and she averaged eight points last season. Center Diamond Thompson was just a contributor on last year’s team, but recently committed to Notre Dame. Nikia Edom, a versatile 5-6 junior, and forward Malayna Johnson will also contribute this season. Some of the newcomers to watch will be sophomores Jasmine Lumpkin, Kelly Karlis, Kateri Stone and Sara Ross and freshmen Kelsey Bogdan and Rainey Kuykendall.
9. Bartlett: The Hawks lost all-area selection Jacki Gulczynski to graduation, but still return plenty of talent and depth from last year’s 28-2 team. The group is led by Haley Videckis, an Indiana recruit, who averaged 10 points last year. Senior Kristin Conniff also averaged 10 points last season. Bartlett also returns forward Lisa Palmer and guard Janessa Baker. Seniors Ashley Johnson, Nicole Gobbo, Natalia Grodzki and Kate Gutzwiller will also be looked to this season. Videckis’ sister Kendra, a sophomore, will also play on varsity this season.
10. Waubonsie Valley: The Warriors return five starters from last year’s 24-5 team. Senior guard Tami Morice leads the returnees after averaging 13 points last season. Becky Williford, Eric Jordan, Rachael Ross and Gratia Brooks are also back. Williford will be back from ACL surgery in December. Waubonsie Valley will also look to a sophomore and three freshmen to contribute this season.
11. Niles West: The Wolves only have two returning starters, but one of them is Jewell Loyd, and that’s all that matters. Loyd, a Notre Dame recruit, is one of the nation’s most electrifying players. She averaged 30 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks last season. She gives Niles West a chance in every game. For it to truly compete for a state title, it’ll need junior guard Molly Kleppin, the other returning starter, senior Jackie Cardena, sophomores Dashae Shumate and Alex Galanopoulous and others to contribute as much as they can.
12. Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins should again be one of the area’s top teams this season after going 25-6 last year. They return Loyola recruit Taylor Johnson, who averaged 13 points last season, and senior center Caitlin McMahan, who had 10 double-doubles last year. Senior Amy Jacobsen and juniors Meaghan McMahon and Natalie Hill should be key contributors this season as well.
13 Zion-Benton: The Zee-Bees are coming off their second-place finish in Class 4A. They return all-area selection Octavia Crump, who averaged a near double-double last season, sophomore guard Samantha Rodriguez, who started as a freshman, senior Aaliyan Smith, senior guard Morgan Franklin, and junior guard Kaitlyn Stabenow, the team’s best shooter. Senior Jessica Williams didn’t play basketball last season, but was the sophomore team’s MVP two years ago. She’ll be heavily relied on this season.
14. Fremd: The Vikings should possess one of the state’s best backcourts with senior shooting guard Jessi Wiedemann, a Valparaiso commitment, and junior point Ashley McConnell returning and the arrival of highly-touted freshman point guard Haley Gorecki. Fremd is coming off a 25-7 season and lost just one game this summer.
15. Fenwick: The Friars could be the most entertaining team to watch this season. Coach Dave Power is going full run-and-gun this year. His goal every game is to take almost 80 shots, including 40 3-pointers. Fenwick will be led by senior forward and Yale recruit Meredith Boardman, sophomore point guard Jade Owens, junior guard Maggie Reilly and senior guard Marek Burchett.
16. Geneva: Sarah Meadows replaces longtime coach Gina Nolan this season. Meadows will have a lot to work with this season. Ashley Santos, a Marquette recruit, will be the Vikings’ go-to player. She averaged 15.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.1 blocks last season. Geneva also returns starting guard Rachel Hinchman and junior forward Sami Pawlak from last year’s 25-7 team. Sophomores Michaela Loebel and Morgan Seberger should also contribute this year.
17. Homewood-Flossmoor: After winning 22 games in coach Dana Noble’s first year, the Vikings are out for more this year. They’ll be led by 5-10 guard Charnelle Reed, who averaged 13 points, 3.6 rebounds, three assists and 2.4 steals last season. They also return junior guards Syndi Johnson and Lauren Parker and senior forward Amena Brent.
