High School: Naperville North
Goebel, who is 6-4 and 275 pounds, committed to the Hawkeyes while making a visit to the school on Saturday, according to Naperville North coach Sean Drendel.
“His recruiting process went pretty quick,” Drendel said on Sunday. “He visited a few different schools. He really went out to Iowa and fell in love with [head coach] Kirk Ferentz and [offensive line coach] Brian Ferentz. They were the first big school to offer him.
“He’s a great point-of-attack blocker, who has good feet, very physical, pretty physically mature. I know they’re going to make him an outstanding player.”
Fremd senior tight end Jack Konopka and Naperville North senior linebacker Nick Lifka were recently selected to the play for the U.S. under-19 national team in the Team USA vs. The World game in Austin, Texas on Feb. 2.
Lifka, who is 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, was the ESPNChicago.com Defensive Player of the Year after recording 168 tackles this season. He is committed to Boston College.
Konopka, who is 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, played tight end throughout his career at Fremd, but will likely move to offensive tackle next season at Northwestern.
“It’s a real honor,” Konopka said. “Not everybody gets to play in these postseason all-star games. I think the Midwest is renowned for its basketball, but we have very good football teams and players here. Me and Nick going to this game attests to that.”
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
Wherever the ball was, he believed he should be there, too.
“I feel like I need to get there or else something could happen,” Lifka said. “It’s more like I want to be there, so my teammates can see me. ‘He’s there every time.’ It’s like a leadership thing.”
Fortunately for Lifka and his fellow Huskies, he didn’t let them down often. With 168 tackles this season, the 6-2, 245-pound Likfa dominated the game unlike any other defensive player in the area, which is why he’s the ESPNChicago.com Defensive Player of the Year.
“When you watch the film, at the time, I felt bad for Nick,” Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. “We were like, ‘Oh, he should have made that play’, or ‘He could have made that tackle,’ and you look at the stat sheet and he has 17 tackles. Our expectations for him were outrageous. He’s just a heck of a football player.”
Lifka, a dominant linebacker throughout this career, had one area he wanted to work on this season. He led Naperville North in tackles the last three seasons, compiling 373 tackles in his career, but he’d never made an interception at the high school level.
Heading into the season, he had two interceptions in his entire football career. One when he was playing defensive line at an early age, and the other at linebacker in second grade.
Lifka concentrated this season on seeing the entire field, instead of just focusing on the one player he was covering on a particular play. His alteration led to an interception against Wheaton North and then another later in the playoffs against York.
“I have four interceptions in my career,” Lifka said, laughing. “It was a good feeling to get two this season. It was one of my goals.”
Lifka was better at breaking up the pass this season, but his strength continued to be tracking down the player with the ball and putting that person not so gently on the ground. There wasn’t a game this season where he had less than 10 tackles. He had 18 against Glenbard North. Twice, he had 19.
All together, Lifka had 113 solo tackles, 55 assists, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
“Obviously, his physical strength is quite visible,” Drendel said. “More than anything, he has a great knack at getting off blocks and not getting blocked. He really smells the football. I don’t know if that’s taught or not. He’s obviously played a lot of football and has a great ball sense.”
Lifka credited his success this season to his growth in the mental aspect of the game as much as the physical one.
“My knowledge of football is growing,” said Likfa, who will play at Boston College next season. “It’s made it a lot easier. I’m noticing the little things in film and sort of picking them up in the game.
“I didn’t notice it before, but I was a lot closer to the ball this year. I saw it on film compared to my sophomore and junior year. I don’t want to sound self-confident or gloating, but it made me feel really good I could get to the ball like that.”
Drendel expected nothing less.
“Anytime you have a three-year star, he has a full understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Drendel said. “He has full understanding of what’s in front of him and what’s going to happen. I thought what he did this year was he had a greater knowledge of what the other team was doing.
“When you put those three things, you have a phenomenal season.”
NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Trailing by a touchdown with 25 seconds remaining in its IHSA 8A quarterfinal matchup, Naperville North faced a fourth-and-goal from the Homewood-Flossmoor 2-yard line. After a timeout, senior quarterback, Matt Lacosse reached under center and took the snap to the right side, but, instead of finding the end zone, Lacosse found Denzel Wilkins and a host of HF defenders as the Vikings came up with their biggest stop of the season, securing a 35-28 Class 8A quarterfinal victory on the road.
"Coach told me to blitz and I did all I could to get to the ball," Wilkins said. "We had the confidence and came out with a big play."
The Vikings (10-2) will now move on to face Mt. Carmel in the 8A semifinals.
While the second was defined by high-flying offenses -- the two teams combined for six touchdowns 00 the first half was a defensive struggle that produced five total turnovers and a 14-6 HF lead at the intermission.
The Vikings jumped on the board early as senior running back, Malik Norman capitalized on a Huskies turnover midway through the first quarter, scoring from four yards out. Lacosse would answer for Naperville North (8-4), rushing for a seven-yard touchdown minutes later. The point after, however, was blocked, and HF would increase its lead five minutes before the half ended on another Norman touchdown run.
Homewood-Flossmoor would begin the second half with a three-and-out. From there, both offenses didn't let up, trading touchdowns on every possession until Lacosse was finally stopped on the Huskies' final play. North senior running back Antonio Owens would score all three of the second-half touchdowns for the Huskies, and his two-point conversion on NN's first possession of the third quarter evened the score at 14. Owens would finish with 176 yards on the ground.
The Vikings notched second-half scores on two passing plays from junior quarterback Timothy Williams (to Garald Butler and Norman respectively), before taking their final lead on a 14-play, 82-yard drive that took 6:57 off of the clock. It concluded with Norman's a one-yard touchdown run.
"I was really motivated coming into this game," said Norman, who finished with 162 rushing yards, 79 receiving yards and three touchdowns. "I talked to my offensive line all week long and they did an amazing job of motivating me."
Players of the game: Homewood-Flossmoor RB -- Malik Norman: 162 rushing yards, 79 receiving yards and three touchdowns; Naperville North QB -- Timothy Williams: 14-for-19 for 259 yards and two touchdowns with one interception; Naperville North RB -- Antonio Owens: 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns;
Stat of the game: Naperville North scored on every second half possession, but one.
It was over when: Denzel Wilkins and the Homewood-Flossmoor defense stopped Lacosse on the 1-yard line, ending the ballgame and Naperville North's season.
Quote of the game: "I'd say I'm shocked, but I did tell these guys when I came here that my goal was to go to the state championship and it wasn't going to be a five or six year turnaround. We wanted to do it right away and now we're a game away from getting there." - Homewood-Flossmoor head coach, Craig Buzea.
ESPNChicago.com previews all of the top-20 games.
No. 10 Glenbard West (10-1) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (11-0) on Saturday
The story: The last time Glenbard West and Wheaton Warrenville South met it was the Class 7A state championship game. Last season, Wheaton Warrenville South defeated the Hilltoppers 31-24 in two overtimes in Champaign. Ever since, Glenbard West has been talking about revenge. Both teams have been ranked in the top 10 for most of the season. Wheaton Warrenville South has been the state’s most dominant team. No opponent has scored more than 14 points on the Tigers, and they’ve put up 38 or more points in 10 of their games. Glenbard West has been strong on both sides of the ball as well. It’s coming off a 42-28 win over Lincoln-Way East. Wide receiver Mark Hiben had a state-record 319 receiving yards in the victory. The Hilltoppers are a run-first team, though. The winner will either play Minooka or Belleville East.
Glenbard West player to watch: Junior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt is considered one of the best in the country. He needs to put pressure on Reilly O’Toole for the Hilltoppers to have a chance.
Wheaton Warrenville South: Quarterback Reilly O’Toole was hyped from the start of the season and has lived up to every ounce of it.
Quote: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet – “We are fast on defense again and maybe more explosive on offense. Wheaton Warrenville South is a lot stronger on offense this year. Their defense is great again with great team speed. Last year is absolutely motivation for us.”
iPrediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Glenbard West 28
No. 11 Lake Zurich (10-1) at No. 2 Simeon (11-0) on Saturday
The story: Simeon’s offense has been unstoppable all season. The Wolverines haven’t scored less than 42 points all year. Last week, they put up 55 in a win over Schaumburg. On the other hand, Lake Zurich’s defense has been among the state’s best this season. The Bears have allowed 8.5 points a game this season. Only two teams have scored more than 14 points against them. The winner will play either Carmel or St. Rita.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Linebacker J.J. Raffelson has been one of keys to Lake Zurich’s defense this season. He’ll need another big game to slow down Simeon.
