Top 20 football preview


ESPNChicago.com previews all of the top-20 games.

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