18. New Trier: The Trevians were a bit of a rollercoaster last season. With nine seniors and 12 returnees back this season, they hope to be up more than down. The group is led by 6-1 guard Maggie Lyon, a Northwestern recruit, who averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists last season. Senior forward Jessica Blackwell also averaged eight points and six rebounds last year.
19. Marian Catholic: The Spartans graduated a bulk of their talent, but this won’t be a rebuilding season. Their roster is full of young and talented players. Among those upcoming stars are sophomore guard Ashton Millender, sophomore guard Brianna Morrison and freshman guard Teniya Page. Seniors Alanna Ferry, Amber Williams and Sarafina Handy and junior Megan Walsh are back from last season, and their leadership will be key.
20. Cary-Grove: The Trojans hope to carry over the momentum of last year’s playoff run, which ended in a narrow sectional loss to Geneva. Cary-Grove returns three starters -- senior versatile guard Paige Lincicum, junior forward Olivia Jakubicek and junior guard Joslyn Nicholson -- from that 27-4 team.
Despite being injured on his first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Matt Micucci threw pair of touchdown passes and added a field goal to lead the Patriots to their first victory over Maine South in seven tries. All six of Stevenson's previous losses to the Hawks were season-ending defeats.
"Knowing how many Stevenson seniors have gone home because of these guys, and how good of a team that is, it was just a great experience for us to win," said Micucci, who finished 20-for-32 passing for 243-yards and two touchdowns.
Micucci's first touchdown came late in the first quarter as sophomore Matt Morrissey hauled in a five-yard slant. Senior running back Kevin Foley gave the Patriots a 14-0 advantage early in the second with an 11-yard run over the left side just three minutes later.
Though Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti would get the Hawks on the board with a 35-yard touchdown pass to senior Jimmy Frankos, Stevenson responded on the ensuing possession. Micucci led the Pats on a 10-play drive and drilled a 28-yard field goal as the first half expired, giving his team a 17-7 lead at the break.
"I thought Matt Micucci played great tonight," said Stevenson head coach Bill McNamara. "He showed great character, great poise, he found open [receivers] and made unbelievable decisions. He showed that he's a top-caliber quarterback."
Stevenson's lead grew to 24-7 as Micucci found fellow senior Troy Radtke on a 20-yard fade to the back corner of the end zone on the first possession of the second half, and despite a pair of Alviti touchdowns over the final two quarters, the Patriots held on for perhaps the biggest win in Stevenson history.
"I don't know if this is the biggest -- we went to the state finals one time -- but this is a big one. It ranks right up there with them," McNamara said. "But our hats are off to Maine South -- they're the defending state champs. There was no quit in those guys, we knew we needed to play four quarters of football. They had a great year, but we're very proud of our kids and we get to play on."
Saturday marked just the third loss in the past four seasons for Maine South, whose seniors finished with three state championships, four Central Suburban League South titles an astounding record of 50-3.
"They played hard, they had a great game plan and they made plays when they needed to," said Maine South head coach Dave Inserra. "We were right there until the end. Our guys battled. They didn't get it done in the end, but I'm just very proud of these seniors and their efforts. We challenged the entire team at halftime and they responded. It was our game to win and we just didn't get it done today."
Though Alviti passed for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also adding a 15-yard touchdown run, the Patriots were able to limit Hawks running back Paul Preston to just 84 yards on 12 carries.
"We tried to keep a very close eye on Preston and Alviti and tried to take our chances with everybody else," McNamara said. "Our defensive coordinator, Josh Hjorth, had an unbelievable game plan and spent countless hours preparing and our kids were ready to play."
Morrissey finished with seven catches for 105 yards and Foley had 23 carries for 79 yards for Stevenson, which will now play the Palatine-Glenbard North winner in next week's quarterfinal. But in the meantime, Micucci and the rest of the Patriots certainly plan to enjoy the feeling of taking down the three-time defending state champs.
"I went to every one of those Maine South-Stevenson games, and to finally be here and win it, it's unbelievable," said Micucci. "After the 2003 game, my dad put his arms around my shoulders and said as we were walking away, 'One day you're going to beat Maine South.' And it's kind of amazing how life goes full circle like that."