Simeon player to watch: Quarterback Robert Gregory may be the state’s best dual-threat quarterback. In last week’s win, he threw for five touchdowns and ran for two more.
Prediction: Simeon 38, Lake Zurich 28
No. 3 Carmel (10-1) at No. 6 St. Rita (10-1) on Saturday
The story: Both these teams spent almost the entire year ranked in the area’s top 10. Carmel relies on its defense and multi-back running game. The Corsairs haven’t allowed their last five in-state opponents to score more than seven points. St. Rita has also been tough to score on and is led offensively by all-state running back Jahwon Akui, who scored five times last week. The Mustangs put up less than 21 points only once this season. The winner will play either Lake Zurich or Simeon.
Prediction: Carmel 31, St. Rita 28
No. 4 Joliet Catholic (10-1) at Peoria Richwoods (11-0) on Saturday
The story: Joliet Catholic hasn’t been tested yet through two rounds of the playoffs. The Hilltoppers won both of their previous games by 42 points. Richwoods should present more of a challenge, especially at home. The Knights are undefeated this season and are coming off a 49-13 win over Lincoln-Way West. They haven’t seen a team like Joliet Catholic this season. The winner will either play Glenwood or Springfield.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, Richwoods 17
No. 5 Loyola (10-1) Palatine (7-4) on Saturday
The story: Palatine has been the surprise of the playoffs. The No. 14-seeed Pirates upset Glenbard North in the opening round and took down Glenbrook South last week. Their defense has been strong the past three weeks, holding their opponents to 14 points or less. Loyola is riding a seven-game winning streak into Saturday. The Ramblers held off Fremd last week for a 14-7 win. Their defense has been stepping up in recent weeks. The defense scored a touchdown again last week. The winner will play either Maine South or Stevenson.
Prediction: Loyola 31, Palatine 17
No. 19 Prairie Ridge (10-1) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (11-0) on Saturday
The story: These two teams met up in Week 4, and Crystal Lake South pulled out a 24-20 victory. The Gators’ Brad Walovitch was the hero in the win, catching two touchdown passes, kicking a field goal and gaining a first down on a key fourth-down conversion. The two teams combined for 27 fourth-quarter points. Prairie Ridge has taken care of business ever since. It’s coming off an impressive 20-6 win over Morgan Park. The winner will play either Boylan or Cary-Grove.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 29, Prairie Ridge 28
No. 14 Maine South (9-2) at No. 8 Stevenson (11-0) on Saturday
The story: Maine South is still the king of Class 8A. The Hawks are two-time defending 8A champs and have won their last 12 playoff games. Maine South has won its last nine games this season by 21 or more points. Stevenson has gotten to where it is by relying on its offense and defense. The Patriots are coming off a close one. They defeated South Elgin 10-7 last week. The winner will play either Loyola or Palatine.
Maine South player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Matt Alviti has improved week after week. He’s been poised throughout the playoffs so far.
Stevenson player to watch: Junior kicker Matthew Micucci has come through in the clutch this season. He had a field goal in last week’s narrow win and in the Patriots’ 24-23 win over Lake Zurich earlier in the season.
Prediction: Stevenson 31, Maine South 28
No. 9 Lyons (10-1) at No. 12 Mount Carmel (10-1) on Friday
The story: Both teams are coming off dramatic wins. Lyons pulled out a 21-20 victory over Sandburg last week, and Mount Carmel defeated Neuqua Valley 21-14 in overtime. The Lions have held nine of their opponents to 20 points or less this season. Mount Carmel’s offense has carried it. The Caravan have scored 35 or more points in eight of their games.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 28, Lyons 24
No. 13 Lemont (11-0) at Marmion (10-1) on Saturday
The story: This could be one of the week’s best games. Lemont has put it together on both sides of the ball this season. The Indians’ defense has especially been good, allowing only three opponents more than 20 points this season. Marmion’s only loss came to Montini in its final regular season game. The Cades have held eight opponents to eight points or less this season.
Prediction: Lemont 17, Marmion 14
Homewood-Flossmoor (9-2) at No. 15 Naperville North (8-3) on Friday
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor is one of the year’s greatest success stories. A year after going 1-8, the Vikings are in the Class 8A quarterfinals. The Vikings’ offense can put up points. They’ve scored 30-plus points seven times this year. Naperville North’s defense has been among the area’s best. Led by all-state linebacker Nick Lifka, the Huskies haven’t allowed an opponent more than 14 points in the last four weeks. The winner will play either Lyons or Mount Carmel.
Prediction: Naperville North 24, Homewood-Flossmoor 14
Marian (8-3) at No. 17 Montini (9-2) on Saturday
The story: Montini defeated Marian 35-6 when they met during the regular season. Marian’s defense will need to contain the Broncos’ offense this time around to have a chance. Montini quarterback Matt Westerkamp and his cousin wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp have been on a tear. They hooked up for 200-plus yards and three touchdowns last week. The winner will play either Kaneland or Vernon Hills.
Prediction: Montini 35, Marian 14
Belleville East (9-2) at No. 18 Minooka (10-1) on Saturday
The story: Minooka avenged its only loss of the season last week with a 41-38 win over Plainfield South. The Indians’ running game stepped up again. Belleville East benefitted from East St. Louis being kicked out of the playoffs. Instead of facing nationally-ranked East St. Louis, Belleville East defeated Belleville West 21-13 last week. The winner will play either Glenbard West or Wheaton Warrenville South.
Prediction: Minooka 38, Belleville East 21
Kaneland (11-0) at No. 20 Vernon Hills (10-1) on Saturday
The story: Kaneland and Vernon Hills have been two of the premier Class 5A teams all season. Led by quarterback Joe Camiliere, Kaneland hasn’t scored less than 30 points in a game this season. It also hasn’t allowed an opponent to come within 14 points this season. Vernon Hills has been just as high-powered offensively. With Ohio State recruit Evan Spencer and Notre Dame recruit DaVaris Daniels leading the way, the Cougars have scored more than 40 points seven times this year. Their defense also shut out their first seven opponents this season. The winner will play either Marian or Montini.
Quote: Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken – “Their quarterback is outstanding, and they have a nice athletic group of receivers that give you a lot to cover and think about. Defensively, they’re quick and well coached. Both of us have scored over 40 a game and given up less than 10 a game, so it should be a good one. The keys are pretty simple. We need to minimize mistakes and communicate on defense.”
Prediction: Vernon Hills 34, Kaneland 31
The ninth-seeded Huskies opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive before the Dukes responded with scores on two of their first three possessions to take a 10-6 lead early in the second quarter.
From that point forward, however, the Naperville North defense took control of the game. Led by senior linebacker Nick Lifka, the Huskies forced three turnovers in the second half, turning a one-point deficit into a blowout win. While the defense held top-seeded York, the Huskies’ offense scored 23 consecutive points.
“I was thinking about stopping [Ryan Kent] all week,” Lifka said of the Dukes’ leading rusher, who was held to 54 yards on 16 carries.
Lifka intercepted a Jim Nudera pass on the third play of the second half to set the Huskies up with a first-and-goal from the Dukes’ 10, but the offense settled for a field goal after having two touchdowns called back because of penalties. After the Huskies forced another three-and-out, a theme throughout the night, they again had first-and-goal after a long punt return, but settled for a field goal to take a 15-10 lead.
It looked as though the Dukes (9-2) were poised to make a late charge, but Nudera was intercepted by Brandon Sharie, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to extend the Huskies’ lead. The offense found the end zone late to cap off the victory.
“All we were trying to do was stop them on the first few downs, put them in passing situations and make a few plays,” said Sharie.
The Huskies (8-3) will host No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor next Friday night.
Player of the game: Naperville North’s senior LB Nick Lifka
Stat of the game: 8. The number of plays the Dukes ran in the second quarter, as the Huskies’ defense settled in.
It was over when… Brandon Sharie returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown to increase Naperville North’s lead to 23-10.
Quote of the night: “Our defense played phenomenal and it was just a great game.” Naperville North quarterback Matt Lacosse
No. 13 Wheaton North (8-2) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (10-0) on Saturday
The story: This will be the second time these DuPage Valley foes meet this season. The first time around Wheaton Warrenville South ran away with a 42-14 win. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole threw only one incompletion in the win. Wheaton North was within seven points at half, but will need to put together a full game against the top-ranked Tigers.