Players of the game: Stevenson senior QB Matt Micucci: 20-for-32 passing, 243 yards, 2 TDs, INT / Maine South junior QB Matt Alviti 16-for-25 passing, 214 yards, 2 TDs, INT and 17 carries for 49 yards, TD.
Stat of the game: This was just the third Maine South loss in the past four seasons. The win was also Stevenson's first over Maine South in seven tries.
It was over when: With less than a minute to play and just one timeout remaining, Maine South was called for encroachment on second-and-5 from its own 33-yard line; the Patriots received a first down and Micucci would kneel twice to run out the clock.
Quote of the night: "This is something I've been waiting for my whole life. My brother lost to Maine South and it's always been a goal in our family to beat them, and now that we've finally done it, I just can't believe it happened." -- Stevenson sophomore WR Matt Morrissey
Weaver and the Ramblers have been eliminated by Maine South the last two years in the 8A semifinals and watched as the Hawks continued onto consecutive state championships.
On the one hand, it’d be understandable if Loyola would rather not see Maine South again. The Hawks may just have their number. But on the other hand, the Ramblers could believe if they’re going to win their first state championship since 1993 the proper way for it to come is by pushing Maine South off the mountain.
Weaver thought the latter.
“That’s who we want to see,” Weaver said. “That’s the goal right now. We’ve competed against them greatly. Great competition. We want to play the best competition. We want to play Maine South.”
Of course, Maine South doesn’t care who it plays. For the last three years, the Hawks have set up the Class 8A dominoes and knocked them down one by one on their way to three consecutive state championships.
Best opening round game
No. 12 Homewood-Flossmoor at No. 5 Marist: Whatever the over is for this game, take it. Both teams have put up plenty of points this season. Homewood-Flossmoor is averaging 43.2 points a game. Marist is averaging 37.9 points and has scored 120 points in its last two games.
Top 10 Class 8A teams
1. Maine South (9-0): The Hawks are shooting for their fourth consecutive state championship. They’ve been ranked No. 1 in the area from the opening poll.
2. Loyola (9-0): The Ramblers have come close to dethroning Maine South. Is this finally the year? Their offense and defense have been impressive.
3. Bolingbrook (8-1): The Raiders’ lone loss came to Lincoln-Way East, and they were leading that game the entire first half. They’re not too far off Loyola and Maine South.
4. Palatine (8-1): The Pirates responded from their season-opening loss to Montini with eight consecutive wins.
5. Marist (7-2): The RedHawks are as hot as anyone right now with back-to-back wins over Carmel and Joliet Catholic.
6. Downers Grove South (8-1): The Mustangs took a step back with their Week 9 loss to Addison Trail, but they were among the state’s top teams throughout the rest of the season.
7. Bartlett (7-2): The Hawks’ losses came early in the season to Batavia and Wheaton North. They rallied to win the Upstate Eight Valley title.
8. Waubonsie Valley (8-1): The Warriors’ lone regular-season loss came to Bartlett and was the difference for the Upstate Eight Valley title. Waubonsie Valley is a No. 1 seed.
9. Stevenson (7-2): The Patriots have played six games decided by seven points or less. They won four of them.
10. Mount Carmel (6-3): The Caravan ended the regular season on a low note, losing to Providence. They were in the area’s top 10 for most of the year.
Top 5 players to watch
1. Simeon offensive lineman Jordan Diamond: Diamond is one of only two Illinois players in ESPNU’s 150. He’s not committed yet.
2. Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti: Alviti already has offers from Illinois, Northwestern and Notre Dame. He’s still only a junior.
3. Bolingbrook linebacker Antonio Morrison: Morrison is one of the state’s top defensive players. He’s committed to Florida.
4. Downers Grove South running back Josh Williams: Williams is in contention for ESPNChicago.com Offensive Player of the Year.
5. Loyola quarterback Malcolm Weaver: Weaver is one of the area’s premier dual-threat quarterbacks.
Simeon (7-2): It’s hard to tell what the Wolverines are going to do in the playoffs. They lost early games to Mount Carmel and an out-of-state team, then cruised through their Public League competition. They have the pieces to make a run.