Wheaton North player to watch: Quarterback Reece Butler is the key to the Falcons flying. He needs to have another off-the-charts game for Wheaton North to have a chance.
Wheaton Warrenville South: Wide receiver Travis Kern has emerged as a playmaker this season. He and Titus Davis have been major targets for O’Toole.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Wheaton North 17
No. 2 Simeon (10-0) at No. 16 Schaumburg (8-2) on Saturday
The story: Simeon’s path to the Chicago Public League’s first state championship becomes more difficult starting with this game. The question is whether the Wolverines can turn it on again against another top team. They haven’t been truly challenged since the season-opener against Mount Carmel. Schaumburg is coming off a big win over Elk Grove. The Saxons will have to contain Simeon’s big-play offense to pull off the upset.
Simeon player to watch: Offensive lineman Chris Bryant is a major reason the Wolverines have had so much offensive success. He’s 6 foot 3, 330 pounds and is being recruited by a number of schools.
Schaumburg player to watch: Shepard Little has been one of the state’s top running backs this season. Schaumburg will need to score in this game, and Little is the man to do it.
Prediction: Simeon 46, Schaumburg 42
Hononegah (9-1) at No. 3 Carmel (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Carmel has been consistently good offensively and defensively this season. The Corsairs were especially impressive on the defensive side in last week’s first-round win. Hononegah has put some points this season, and its only loss was to undefeated Boylan. Hononegah is coming off a 51-7 win over Taft.
Prediction: Carmel 31, Hononegah 13
Sterling (8-2) at No. 4 Joliet Catholic (9-1) on Saturday
The story: There are few teams in the state playing as well as Joliet Catholic right now. The Hilltoppers have scored 45-plus points in their last six games. Big Ten-bound running backs Malin Jones and Josh Ferguson have been piling on the yards. Sterling defeated Morton 28-21 last week.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 63, Sterling 10
No. 5 Loyola (9-1) at Fremd (6-4) on Saturday
The story: If there’s an upset this week, a lot of people are looking at this game as a possibility. It speaks nothing of Loyola’s play, but rather what Fremd has been up to. The Vikings seem like that team of destiny this season. After starting out 1-4, Fremd has won its past five games. Loyola will be a tough match up for Fremd. The Ramblers have also been among the area’s hottest teams.
Prediction: Loyola 28, Fremd 17
No. 6 St. Rita (9-1) at Harlem (8-2) on Friday
The story: St. Rita has to travel to Machesney Park on Friday after Harlem upset Glenbrook North in the first round. Harlem has scored 30-plus points in seven games this season. St. Rita escaped with a narrow win over Highland Park last week. Star running back Jahwon Akui is expected back after missing last week’s game.
Prediction: St. Rita 34, Harlem 17
Lake Forest (7-3) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Lake Forest is one of the sleeper teams in 6A. The Scouts have played well the last quarter of the season with a win over Vernon Hills and a narrow loss to Lake Zurich. As they showed in their 45-25 opening-round win over Shepard, their offense has big-play capabilities. Five of their touchdowns were scored on 50-yard-plus plays. Crystal Lake South is the team to beat in Class 6A and has played consistently.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 27, Lake Forest 21
No. 8 Lincoln-Way East (9-1) at No. 11 Glenbard West (9-1) on Saturday
The story: There are so many potentially great games in the second round, but this one could be the best. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 for most of the season, and both have been among the state’s best defensive teams. While Wheaton Warrenville South is still the favorite in Class 7A, both of these teams are capable of giving the Tigers a game.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Wide receiver J.J. Robertson returned from injury last week and scored two touchdowns. He’s among the area’s best at his position.
Glenbard West player to watch: Do-everything senior Nick Burrello is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He’s coming off a big game.
Prediction: Glenbard West 21, Lincoln-Way East 20
South Elgin (7-3) at No. 9 Stevenson (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Stevenson continues to put it together on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Patriots are led by ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week Brion Wood. Offensively, they’ve used a balanced running and passing attack. South Elgin ended the regular season with back-to-back losses, but bounced back with a win over a tough Warren team last week.
Prediction: Stevenson 24, South Elgin 13
Sandburg (8-2) at No. 10 Lyons (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Lyons has been on a roll. It has out-scored its last three opponents, which included Glenbard West, 143-20. Sandburg’s only losses this season were to Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor, two teams still alive in the playoffs. The Eagles are 3-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or less.
Prediction: Lyons 28, Sandburg 14
No. 12 Lake Zurich (9-1) at No. 15 Prospect (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Prospect puts up a lot of points; Lake Zurich doesn’t allow many. Something will have to give in this game. The Knights have scored more than 40 points seven times this season. Lake Zurich has only given up more than 14 points twice.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Senior Jacob Brinlee became the school’s all-time leading rusher last week. He has more than 3,000 yards in his career.
Prospect player to watch: Quarterback Steve Dazzo can burn a team in so many ways. He’s been phenomenal the past few weeks.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 31, Prospect 28
No. 14 Mount Carmel (8-2) at Neuqua Valley (7-3) on Friday
The story: Mount Carmel’s offense is relentless. The Caravan have scored 30-plus points in eight of their games this season. Only St. Rita was able to contain them. Neuqua Valley is better than its record. The Wildcats’ three losses have come by a combined 10 points. They have an impressive 43-6 win over Waubonsie Valley on their resume.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Neuqua Valley 28
No. 17 Morgan Park (9-1) at Prairie Ridge (9-1) on Saturday
The story: Like Simeon, Morgan Park is out to become the first Public League state champion. Prairie Ridge will have something to say about that. Its only loss came to Crystal Lake South and has been one of the area’s best defensive teams. Morgan Park has scored 30 or more points in six games this season.
Prediction: Morgan Park 33, Prairie Ridge 24
Geneva (8-2) at No. 18 Lemont (10-0) on Saturday
The story: Geneva has been on a tear. The Vikings have scored 69 points in their last two games and are on an eight-game winning streak. Lemont is one of the favorites in Class 6A. The Indians have allowed one opponent more than 21 points this season.
Prediction: Geneva 35, Lemont 27
No. 19 York (9-1) at Naperville North (7-3) on Friday
The story: Naperville North put it all together in last week’s win over Marist. If the Huskies can play a total game again, they have the talent to pull off an upset against York. The Dukes rallied to defeat a tough Lockport team last week 21-14. They’ll need to play at a higher level this week.
Prediction: Naperville North 21, York 17
Bartlett (8-2) at No. 20 Maine South (8-2) on Saturday
The story: Maine South has won its last 11 playoff games, and the Hawks are shooting for their third consecutive state championship. Bartlett lost two close games early in the season and now has won seven in a row.
Prediction: Maine South 38, Bartlett 28
CHICAGO -- Naperville North’s Matt LaCosse and Nick Lifka were only sophomores when the Huskies were upset by Marist in the 2008 playoffs, but it was a memory they carried heavily with them on Friday night.
The 2008 Huskies had gone undefeated in the regular season and were considered to be a state favorite heading into the Class 8A playoffs. In the second round, they ran into Marist, the No. 7 seed. Naperville North appeared as if it was going to advance to the quarterfinals with a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Marist rallied with back-to-back scores in the final minutes and pulled off a 28-25 shocker.
LaCosse and Lifka can still remember the crushing feeling of that defeat, and it was what they wanted Marist to experience on Friday.
The pair succeeded.
Naperville North jumped to an early lead, and this time didn’t relinquish it as the No. 9-seeded Huskies defeated No. 8 Marist 27-14 in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
Naperville North (7-3) will host top-seeded Lyons (9-1) in the second round.
“It was devastating in the second round,” Lifka said of the 2008 loss. “We had an undefeated team, and it was huge. We’re playing for the program here. We won it for those guys. They talked to me all week about how they needed me to get that vengeance. We got the redemption.”
LaCosse had those same players on his mind, too.
“We did this for the ’08 team,” LaCosse said. “I know some of them were here tonight. I’m glad we got it done for them.”
LaCosse played a major factor in Naperville North being able to do that.
On the opening drive, LaCosse, the quarterback, orchestrated a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown run by Alex Kinne. LaCosse accounted for 32 rushing yards, including a four-yarder to pick up a first down on fourth down, and completed one pass for three yards on the drive.
“We came off the bus with a lot of fire in our hearts,” LaCosse said. “We knew this could be our last game as seniors in high school. We didn’t want that to happen, so we pounded the ball, our defense played great, and we end up going home happy.”
LaCosse and the offense capitalized on the second turnover. Starting on Marist’s 26-yard line, LaCosse carried the ball for 15 yards. On the next play, Antonio Owens scored from 11 yards out, and Naperville North had itself a 14-0 lead with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter.
“They obviously had the momentum,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “It was pretty quick how they jumped out to 14-0. They did a good job of executing and running the clock out there.”
Naperville North kept Marist a few touchdowns behind the rest of the way. Lifka and Nick Sianta each added touchdown runs for the Huskies.
Marist quarterback Luke Oosterbaan hooked up with Mike Skalitzky on two nine-yard touchdown passes for their team’s scores. Oosterbaan, a junior, was 23 for 32 for 165 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
LaCosse (94 rushing yards), Sianta (47 rushing yards) and Owens (76 rushing yard) led a balanced Naperville North offense.
Marist’s loss was especially difficult for its seniors. A year ago, that same group saw its season in the state championship game. This year, it was in the opening round.
“I’ll tell you what, this group we’re so proud of just as much as we were the state championship,” Dunne said. “These are great kids. They work so unbelievably hard. I’m so absolutely proud of them.”
The Hawks possessed the state’s best offensive weapon in 2008 (quarterback Charlie Goro) and 2009 (running back Matt Perez) and had plenty of talent around them to roll through their competition. Maine South went undefeated both years and won the state title in 2008 with a 41-21 win over Hinsdale Central and in 2009 with a 41-17 win over Marist.
In 2010, there’s finally hope for everyone else. While Maine South is still a state contender, the Hawks aren’t the same dominating team they were the past two seasons.
So who steps into the Hawks’ place? It’s up in the air. There are nearly a dozen teams capable of going all the way.
Here’s a deeper look at Class 8A.
Best opening round game
No. 9 Naperville North at No. 8 Marist: Both teams experienced similar seasons. They come from elite conferences. Both finished third behind highly-ranked teams. Both lost two close games. For Naperville North, it lost by seven points each to Glenbard North and Wheaton North and ended up third in the DuPage Valley. For Marist, it lost to Carmel and Joliet Catholic by a combined 11 points to take third in the East Suburban Catholic.
Top 10 Class 8A teams
1. Loyola (8-1): Earned a share of the Catholic League title with upset of St. Rita
2. Glenbard North (8-1): Only loss to Wheaton Warrenville South
3. Stevenson (9-0): Finished regular season undefeated for second consecutive season
4. Lyons (8-1): Earned a lot of respect with Week 9 win over Glenbard West
5. Mount Carmel (7-2): Caravan roll into 25th consecutive playoff appearance
6. York (8-1): Defeated Lyons during the regular season
7. Maine South (7-2): Has won seven straight since rough start
8. Marist (6-3): Experienced a few tough breaks this season
9. Naperville North (6-3): One of the best defensive teams in the area
10. Downers Grove South (7-2): Playing well after losing first two games of the season
Top 5 players to watch
1. Nick Lifka, SR, LB, Naperville North:A Boston College recruit, he may be the state’s best defensive player. He had 18 tackles against Glenbard North this season.
2. Malcolm Weaver, JR, QB, Loyola: He has flourished in his first year starting for the Ramblers, throwing for almost 30 touchdowns.
3. Chris Sujka, SR, QB, Mount Carmel: He operates the Caravan’s option to perfection, breaking off runs of 50-plus yards nearly every game.
4. Stephen Salata, SR, WR, Stevenson: He has been one of the area’s top receivers this season with 100 yards receiving in almost every game.
5. Brian Bobek, SR, OL, Fremd: At 6 foot 3 and 275 pounds, he is considered one of the nation’s top offensive linemen and is committed to Ohio State.
Fremd (5-4): After being highly ranked to start the season, the Vikings dropped four of their first five games. With their backs against the wall, Fremd won its last four games, including a 26-12 victory over Barrington, and reached the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season. No one wants to face them right now.
Road for defending champions
Maine South began the season No. 1 in ESPNChicago.com’s rankings. Young and inexperienced, the Hawks probably didn’t deserve that ranking. There was an assumption that because they had won 28 consecutive games and back-to-back state titles that they would continue winning this season. They lost their first two games -- including a lopsided one to Wheaton Warrenville South -- and fell out of the rankings. Since then, Maine South has gained that needed experience and turned itself into a quality team. Led by sophomore quarterback Matt Alviti, the Hawks have won their last seven games all by 21 points or more and are heading into the playoffs with some momentum. They have the highest scoring average of all 8A teams with 40.4 points a game. Being a No. 4 seed, the road isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.
The Class 8A playoffs would like to welcome back Barrington, Bartlett, Brother Rice, Dunbar, Evanston, Homewood-Flossmoor, Neuqua Valley, Vocational, Whitney Young and York. All 10 teams missed the playoffs last season. Homewood-Flossmoor made the biggest turnaround from last year. After a 1-8 season in 2009, the Vikings were 7-2 this year.
State championship prediction: Loyola defeats Mount Carmel
The story:Wheaton Warrenville South looks to put the finishing touches on its second consecutive unbeaten regular season. The Tigers have been perfect in the regular season three of the past four years. They will be the favorite to win the Class 7A state championship when the playoff pairings are released on Saturday night.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 49, West Aurora 7
No. 14 Loyola (7-1) at No. 2 St. Rita (8-0) on Friday
The story:The Catholic League championship will be decided with this game. If St. Rita wins, it takes full possession. If Loyola wins, the Ramblers, St. Rita and Mount Carmel could all finish the conference season with one loss. Mount Carmel is the lone team to defeat Loyola this season. The Ramblers are led by junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver. St. Rita has relied on running back Jahwon Akui. ESPN 1000 will be in attendance.
Loyola player to watch: Quarterback Malcolm Weaver receives a lot of the press, but his receivers also make him look good. E.J. Webb has been his top target.
St. Rita player to watch: Mustangs linebacker Matt Mullen came up with a couple huge tackles last week. St. Rita will look for more of the same against a talented Loyola offense.
Quote:Loyola coach John Holecek -- “Rita’s O-line and running back are awesome. They’re fast and have a physical defense. We must score on all opportunities to keep up and must have no errors in the passing game. Running back Spencer Perry has to have a game if they decide to cover everything. We need to try and limit the big plays and withstand their muscle and speed. … Hope for divine intervention.”
Prediction: St. Rita 28, Loyola 27
Lyons (7-1) at No. 3 Glenbard West (8-0) on Saturday
The story:Lyons stands in the way of Glenbard West’s third consecutive unbeaten regular season. The Lions have been in a handful of close ones this season. Four of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Their lone defeat was to York. The Hilltoppers have been dominant on both sides of the ball all season. They’ve out-scored opponents 288-62. They defeated York 27-10 in Week 7.
Lyons player to watch:Chris Klotz caught a touchdown pass and blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone in the Lions’ win over Leyden last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Beau Warden has been one of the best linebackers in the state this season. He has 91 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Quotes:Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet -- “LT is a well-balanced offense even though they run a four- and five-receiver set. To be successful, we need to be able to run the ball and keep the chains moving.”
Prediction:Glenbard West 31, Lyons 17
No. 4 Carmel (8-0) at Elder (Ohio) (2-5) on Saturday
The story: Carmel closes out its season by traveling to Ohio on Friday. Elder has had a rocky season, going 2-5. The Panthers are coming off a bye week and have had time to prepare for Carmel’s arrival.
Prediction: Carmel 42, Elder 20
Brooks (3-5) at No. 5 Simeon (8-0) on Thursday
The story: Simeon has rolled through the Public League, and this city playoff opener shouldn’t be different. The Wolverines’ focus will be on the state playoffs as they try to become the first Public League team to win a state title.
Prediction: Simeon 56, Brooks 7
No. 6 Joliet Catholic (7-1) at Benet (5-3) on Thursday
The story:In a rare Thursday East Suburban Catholic game, Joliet Catholic travels to play an inconsistent Benet team. The Redwings likely clinched themselves a playoff spot with last week’s 10-7 win over St. Viator. Joliet Catholic’s offense has been unstoppable lately. The Hilltoppers have scored 48 or more points in their last four games.
Prediction:Joliet Catholic 49, Benet 17
McHenry (1-7) at No. 7 Crystal Lake South (8-0) on Friday
The story: Crystal Lake South clinched the Fox Valley Valley title last week. The Gators have won with a balanced offense and defense. They’ve out-scored their opponents 253-86.