Maine South coach David Inserra: “Class 8A looks to be fair throughout with even competition in each of the four quads. The key to success for us is continue to do what we do best and make slight adjustments based on the opponent at hand. This time of year can be a grind. so it's important to stay healthy physically and sickness-wise, plan accordingly, be able to shift ‘mid-stream’ if that's what's called for and stay the course. Everyone is good at this time. Should be a great playoff with some interesting and exciting games right off the bat.”
Loyola coach John Holecek: “I know there’s one team that’s really, really good out there that we’re going to have to play eventually. But there are a bunch of North Side teams that could cause us a lot of trouble. There’s a bunch of good teams, unknowns in the playoffs. We’re not going to look ahead. We’re just going to talk about the next game.”
The road for the defending Class 8A state champions: If the seeds play out, Maine South would face Stevenson in the second round and Palatine in the quarterfinals. Because the IHSA doesn’t seed 1-32 in the playoffs, Maine South and Loyola would meet in the semifinals. It would be at Loyola, which is the top seed.
Fun fact: Thirty of the 32 teams in the Class 8A playoffs also reached the playoffs last season. Only Hinsdale Central and Naperville Central missed the playoffs last year. Mount Carmel is making its 26th consecutive appearance.
State championship prediction: Maine South over Bolingbrook
While that's plenty impressive, it doesn’t compare to the Hawks’ current 55-game Central Suburban League South winning streak, which now includes 11 consecutive conference titles.
"That's a lot of teams, obviously," said Maine South head coach Dave Inserra. "That's 11 teams. There's been some good consistency amongst the coaching staff and I've got to give them some credit. Every week, we've shown up, done our jobs and it doesn't matter who is playing -- these kids buy in and they believe, no matter what, that they can win. That confidence has gone a long way."
Maine South (9-0, 5-0) rushed out to an early 10-0 first-quarter lead on the strength of quarterback Matt Alviti's legs. Though the junior is one of the state's most dangerous passing threats, Alviti carried the ball 12 times in the first half, totaling 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns; he would finish with 167 yards on 22 carries and three rushing TDs.
"He runs like that in practice and I got him a bit last week and told him to save some of it for the game. And wow, he can run," said Inserra. "They knew what we could do passing-wise, so we had to take advantage of what they were giving us, and they were giving us the run."
Glenbrook South (7-2, 4-1) would cut the Hawks' lead to 17-7 in the second quarter, thanks to a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mac Zabriskie (6-15, 119 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) to Sully Stadler, but Alviti responded with a touchdown pass of his own on the ensuing possession. Alviti connected with senior tight end Tyler Fahey, who ran over Titan defenders and crossed the goal line 42 yards later; Maine South would take a 24-7 lead into halftime.
Things then became interesting as Glenbrook South scored on each of its first two second-half possessions. First, Zabriskie found Billy Pappas on a 36-yard strike down the middle of the field and then head coach Mike Noll brought out his bag of tricks. GBS ran a reverse-pass that yielded a 35-yard touchdown from Stadler to a wide-open Pappas, and suddenly Maine South's lead shrunk to 24-21 with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter.
The quick scores served as a wake-up call for the Hawks, however, as Alviti answered right back with his final rushing touchdown of the night, a 33-yard sprint through the heart of the GBS defense. Maine South then added a pair of rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter as seniors Luke Lenti and Paul Preston (153 yards, 16 carries) scored on runs of 6 and 80 yards respectively.
"They ran two great plays -- one of them was on them and one was on us," Inserra said. "We gave up those scores and then our offense came back with some quick scores and that helped get our swagger back."
Maine South converted three Glenbrook South turnovers into 14 points during the contest, something Noll admits his team could not afford against a team like the Hawks.
"You've got to have zero turnovers in a game like this if you want to be competitive and take it all the way to the end," said Noll. "We know what it's like to play at a very elite level and they're the No. 1 team in the state for a reason."
Now both the Hawks' and Titans' postseason fate rests in the hands of the IHSA as the state will release its Class 8A playoff pairings tomorrow night. In the meantime, the Hawks plan to enjoy their accomplishment.
"This was a nice way to end the [regular season]," Preston said. "We come out every week wanting to play like the [Maine South] teams before us. We don't want to let them down and we definitely don't want to let ourselves down."