Prediction:Crystal Lake South 42, McHenry 6
Naperville Central (4-4) at No. 8 Glenbard North (7-1) on Friday
The story:Naperville Central needs to win this game to have a shot at the playoffs. Glenbard North is looking to bounce back from its 49-6 loss to Wheaton Warrenville South last week.
Prediction:Glenbard North 23, Naperville Central 17
No. 9 Lincoln-Way East (7-1) at Joliet Central (0-8) on Saturday
The story:Lincoln-Way East has been playing well heading into the playoffs. The Griffins have won their past six games since losing to Wheaton North.
Prediction:Lincoln-Way East 56, Joliet Central 7
No. 10 Stevenson (8-0) at Antioch (7-1) on Friday
The story: Stevenson is the top team in the North Suburban Lake, and Antioch is in second place behind Vernon Hills in the North Suburban Prairie. Prairie teams haven’t fared well against Lake teams this season.
Prediction: Stevenson 35, Antioch 14
No. 11 Lake Zurich (7-1) at Lake Forest (6-2) on Friday
The story: Lake Forest is coming off a 21-0 win over previously-unbeaten Vernon Hills. It was the first time Vernon Hills had allowed a point this season. Lake Forest’s two losses came to conference foes Stevenson and Warren. Lake Zurich’s defense has been among the best in the state this season. The Bears have allowed 10 or less points six times this year.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 24, Lake Forest 10
No. 12 Wheaton North (6-2) at Glenbard East (3-5) on Friday
The story:Wheaton North is hoping that this won’t be another nail-biter. The Falcons’ last two wins came down to the final minutes. They defeated Naperville Central 23-21 two weeks ago and Naperville North 14-7 last week.
Prediction:Wheaton North 41, Glenbard East 13
Providence (2-6) at No. 13 Mount Carmel (6-2) on Friday
The story:The season hasn’t gone according to plan for Providence, which was the 6A state runner-up last season. The Celtics began the year 0-4 and never could bounce back. If they could upset Mount Carmel, that might help their offseason. The Caravan have scored 40-plus points in five games this season.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Providence 20
No. 15 Plainfield South (8-0) at Plainfield North (6-2) on Friday
The story:This has the potential to be a fun one. Plainfield South has one of the state’s premier offenses. The Cougars have scored 397 points this season. They haven’t scored less than 41 points in a game. Plainfield North has scored 33 or more points six times this year and possesses running back Kapri Bibbs, who has run for 2,000-plus yard this season. The game will decide the Southwest Prairie championship.
Plainfield South player to watch:Running back Dondre Adams is the Cougars’ offensive threat.
Plainfield North player to watch:Bibbs is in the running for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He has 2,166 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns this season.
Quotes: Plainfield North coach Tim Kane -- “They have an explosive offense with weapons at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. Defensively, we will need to do all we can to eliminate big plays -- long runs and the deep pass. Offensively, obviously, we will need to get the ball in Kapri Bibbs' hands often. However, we will make some adjustments with formations and plays to maybe get it to him in different ways than we had previously as I am sure South has us very well scouted.”
Plainfield South coach Greg Banner -- “Gonna be great a high school football atmosphere, two strong teams battling for either a share of the conference title or the outright title. The biggest two keys are who makes the least mistakes, and who can stop the other from making big plays on offense. North has a strong rushing attack led by Bibbs. They have a lot of guys playing both sides of the ball, and they are talented. Should be a really exciting game.”
Prediction:Plainfield South 63, Plainfield North 54
Buffalo Grove (4-4) at No. 16 Prospect (7-1) on Friday
The story: Prospect has been one of the year’s bigger surprises. The Knights lost their season-opener and now have won seven straight, including an overtime win over Elk Grove last week. Buffalo Grove needs to win this game to be playoff eligible.
Prediction: Prospect 35, Buffalo Grove 20
No. 17 Schaumburg (6-2) at Hoffman Estates (1-7) on Friday
The story:Barrington, Fremd and Schaumburg all enter the final week with one Mid-Suburban West loss. Schaumburg’s only MSL West loss was to Barrington.
Prediction:Schaumburg 41, Hoffman Estates 10
Clark (4-4) at No. 18 Morgan Park (7-1) on Friday
The story:Morgan Park opens the Public League playoffs with Clark. The Mustangs are coming off a narrow win over previously-unbeaten Hubbard. Morgan Park quarterback Dae’Shaun Hurley was this week’s ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
Prediction: Morgan Park 47, Clark 6
No. 19 Marmion (8-0) at Montini (6-2) on Friday
The story:This should be one of the better games in Week 9. Marmion started off the year with a couple of narrow wins and has since been crushing opponents. Montini opened the season with back-to-back losses to Joliet Catholic and Loyola and has been on a roll ever since. The Broncos have allowed six points in their past four games. The Suburban Christian Blue championship will be decided here.
Marmion player to watch:T.J. Lally ran for 209 yards on just seven carries last week.
Montini player to watch:Jordan Westerkamp has been one of the state’s top wide receivers this year. He has 52 catches for 967 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Quote: Montini coach Chris Andriano -- “The key to this week’s game is for our defense to shut down their dangerous running attack. If they are able to sustain long drives and win the time of possession, we will be in trouble. Our defense will need to get off the field on 3rd down to give our offense more possessions. Offensively, we will need to be able to run the ball to keep their defense honest. Our QB will need to continue to make good decisions and distribute the ball to all of our receivers.”
Prediction:Montini 31, Marmion 24
No. 20 Lemont (8-0) at Hillcrest (0-8) on Friday
The story: The Indians haven’t lost more than three games in a season since 2003. That won’t change this season.
Prediction:Lemont 31, Hillcrest 13
No. 6 Glenbard North (7-0) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (7-0) on Friday
The story: Wheaton Warrenville South has faced four ranked teams this season and has defeated them by a combined score of 155-40. Now, the Tigers will meet possibly their greatest challenge of the season in Glenbard North. The Panthers have remained undefeated thanks to a versatile running game and one of the area’s best defenses. They’ve allowed 73 points this season and have also defeated three ranked teams. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole and Wheaton Warrenville South’s offense will be unlike anything Glenbard North has seen this season. ESPN 1000 will be in attendance.
Glenbard North player to watch: Offensive right tackle Paul Wisniewski has been a major reason for the Panthers’ running success. He recently received an offer from Wyoming.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: The Tigers’ passing game receives a lot of attention, but running back Matt Rogers has also done his part. He’s burned plenty of opponents this season.
Quotes: Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens – “ Offensively, they do everything. They run the ball from under center and the gun with Rogers and O’Toole. They use play-action pass, sprint outs and straight drop backs using multiple receivers. Defensively, they rally to the football, they fight the pressure well and take down double-teams.”
Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – “Glenbard North is a very good power-running team. Their offensive line is very big and good at the run game. [Phil] Jackson and [Evin] Natick are very solid
runners and can break a long run anytime. Their defense is a solid unit that has been very good at keeping people out of the end zone with less than 10 points a game. Their defensive backs match up well with our offensive skills. It’s going to be a tough game for the Tigers.”
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Glenbard North 20
St. Ignatius (5-2) at No. 2 St. Rita (7-0) on Friday
The story: St. Rita won’t be overlooking crossover opponent St. Ignatius, but the Mustangs are fully aware that they close out the regular season with Loyola next week. The Ramblers are the only team keeping them from an outright Catholic League championship.
Prediction: St. Rita 41, St. Ignatius 10
Downers Grove North (1-6) at No. 3 Glenbard West (7-0) on Saturday
The story: Glenbard West will be looking to put together a clean game from opening kick to final whistle this week. They had their share of miscues in last week’s win over York. The Hilltoppers have another test in Lyons next week.
Prediction: Glenbard West 40, Downers Grove North 14
Notre Dame (5-2) at No. 4 Carmel (7-0) on Friday
The story: If someone’s looking for a possible upset this week, this could be one. Notre Dame has hung with everyone it has played this season. The Dons lost by 12 to Marist and by one to Marian Catholic. The Corsairs have shown, though, not to be a team that overlooks opponents. They would win the East Suburban Catholic title outright with a victory.
Prediction: Carmel 31, Notre Dame 20
Lane (3-4) vs. No. 5 Simeon (7-0) at Gately on Thursday
The story: Simeon hasn’t been tested since the opening week. That might not change until the playoffs either. The Wolverines look as if they can make a real run this season.
Prediction: Simeon 50, Lane 20
Marist (5-2) at No. 7 Joliet Catholic (6-1) on Friday
The story: These two teams created a great one last year with Marist pulling out a 24-17 win. The RedHawks went on to the Class 8A state championship game while Joliet Catholic advanced to the Class 5A one. That could happen again this season with both being contenders in their respective classes. Joliet Catholic has been putting up a whole lot of points all season. The Hilltoppers scored 73 of them in last week’s win over St. Patrick. Marist has only one in-state loss and is on the verge of being in the top 20 again.
Marist player to watch: RedHawks quarterback Luke Oosterbaan displayed his running ability in last week’s win over St. Viator. He scored three rushing touchdowns.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Josh Ferguson is one of 11 remaining players in the running for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He had three touchdowns in last week’s win.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 38, Marist 34
Cary-Grove (5-2) at No. 8 Crystal Lake South (7-0) on Friday
The story: Crystal Lake South has won’t the Fox Valley Conference title since 1992. With two games remaining, the Gators are nearing that achievement, but they have to go through Cary-Grove as always for it. After winning the Class 6A state championship last season, the Trojans had a rough start to this season, losing their first two games. They’ve since won their last five, including a 23-20 overtime win over McHenry last week. On paper, Crystal Lake South may be the better team, but this is one of those games where anything can happen.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Quarterback Corey Latkas has continued to improve as the season has unfolded. He’s been consistent in running the team’s option attack and completing key passes when needed.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Quarterback Drew Ormseth has been one of the area’s best this season. He’s a threat to run and pass the ball.
Quotes: Cary-Grove coach Bruce Kay – “The key to the game is ball control and turnovers. Their defense is very talented, and it will be difficult to make big plays. We need to keep the South QB on the sideline. Our kicking game has been very good all year, and we will need to make South play on long fields.”
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 28, Cary-Grove 27
Lincoln-Way Central (1-6) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way East (6-1) on Friday
The story: Lincoln-Way East is on the verge of winning the Southwest Suburban Blue. The Griffins’ next two opponents have a combined record of 1-13.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 49, Lincoln-Way Central 7
No. 10 Barrington (7-0) at Fremd (3-4) on Friday
The story: Fremd’s season hasn’t gone as expected. The Vikings were thought to be a state contender before the season, but now they must defeat highly-ranked Barrington just to keep their playoff hopes alive. Fremd has made 15 consecutive playoff appearances. As for Barrington, it has been one of the season’s bigger surprises. Just a year ago, the Broncos missed the playoffs after going 3-6.
Barrington player to watch: Running back Nico Martinez is returning to his old form after breaking his hand and missing the season’s first four games. He and Chase Murdock make up a tough backfield.
Fremd player to watch: Offensive lineman Brian Bobek is considered one of the best in the country. He’s headed to Ohio State.
Quote: Barrington coach Joe Sanchez – “As for keys for both teams, it will come down to which group can sustain and finish drives. I also believe special teams will play a key part in the game with regards to field position for both teams. Turnovers, which team can create extra opportunities and take advantage of them, will be big.”
Prediction: Barrington 24, Fremd 17
No. 11 Stevenson (7-0) at Libertyville (3-4) on Friday
The story: Stevenson looks to remain undefeated while Libertyville hopes to stay in the playoff hunt. Stevenson is known for its offense, but the Patriots have only allowed 83 points this season.
Prediction: Stevenson 35, Libertyville 17
Lake Forest (5-2) at No. 12 Vernon Hills (7-0) on Friday
The story: Can Vernon Hills shut out an opponent for the eighth consecutive week? This is will be its toughest challenge. Lake Forest has scored 256 points this season, which ranks second in the North Suburban Lake, and hasn’t been held to less than 13 points all season. The Cougars should be happy with just a win against Lake Forest.
Lake Forest player to watch: Junior running back Owen Williams can be tough to stop. He had 272 yards on 18 carries against Libertyville earlier this season.
Vernon Hills player to watch: Do-everything senior DaVaris Daniels has scored in almost every way possible this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can find another way against Lake Forest.
Quote: Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken – “The difference in Lake Forest is they have a better balanced offense than we’ve played this year. When we crossover over to the big-school North Suburban division, we only play them once every seven years. It’s an uphill battle for us because they have more numbers than our program. When we have a crossover game, we try to sneak up on them. I don’t think we can sneak up on anyone this year. I think it’s going to be a heck of a ballgame.”
Prediction: Vernon Hills 34, Lake Forest 21
No. 20 Prospect (6-1) at No. 13 Elk Grove (6-1) on Friday
The story: The winner of this clinches at least a share of the Mid-Suburban East title. Prospect lost its season-opener, but has been winning big ever since. The Knights have one of the state’s most potent offenses with 292 points this season. Elk Grove’s offense isn’t too shabby itself. Led by quarterback Nick Meyer, the Grenadiers have scored 212 points a game. Prospect has won the last five meetings between the two teams.
Prospect player to watch: Quarterback Steve Dazzo threw for two touchdowns and ran for four in last week’s win over Wheeling. This will be a chance to really make a name for himself.
Elk Grove player to watch: Joey Bishoff has been Meyer’s favorite target this season. He has 33 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns.
Quote: Elk Grove coach Brian Doll – "Prospect is very sound on offense. With great offensive line play and two strong running backs in Steve Dazzo and Peter Bonahoom, they force you to defend both of them on every play.”
Prediction: Elk Grove 42, Prospect 38
Mundelein (0-7) at No. 14 Lake Zurich (6-1) on Friday
The story: Lake Zurich’s defense has held opponents to 59 points this season. Outside of Libertyville and Stevenson, the Bears’ opponents have only scored 13 points.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 31, Mundelein 0
Naperville North (5-2) at No. 15 Wheaton North (5-2) on Friday
The story: Neither team may still be in the running for the DuPage Valley title, but there are playoff points to still be earned. Neither team wants to fall to 5-3 either. Both have lost to Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South this season.
Naperville North player to watch: Antonio Owens can score in a variety of ways. He caught a touchdown pass and rushed for one last week.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wide receiver Johnny Daniels was the hero last week. He caught a game-winning touchdown as time expired.
Quote: Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski – “We don’t have the big-name players that Naperville North does, but I do feel that we’re coming together well as a team right now. I’m hoping that the kids are starting to see that it takes offense, defense and special teams to win close ball games. In addition, it takes solid backups at several positions for a team to get good results on Friday nights.”
Prediction: Naperville North 27, Wheaton North 20
No. 16 Mount Carmel (5-2) at St. Laurence (4-3) on Friday
The story: The Caravan still have an outside hope of earning a share of the Catholic League title. The Corsairs have defeated Loyola and fell to St. Rita this season.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 35, St. Laurence 13
Gordon Tech (1-6) at No. 17 Loyola (6-1) on Saturday
The story: Like St. Rita, Loyola has taken Gordon Tech seriously this week, but also has taken a peak at next week’s all-important Catholic League game.
Prediction: Loyola 42, Gordon Tech 6
Plainfield East (1-6) at No. 18 Plainfield South (7-0) on Friday
The story: Plainfield South is tied for third in the state with 342 points this season. The Cougars have scored 50 or more points three times this year.
Prediction: Plainfield South 52, Plainfield East 10
No. 19 Schaumburg (5-2) at Palatine (4-3) on Friday
The story: Palatine may not have the record to show for it, but it’s been a handful for every one of its opponents this season. The Pirates’ losses have included a 28-21 to Lake Forest, 41-27 to Prospect and 17-16 to Fremd. They close out the season with Schaumburg and Barrington.
Prediction: Schaumburg 35, Palatine 17
With only a few games remaining, the ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year award is O’Toole’s to lose. Either he’ll need to have a really poor game or someone will need a really great one for that to change.
The number of candidates was cut down to 11 this week.
1. Wheaton Warrrenville South senior quarterback Reilly O’Toole (previously ranked No. 1)
Last week: O’Toole only needed to play one half in Wheaton Warrenville South’s 56-0 win over West Chicago. He completed 8-of-9 passes for 145 yards and four touchdowns. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 7-0.
Season: 79-of-107 passing for 1,518 yards, 23 touchdowns and one interception; two rushing touchdowns.
2. Vernon Hills senior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (3)
Last week: Daniels’ 86-yard punt-return touchdown against Grant was one of the more electrifying plays of his season. According to Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken, Daniels made 10 or 11 guys miss, and a couple of those missed a few times. Daniels also had four tackles, one forced fumble, one reception for 13 yards and 12 rushing yards on three carries.