Player of the game: Maine South Sr. QB Matt Alviti: 22 carries, 167 yards, 3 TDs & 11-17 passing, 166-yards, TD / Glenbrook South Sr. WB Billy Pappas: 11 carries, 63 yards, 2 catches, 76 yards, 2 TDs.
Stat of the game: Maine South has not lost to a CSL-South opponent in 11 years. The Hawks have won 55 straight conference games and 11 consecutive CSL South titles.
It was over when: The Hawks scored 21 unanswered points in the final 13:26, capped off by an 80-yard touchdown run from Paul Preston with 1:55 remaining.
Quote of the night: "They have great personnel. They have a great program, they're well-coached and they have a football culture. These guys are at a whole different level." -- Glenbrook South head coach Mike Noll on how Maine South has managed to collect 11 years worth of CSL South victories and championships.
Maine South, which is 8-0, remained at No. 10 in the national rankings. The Hawks are the second-ranked team in the Midwest behind Harrison from Farmington Hills, Mich. Harrison is No. 9 in the national poll.
Glenbard West moved up two spots to No. 33 this week. The Hilltoppers are also 8-0 heading into the final week of the regular season.
No. 1 Maine South (7-0) at Waukegan (3-4)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Maine South is on the verge of another unbeaten regular season. The Hawks should be fine this week, but could be tested against Glenbrook South next week. Waukegan has lost its last two games, including a 56-14 loss to Glenbrook South last week.
Maine South player to watch: Danny Allegretti had an interception against Evanston last week.
Waukegan player to watch: Maurice Childs provides the running threat for the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Maine South 49, Waukegan 14
York (5-2) at No. 2 Glenbard West (7-0)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West faces its second quality team in as many weeks. The Hilltoppers defeated Addison Trail 14-0 last week. York has lost it two games this season by a combined three points. Its 27-point total in last week’s loss was its lowest of the season. Glenbard West hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game this season.
York player to watch: Quarterback Joe Lucca threw 225 yards and ran for 75 yards against Lyons last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Joe Zito is one of the Hilltoppers’ many reliable running backs.
Prediction: Glenbard West 28, York 14
Joliet Central (0-7) at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (7-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East will likely roll in its last two regular-season games. The Griffins’ next two opponents have combined for two wins this year. Joliet Central has been out-scored 291-20 through seven weeks.
Joliet Central player to watch: Quarterback Carlos Curry will look to get his offense going this week.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Quarterback Blake Winkler is hearing from Ivy League and FCS schools.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 49, Joliet Central 7
No. 4 Loyola (7-0) at Brother Rice (5-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Loyola finishes out its regular season with two tough games with Brother Rice and St. Rita. The Ramblers will certainly earn their Catholic League Blue title if they win out. Brother Rice has been on the wrong end of two tights games against Mount Carmel and St. Rita. The Crusaders are still one of the area’s top teams and should give Loyola a game.
Loyola player to watch: Michael Paloian had two sacks and recovered a fumble against Fenwick last week.
Brother Rice player to watch: Richard Mayer has been a nice complimentary back to Brother Rice’s two star running backs.
Prediction: Loyola 24, Brother Rice 17
No. 6 Mount Carmel (6-1) at No. 5 St. Rita (6-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: The Mount Carmel-St. Rita rivalry has one way in recent years. St. Rita has won the last three meetings, including 54-18 win in 2009 and last year’s 35-14 victory. The Mustangs’ offense doesn’t look as potent this season. They scored a total of 40 points in their two other Catholic League Blue games. Mount Carmel’s offense has put up numbers, but was held to seven points against Loyola. If St. Rita wins, Mount Carmel will fall out of the conference title race.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Quarterback Don Butkus threw for three touchdowns and ran for one in last week’s win over St. Laurence.
St. Rita player to watch: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay scored the game-winning touchdown against Bishop McNamara last week.
Prediction: St. Rita 21, Mount Carmel 20
Hinsdale South (4-3) at No. 7 Downers Grove South (7-0)When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: For Downers Grove South to win another West Suburban Gold title, it will have to go through two quality opponents in the following weeks. Hinsdale South has one conference loss. It has been up and down for the Hornets all season. They haven’t won or lost two games in a row. They did win last week.