Season: 4-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown; 11 receptions for 290 yards and four touchdowns; 258 rushing yards and six touchdowns; two punt return touchdowns; three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
3. Plainfield North senior running back Kapri Bibbs (2)
Last week: Bibbs was slowed down -- at least for his standards -- in Plainfield North’s 35-34 loss to Minooka. He rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. Plainfield North fell to 5-2.
Season: 1,887 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns on 190 carries.
4. Elk Grove senior quarterback Nick Meyer (5)
Last week: Meyer was 18-of-20 for 225 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in Elk Grove’s 28-13 win over Hersey. The Grenadiers improved to 6-1.
Season: 118-of-193 passing for 1,553 yards and 15 touchdowns; 679 yards and 11 touchdowns on 114 carries.
5. Naperville North senior linebacker Nick Lifka (4)
Last week: Lifka was his usual defensive beast in Naperville North’s 49-21 win over Glenbard East on Friday. Lifka had 11 tackles to lead the Huskies. Naperville North improved to 5-2.
Season: 88 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, three sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
6. Simeon junior quarterback Robert Gregory (6)
Last week: Gregory was very efficient in Simeon’s 55-6 win over Lincoln Park on Saturday. He completed 2-of-2 passes for 79 yards and ran for 63 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries. The Wolverines improved to 7-0.
Season: 41-of-71 passing for 787 yards and 10 touchdowns; 674 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
7. Schaumburg senior running back Shepard Little (7)
Last week: Little, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, rushed for 99 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries in Schaumburg’s 42-21 win over Conant. The Saxons improved to 5-2.
Season: 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns on 155 carries; two receiving touchdowns.
8. Joliet Catholic senior running back Josh Ferguson (10)
Last week: Ferguson ran wild again. He scored three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder, in the Hilltoppers’ 73-27 win over St. Patrick. Joliet Catholic improved to 6-1.
Season: 929 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 74 carries.
9. Lake Zurich senior running back Jacob Brinlee (9)
Last week: Brinlee scored one of his team’s two touchdowns in a 14-0 win over Warren on Saturday. He finished with 114 rushing yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Lake Zurich improved to 6-1.
Season: 949 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 90 carries; one receiving touchdown.
10. Loyola junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver (12)
Last week: Weaver completed 13-of-22 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in Loyola’s 45-7 win over Fenwick. The Ramblers improved to 6-1.
Season: 97-of-172 passing for 1,513 yards and 22 touchdowns.
11. St. Rita senior running back Jahwon Akui (13)
Last week: Akui rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries in St. Rita’s 31-19 win over Providence. The Mustangs improved to 7-0.
Season: 917 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 186 carries.
The ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year race has been trimmed down to 18 spots after Week 6. Most notably, Kapri Bibbs put himself right with Reilly O’Toole at the top after rushing for a state-record 520 yards this past week.
1. Wheaton Warrrenville South senior quarterback Reilly O’Toole (previously ranked No. 1)
Last week: A day before making a visit to his future school Illinois, O’Toole completed 14-of-15 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-14 win over Wheaton North. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 6-0.
Season: 71-of-98 passing for 1,373 yards, 19 touchdowns, one interception; two rushing touchdowns.
Last week: No one had a bigger week than Bibbs. He rushed for a state-record 520 yards and seven touchdowns in a 49-43 win over Oswego. Plainfield North improved to 5-1.
Season: Rushed for 1,689 yards and 26 touchdowns on 158 carries.
3. Vernon Hills senior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (2)
Last week: Daniels had a quiet week for his standards. He rushed for 43 yards and one touchdown on three carries, was held without a reception and scored a 68-yard touchdown on a blocked field goal.
Season: 4-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown; 10 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns; 246 rushing yards and six touchdowns; one punt return touchdown; three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
4. Naperville North senior linebacker Nick Lifka (4)
Last week: Lifka was all over the field again on Friday. He made 11 tackles, including one for a loss and forced one fumble in Naperville North’s 27-24 win over Naperville Central. Naperville North improved to 4-2.
Season: 77 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, three sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
5. Elk Grove senior quarterback Nick Meyer (5)
Last week: Despite throwing a career-high four interceptions, Meyer completed 24-of-41 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns in Elk Grove’s 35-14 win over Wheeling. Elk Grove improved to 5-1.
Season: 100-of-173 passing for 1,328 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions; 618 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 87 carries.
6. Simeon junior quarterback Robert Gregory (8)
Last week: Gregory was back to being a do-everything quarterback for Simeon after an average Week 5. He completed 5-of-8 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 114 yards and two touchdown on four carries in the Wolverines’ 63-32 win over Dunbar. Simeon improved to 6-0.
Season: 39-of-69 passing for 708 yards and 10 touchdowns; 611 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
7. Schaumburg senior running back Shepard Little (7)
Last week: Schaumburg stuck right with Barrington thanks to Little. He rushed for 184 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries in the Saxons’ 34-32 loss. Schaumburg fell to 4-2.
Season: 1,175 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 143 carries, 11 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
8. Joliet Catholic senior running back Josh Ferguson (10)
Last week: Ferguson didn’t need the ball much to do his thing on Friday. He ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in Joliet Catholic’s 48-19 win over St. Viator. Joliet Catholic improved to 5-1.
Season: 779 yards and 12 touchdowns on 63 carries.
9. Lake Zurich senior running back Jacob Brinlee (6)
Last week: Brinlee had a couple of long runs, but was contained for much of the night in Lake Zurich’s 24-23 loss to Stevenson. He rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries and caught one pass for 35 yards. Lake Zurich fell to 5-1.
Season: 835 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 76 carries; one receiving touchdown.
10. Glenbard West senior running back Nick Burrello (12)
Last week: Burrello continued making big plays in Glenbard West’s 41-7 win over Addison Trail. He ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, which included an 80-yarder, on 16 carries. Glenbard West improved to 6-0.
Season: 699 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 74 carries, 12 receptions for 284 yards and one touchdown; two punt/kick return touchdowns.
11. Carmel junior running back Jordan Kos (14)
Last week: Kos continued his recent success in Friday’s 42-0 win over Benet. He rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Carmel improved to 6-0.
Season: 842 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 92 carries.
12. Loyola junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver (19)
Last season: Weaver had his biggest game of the season in Friday’s 49-27 win over Brother Rice. He completed 18-of-29 passes for 370 yards and six touchdowns. Loyola improved to 5-1.
Season: 84-of-150 passion for 1,362 yards and 20 touchdowns.
13. St. Rita senior running back Jahwon Akui (9)
Last week: Mount Carmel concentrated on stopping Akui after he burned the Caravan last season. He ran for 69 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in St. Rita’s 35-14 win over Mount Carmel on Friday. St. Rita improved to 6-0.
Season: 722 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 152 carries.
14. Wheaton Warrenville South senior wide receiver Titus Davis (13)
Last week: Davis again was Reilly O’Toole’s favorite target in Friday’s 42-14 win over Wheaton North. Davis had seven catches for 137 yards and one touchdown.
Season: 27 receptions for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns.
15. Wheaton North senior quarterback Reece Butler (11)
Last week: Wheaton Warrenville South troubled Butler like it has all of its opponents this season. Butler completed 25-of-37 passes for 186 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in Wheaton North’s 42-14 loss. He also ran 68 yards on 23 carries. Wheaton North fell to 4-2.
Season: 111-of-153 passing for 1,262 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions; 276 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
16. Thornridge senior running back Mik’ail McCall (20)
Last week: McCall was the hero in Thornridge’s 31-25 win over Andrew. He rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns, including one in overtime, on 42 carries. Thornridge improved to 3-3.
Season: 1,173 yards and 14 touchdowns.
17. Stevenson senior running back Joe Cassata (16)
Last week: Cassata didn’t pick up a whole lot of yards, but he got them when they were needed most in Stevenson’s 24-23 win over Lake Zurich. He rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner, on 15 carries. Stevenson improved to 6-0.
Season: 655 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 84 carries; six receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown.
No. 18 Crystal Lake South senior quarterback Drew Ormseth (17)
Last week: Ormseth did enough for the Crystal Lake South to get by Jacobs with a 28-14 win. He completed 6-of-13 passes for 93 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Crystal Lake South improved to 6-0.