Hinsdale South player to watch: Safety Bryan Taheri forced one of five turnovers last week.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Sophomore defensive back DeAndre Washington had an interception last week.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 35, Hinsdale South 20
McHenry (3-4) at No. 8 Prairie Ridge (7-0
When:Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge was tested early against Jacobs last week and overcame a 14-0 deficit to win 35-14. It was the Wolves’ smallest margin of victory this season. Cary-Grove could still present a challenge for them during the last week of the season, but Prairie Ridge should have no trouble this week. McHenry has allowed 40-plus points against all of the conference’s top-tier teams.
McHenry player to watch: Quarterback Robert Tonyan can be a difference-maker.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Linebacker Collin Corcoran had two sacks last week.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 49, McHenry 7
No. 9 Bolingbrook (6-1) at Lincoln-Way Central (1-6)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Bolingbrook will likely have to settle for second place in the Southwest Suburban Blue. The Raiders bounced back from their loss to Lincoln-Way East with a 27-3 win over Sandburg last week. Their defense is among the area’s best. Lincoln-Way Central has lost its last five games.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Linebacker Anthony Morrison will be in the running for ESPNChicago.com Defensive Player of the Year. He had 14 tackles last week.
Lincoln-Way Central player to watch: Brett Ditchman scored his team’s lone touchdown against Lincoln-Way East last week.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 42, Lincoln-Way Central 7
Rich South (3-4) at No. 11 Crete-Monee (7-0)When:Friday at 6 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee had its closest game of the season last week, beating Rich Central 34-20. The Warriors will hope to put away Rich South earlier this week. Rich South has four losses, but only one in conference and is in second place in the Southland.
Rich South player to watch: Running back DeAndre Washington ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns against Rich East last week.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Michigan recruit Anthony Standifer is one of the area’s premier defensive backs.
Prediction: Crete-Monee 42, Rich South 17
Marist (5-2) at No. 11 Carmel (5-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: There’s a four-way tie for the East Suburban Catholic lead. Either Carmel or Marist won’t be involved in that race any longer after Friday. Carmel won 20-16 at Marist last season. Carmel’s offense is tough to stop, but Marist has proven it can score points this season, too. This could be another close one. Marist closes out its regular season with Joliet Catholic.
Marist player to watch: Tom O’Neil kicked a game-winning 38-yard field goal against St. Patrick last week.
Carmel player to watch: Running back Jordan Kos is coming off a five-touchdown performance.
Prediction: Carmel 38, Marist 28
No. 12 Lemont (7-0) at T.F. North (5-2)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Lemont will be favored the next two weeks, but it could be tested against T.F. North and Oak Lawn. Both opponents are 5-2 right now. The challenge against Lemont is trying to score on its defense. The Indiana have allowed 32 points in total this year, and 20 of those came in one game. T.F. North has scored 50-plus points twice this season.
Lemont player to watch: Christos Giatras rushed for 106 yards on five carries in last week’s win over Hillcrest.
T.F. North player to watch: Anyone on T.F. North’s kickoff team. The Meteors recovered three onside kicks last week.
Prediction: Lemont 42, T.F. North 10
No. 13 Batavia (7-0) at St. Charles North (2-5)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Batavia wasn’t ranked in the preseason, but has been one of the area’s most dominant teams. The Bulldogs have gotten it done on offense and defense. They’ve only allowed two opponents more than 13 points this season, and they’ve scored 35 or more points in every game. That trend should continue against St. Charles North. The North Stars dropped their first five games and have won their last two.
Batavia player to watch: Tight end Evan Zeddies had a team-high three catches and a touchdown in last week’s win.
St. Charles North player to watch: George Edlund ran for 172 yards in last week’s win over Larkin.
Prediction: Batavia 49, St. Charles North 13
No. 14 Nazareth (6-1) at Riverside-Brookfield (2-5)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Nazareth takes a step out of the East Suburban Catholic race for a week and plays Riverside-Brookfield in a non-conference game. Nazareth is on a five-game winning streak, and its offense has especially been rolling. Riverside-Brookfield defeated Elmwood Park 28-0 last week for its second win. The Bulldogs lost to No. 12 Lemont 48-0 earlier in the season.
Nazareth player to watch: Kalium Ewing returned two interceptions for touchdowns in last week’s win.
Riverside-Brookfield player to watch: Quarterback Dylan Beketic threw for three touchdowns and ran for one against Elmwood Park last week.
Prediction: Nazareth 45, Riverside-Brookfield 10
No. 15 Joliet Catholic (6-1) at St. Patrick (3-4)
When:Friday at 8 p.m.
The story: Joliet Catholic bounced back from its loss to Nazareth with a 64-13 win over Marian Catholic last week. The Hilltoppers’ offense could have another field day against St. Patrick. The Shamrocks have allowed 30-plus points in their last four games. St. Patrick is also on a four-game losing streak after starting out 3-0.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Defensive end Josh Falk recovered a fumble and blocked a punt against Marian Catholic.
St. Patrick player to watch: Quarterback Ryan Tentler is a threat to pass or run the ball.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, St. Patrick 20
No. 16 Geneva (6-1) at South Elgin (3-4)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva responded after its loss to Batavia with a 42-0 win over Streamwood last week. The Vikings’ offense could have another productive day against South Elgin. The Storm have had a rocky season after finishing 7-4 in 2010. South Elgin’s defense recently struggled against Bartlett and Neuqua Valley in losses.
Geneva player to watch: Running back Bobby Hess scored twice in last week’s win over Streamwood.
South Elgin player to watch: Adolfo Pacheco rushed for 39- and 85-yard touchdowns and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass against East Aurora last week.
Prediction: Geneva 45, South Elgin 20
No. 17 Antioch (6-0) at Grant (5-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This game will decide the North Suburban Prairie championship. Antioch is undefeated in conference, and Grant has one loss. Antioch pulled out some close wins early on, but has been dominant as of late. The Sequoits have won their last three games by 16 points or more. Grant’s lone conference loss came against Lakes. The Bulldogs have won their last three games and scored 40-plus points in three of them.
Antioch player to watch: Anthony Formella is 5-9 and 132 pounds, but he can make big plays at wide receiver.
Grant player to watch: Kyle Whitman rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns against North Chicago last week.
Prediction: Antioch 38, Grant 21
Glenbard North (5-2) at No. 18 Wheaton North (6-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Wheaton North holds a one-game lead in the DuPage Valley, but it faces back-to-back tough games with Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South. Wheaton North’s offense was limited in last week’s 14-7 win over Naperville Central. Glenbard North has lost its last two games. The Panthers only scored a total of 13 points in those losses. Their defense is still among the area’s best.
Glenbard North player to watch: Running back Phil Jackson is Glenbard North’s premier offensive player.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wide receiver Johnny Daniels had a 46-yard touchdown catch last week. He’s among the area’s top receivers.
Prediction: Wheaton North 17, Glenbard North 14
No. 19 Montini (5-2) at Walther Lutheran (2-5)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Montini is becoming the team it was expected to be in the preseason. With quarterback John Rhoden’s return from injury, the Broncos’ offense is clicking. Rhode threw eight touchdowns in last week’s win over St. Edward. Walther Lutheran allowed 63 points to Byron earlier this season and has given up 40-plus points three times.
Montini player to watch: Wide receiver Joseph Borsellini should become a larger threat with Rhode now throwing him passes.
Walther Lutheran player to watch: Najee Toomer ran for two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, in last week’s win over Aurora Central.
Prediction: Montini 49, Walther Lutheran 10
Hoffman Estates (0-7) at No. 20 Palatine (6-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Palatine is two wins away from winning the Mid-Suburban West title. The Pirates should be able to cruise this week against Hoffman Estates. The Hawks have been out-scored 333-79 this year. Palatine is riding a six-game winning streak after losing to Montini in the season opener. It’ll close out the regular season with Conant.
Hoffman Estates player to watch: Quarterback Jordan Hudak rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two against Schaumburg last week.
Palatine player to watch: Cam Kuska rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries against Fremd last week.