Season: 33-of-65 passing for 697 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, 318 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
An elite group of 20 players have put themselves in the running for ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year award after five weeks of play.
As of right now, Wheaton Warrenville South quarterback Reilly O’Toole is leading the pack. Over the coming weeks, check back at ESPNChicago.com to see how that changes as this list will be updated weekly with additions and subtractions and ultimately trimmed down to one player with the announcement coming at the end of the season.
Coming off a junior season where he helped the Tigers to a Class 7A state championship, O’Toole has taken his game to another level this year. He has the ability to throw short and long and remains accurate either way for the No .1-ranked Tigers. He’s committed to Illinois.
Last week: Completed 11-of-18 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-13 win over Naperville North. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 5-0.
Season: 57-of-83 passing for 1,082 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception; two rushing touchdowns.
2. Vernon Hills senior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels
Daniels’ future may be at wide receiver, but he does everything at the high school level. He passes, runs, catches, returns kicks and defends for the undefeated Cougars. He’s the state’s highest-rated college football prospect and just recently committed to Notre Dame.
Last week: Rushed for 27 yards and one touchdown, caught four passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, completed one pass for 13 yards and intercepted one pass in a 34-0 win over Antioch. Vernon Hills improved to 5-0.
Season: 4-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown; 10 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns; 203 rushing yards and five touchdowns; one punt return touchdown; three interceptions and one defensive touchdown.
3. Plainfield North senior running back Kapri Bibbs
Bibbs has been one of the season’s biggest surprises. A mixture of power and speed, Bibbs has been nearly unstoppable. He’s put up massive numbers despite missing the season’s first game. He’s committed to Colorado State.
Last week: Rushed for 340 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries in 28-0 win over Romeoville. Plainfield North improved to 4-1.
Season: Rushed for 1,169 yards and 19 touchdowns on 119 carries.
Lifka is the Brian Urlacher of Illinois high school football. A combination of strength and mobility, Lifka finds a way to be around the ball wherever it may be. Against Glenbard North earlier this season, he made 18 tackles. He’s committed to Boston College.
Last week: Made 11 tackles, including one for a loss, in a 41-13 loss to top-ranked Wheaton Warrenville South. Naperville North fell to 3-2.
Season: 66 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery.
5. Elk Grove senior quarterback Nick Meyer
Few players mean as much to their team as Meyer does to Elk Grove. He does it in the air and on the ground as the Grenadiers’ quarterback, but he also is a starting defensive back. He rarely gets off the field, and his game doesn’t suffer for it. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries and was 10-of-17 passing for 116 yards and one interception in a 23-7 win over Buffalo Grove. Elk Grove improved to 4-1.
Season: 76-of-132 passing for 986 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions; 603 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 81 carries.
6. Lake Zurich senior running back Jacob Brinlee
Brinlee is a threat to break one whenever he touches the ball. There’s no running back in the state that needs as few carries as he does to pile up yards. His vision puts him into that elite category. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for a school-record 281 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in a 44-22 win over Libertyville. Lake Zurich improved to 5-0.
Season: 734 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 57 carries; one receiving touchdown.
7. Schaumburg senior running back Shepard Little
Little sat out last season, but he’s making up for it this year. The Saxons have become a state contender thanks to the speed and vision of Little. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 174 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries and caught two passes for 24 yards in a 17-14 win over Fremd. Schaumburg improved to 4-1.
Season: 991 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 120 carries; 10 receptions for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
8. Simeon junior quarterback Robert Gregory
Gregory showed signs last season that he could be a star quarterback. He opened the 2010 season with a bang throwing for three touchdowns and running for three more in an upset win over Simeon. Ever since, he and the Wolverine have been on a roll. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Ran for 59 yards and three touchdowns and completed 1-of-8 passes for 10 yards in a 42-0 win over Curie. Simeon improved to 5-0.
Season: 34-of-61 passing for 530 yards and seven touchdowns; 497 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Akui made a push for the Player of the Year award as a junior after rushing for 1,870 yards and 31 touchdowns. He did all that despite suffering a couple of injuries. Also a state wrestling champion, Akui can run with power and speed despite his 5-6, 195-pound frame. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 win over Bishop McNamara. St. Rita improved to 5-0.
Season: 652 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 132 carries.
10. Joliet Catholic senior running back Josh Ferguson
Ferguson has all eyes on him much like Wheaton Warrenville South’s Reilly O’Toole because he’s committed to Illinois. Ferguson has a knack for finding a hole and getting to the outside. He’s already broken a handful of runs this season.
Last week: Rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns in a 57-0 win over Nazareth. Joliet Catholic improved to 4-1.
Season: 594 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 57 carries.
11. Wheaton North senior quarterback Reece Butler
Butler was an emergency quarterback for Wheaton North last year and steadily improved while leading the Falcons on an unlikely playoff run. This season, he’s emerged as one of the state’s top quarterbacks. He excels because he knows his strengths and weaknesses. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Completed 11-of-18 passes for 153 yards and rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown in a 21-13 win over West Aurora. Wheaton North improved to 5-0.
Season: 86-of-116 passing for 1,076 yards, 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions; 208 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
12. Glenbard West senior running back Nick Burrello
Opponents have to account for Nick Burrello in so many ways. He’s equally as good of a running back, wide receiver and kicker returner. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Caught a 51-yard touchdown pass and returned a punt for a 60-yard touchdown in a 41-15 win over Proviso West. Glenbard West improved to 5-0.
Season: 542 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 58 carries; 12 receptions for 284 yards and one touchdown; 562 punt and kick return yards and two touchdowns.
13. Wheaton Warrenville South senior wide receiver Titus Davis
Davis has become one of the state’s top wide receivers after barely playing a season ago. With added confidence this season, Davis has become quarterback Reilly O’Toole’s favorite long-ball target. The two have hooked up for six touchdowns of 40-plus yards. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Caught four passes for 86 yards and one touchdown in a 41-13 win over Naperville North. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 5-0.
Season: 20 receptions for 507 yards and nine touchdowns.
14. Carmel junior running back Jordan Kos
Kos has had to share carries with Carmel’s other running backs for most of the season, but he has especially stepped up the last few weeks in the team’s narrow victories over Joliet Catholic and Marist. Kos has breakaway speed and has torched defenses with it this season. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 213 yards and one touchdown in a 20-16 win over Marist. Carmel improved to 5-0.
Season: 674 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 76 carries.
15. Barrington junior running back Chase Murdock
Murdock is the type of back that just wears down defenses. Barrington gives him the ball time after time, and he picks up yards time after time. Murdock, who is 6-1 and 205 pounds, is uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries in a 38-21 win over Conant. Barrington improved to 5-0.
Season: 740 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 132 carries.
16. Stevenson senior running back Joe Cassata
Cassata has taken the lead in Stevenson’s running game. Also a linebacker, Cassata, who is 5-11 and 200 pounds, is a combination of speed and power. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in a 41-20 win over Lake Forest. Stevenson improved to 5-0.
Season: 594 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 69 carries; six receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown.
No. 17 Crystal Lake South senior quarterback Drew Ormseth
Ormseth entered the season with high expectations and has lived up to them. Ormseth has shown off his ability to pass and run while helping the Gators to an undefeated record. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Completed 5-of-8 passes for 156 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for one touchdown in a 40-0 win over Dundee-Crown. Crystal Lake South improved to 5-0.
Season: 27-of-52 passing for 604 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception; 312 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
18. Mount Carmel senior running back Michael Banks
Banks has bounced around positions at Mount Carmel, but now has found a home at running back. With incredible speed, Banks is a defensive nightmare whenever he tries to get outside. He missed the Caravan’s last game. He is uncommitted.
Last week: Sat out a 35-14 win over De La Salle due to an injury. Mount Carmel improved to 4-1.
Season: 527 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries.
19. Loyola junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver
Weaver stepped in Loyola’s quarterback position this season and has taken off with it. He’s thrown for 200-plus yards in four games and has the Ramblers again competing for the Catholic League title. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Completed 14-of-20 passes for 216 touchdowns and four touchdowns in a 35-0 win over St. Ignatius. Loyola improved to 4-1.
Season: 66-of-121 passing for 992 yards and 14 touchdowns.
20. Thornridge senior running back Mik’ail McCall
Thornridge isn’t having the season it hoped, but McCall is. McCall has shown game after game why he’s headed to play for Michigan State next season.
Last week: Rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-19 loss to Bradley. Thornridge fell to 2-3.
Season: 791 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.