Prediction: Palatine 49, Hoffman Estates 7
Each week we present a specific question to all of the coaches in ESPNChicago.com’s top 20 poll.
This week’s coaches roundtable question: What coach had the biggest impact on you wanting to become a coach?
Crystal Lake South’s Chuck Ahsmann: Bill Mack was my high school football coach. The way he coached had a big influence on my decision to go into coaching and the way I try to coach my teams. Coach Mack is a hall of fame coach because of his achievements, but I believe he has had a lot of influence on coaches he has coached as well.
Maine South’s David Inserra: Three coaches for this one. Phil Hopkins was my high school coach and an Illinois Hall of Fame coach. He brought passion, intensity, an urge to win at any competition and a great knowledge of the whole game of football. He was extremely personable and so easy to talk with. Glen Van Proyen was a teacher of mine. I never got to play for him, but was the consummate "teaching life through a game" coach. The last one is Bobby Knight. As a young kid I loved how he broke everything down, expected 100 percent out of his players at all times and played by the rules. He was stubborn to a fault, but he was so far ahead of his time with X's and O's and use of film.
Batavia’s Dennis Piron: In high school -- I went to Batavia -- Mike Gaspari was an assistant coach who spent time with me before and after practice to become a better player. He was a new coach at Batavia and went on to become the head coach and develop a very highly respected program at Batavia. I also went on to North Central College and ran track and played football for four years there. Mike invited me back to Batavia after graduation to coach with him, and I have been coaching ever since. Mike is the reason I am doing what I do today.
Antioch’s Brian Glashagel: Although all of the coaches I had at Conant High School were great (Dave Pendergast for football, Tom McCormick for basketball) and the coaches I had at Knox College (Randy Oberembt for football and Bob Prout for track), the coach that most impacted me wanting to become a coach and most impacted my life was Ron Gummerson from Conant. He was my track coach. The reason being is that he didn't only transform me physically from a football and basketball player into a track sprinter/hurdler, but made me mentally tougher. He taught me that you don't always have to perform your best every competition, but just compete every time. If you wait to compete in perfect conditions, you will never compete. He emphasized this every day. He never yelled. Not once. But he had a look. He could just look at you, and you knew you messed up, and it made you like you were letting down a parent. He passed away this past summer. and he obviously impacted the lives of many as the line was out the door, and it was filled with coaches he worked with and against and athletes from over the past four decades.
Geneva’s Rob Wincinski: My college coach Bill Mallory, loved his intensity. I wanted to be him. My old Ottawa High School coach Gary Vancil also influenced me to go into high school coaching. It looked like he was having a blast.
Lake Zurich’s Bryan Stortz: I’ve been so fortunate to have so many great coaches influence how and why I coach, including my high school coaches Don Tanney, Randy Bouris, Jack Esterdahl and Tom Wooden and college coaches John Furlong and Tom Schmulbach. My father Barry Stortz was a high school football and wrestling coach in the 1970’s. We learned the foundation for sports and life from him – work ethic, attitude, commitment and the “little things.” It seemed like every day during the summer he would take my older brother and I out in the yard and hit fly balls and grounders to us. If we did a good job fielding, he would then pitch and let us bat. We learned that defense comes first! He coached many of our youth baseball and football teams. He always seemed to purely love being out there coaching and teaching all of us. He taught us fundamental after fundamental, demanded a great effort and inspired us all. I grew up seeing firsthand how being a teacher/educator and coach was a great profession. People would walk up to my dad in a store or restaurant and say, “Hi coach, remember when…. thanks!” I thought that was the greatest thing, I couldn’t believe the impact that he was able to have on someone’s life. He’s definitely had the biggest impact on why I became a coach.
Crete-Monee’s Jerry Verde: Marian Catholic’s Dave Mattio was my coach in high school and later hired me as his defensive coordinator. He has been a mentor and a friend. Much of what I know about coaching high school football has been just trying to emulate him. His ability to win with class, get the best out of his players and yet still be personable is an example for any coach.
Lemont’s Eric Michaelsen: My high school football coach Marv Gonsiorowski. He helped me to develop a love and respect for the game. He also treated people the right way. He never acted too important to talk to anyone and was always willing to help. An all time great person.