- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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No. 11 Naperville North (3-1) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (4-0) on Friday
The story: This will be Wheaton Warrenville South’s first real test of the season. So far, the Tigers have been nearly perfect on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole appears to be the front-runner for ESPNChicago.com’s Player of the Year award. Naperville North’s defense has been one of the best in the area and could present Wheaton Warrenville South with some trouble. The Huskies’ offense will need to get going early if they’re going to pull off the upset, though.
Naperville North player to watch: Nick Lifka might be the best defensive player in the state. He’s always around the ball.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Wide receiver Titus Davis has been one of the year’s breakout performers. He’s caught eight touchdowns.
Quote: Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – “Our offensive line has come quickly into a strong unit. Our defense unit has been very efficient against our opponents’ offenses.”
Prediction:Wheaton Warrenville South 24, Naperville North 14
No. 5 Carmel (4-0) at Marist (3-1) on Friday
The story: After pulling off an upset last week against Joliet Catholic, Carmel will now look to prevent Marist from doing the same. Marist’s only loss this season came last week to an undefeated Indiana team. The Redhawks have been effective using a two-quarterback system all year with juniors Luke Oosterbaan and Ryan Meyer taking turns. Carmel has excelled with its running game. Its defense also stepped up when it was needed in last week’s win over Joliet Catholic.
Carmel player to watch: Quarterback Brian Serio has been a threat to run and pass. Opponents must respect him for both.
Marist player to watch: Kicker Ben Falloon is one of the best in the state. He was good from 50 yards earlier this season.
Prediction: Carmel 28, Marist 24
Homewood-Flossmoor (3-1) at No. 13 Lincoln-Way East (3-1) on Friday
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor could make a statement with a win over Lincoln-Way East in the Southwest Suburban Blue. The Vikings have been under .500 since 2007, but have been showing life this season. Lincoln-Way East won’t be overlooking them. After losing to Wheaton North in Week 2, the Griffins are as focused as ever. They’re also coming off a lopsided win over Lockport.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Running back Malik Norman has been consistently finding the end zone for the Vikings.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Junior quarterback Blake Winkler is coming off his best high school game. He’ll look to add to it this week.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 42, Homewood-Flossmoor 20
No. 9 Minooka (4-0) at Plainfield South (4-0) on Friday
The story: Minooka has handled its opponents with ease so far this season. Plainfield South could present a tougher challenge for the Indians. Minooka’s offense has put up 40-plus points in three of its wins. Plainfield South’s offense has also been stellar. The Cougars have scored 41-or-more points in their four victories. Something will have to give in this Southwest Prairie match up of unbeatens.
Minooka player to watch: Running backs Calvin Hill and Kyle Banks have been a dominant 1-2 punch all season. Both are capable of running for 100-plus yards.
Plainfield South player to watch: Alex Flores has the ability to make an impact on both sides of the ball as a linebacker and wide receiver.
Quote: Minooka coach Bert Kooi – “What has impressed me the most about this group is what happened long before the start of the season. Since last Thanksgiving, our kids have been working their tails off getting ready for the season. Our attendance in our offseason program has never been better, but most of all, I don’t think we have had a group that as a whole as worked as hard as these kids. They bought into what we were doing and made a commitment to it. That has carried on into the season.”
Plainfield South coach Greg Banner – “The team continues to improve each week both offensively and defensively. We have faced a variety of different looks on both sides of the ball, and the kids have done a really nice job preparing for each opponent and making adjustments.”
Prediction: Minooka 40, Plainfield South 28
Lake Forest (4-0) at No. 20 Stevenson (4-0) on Friday
The story: Lake Forest’s success this season has been a surprise. After graduating quarterback Tommy Rees, who is now playing at Notre Dame, the Scouts were thought to be down this season. They’ve proven otherwise. Lake Forest has relied on a balanced offense this season in Rees’ place. The Scouts will likely have their hands full with Stevenson, though, in this North Suburban Lake match up. The Patriots have scored 40-plus points in three of their wins and have held their opponents to less than 10 points a game.
Lake Forest player to watch: Running back Owen Williams ran for 272 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Libertyville.
Stevenson player to watch: Quarterback Kevin Earl can throw it with the best of them. He’s completed 34-of-46 passes and thrown seven touchdowns this season.
Quote: Stevenson coach Bill McNamara – “After four weeks, I am very impressed with the sustained effort put forth by the entire team. We have very intense and positive practices. Also, the kids have been able to connect the mental and physical components of the game. Right now, we are a solid football team in all three phases of the game.”
Prediction: Stevenson 28, Lake Forest 14
Antioch (4-0) at No. 16 Vernon Hills (4-0) on Friday
The story: This will be Vernon Hills’ one test in the North Suburban Prairie. Antioch is the last conference team to beat the Cougars as it knocked them off in 2008. Both teams can put up points. Vernon Hills has out-scored opponents 208-0. Antioch has out-scored its opponents 169-92. For Antioch to have a chance, it must contain offensive weapons Evan Spencer and DaVaris Daniels. No one has been able to do it yet.
Antioch player to watch: Running back Vinnie Holm has rushed for 421 yard and 10 touchdowns on 38 carries.
Vernon Hills player to watch: Outside linebacker Austin Miller has 22 tackles, six tackles for a loss and five sacks this season.
Quote: Antioch coach Brian Glashagel – “ We are not one dimensional. We our solid in all three phases of the game. Some nights the offense shines. Some nights the defense shines. We have
blocked kicks and returned kicks. We are very balanced. Plus, the energy and effort has been full throttle every night. That is what has impressed me about this team thus far.”
Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken – “I’ve been impressed by our intensity, especially on defense. Teams are having a tough time matching it.”
Prediction: Vernon Hills 42, Antioch 20
Neuqua Valley (3-1) at South Elgin (4-0) at Streamwood on Friday
The story: This could be one of the better games of the week. Neither team is ranked, but both are on the cusp. Neuqua Valley lost 29-28 to Naperville North in the opening week and has won its last three games. South Elgin has been one of the state’s most productive offensive teams. The Storm have scored 197 points in their four wins.
Neuqua Valley player to watch: Running back Trent Snyder is expected to play this week after missing most of Week 3 with an ankle injury. He’s skilled when healthy.
South Elgin player to watch: Bradley Birtchfield is a threat in a number of ways. He’s returned kickoffs and punts for touchdowns. He’s rushed for touchdowns. He’s also caught a touchdown pass.
Prediction: South Elgin 28, Neuqua Valley 21
Bishop McNamara (4-0) at No. 2 St. Rita (4-0) on Friday
The story: This is a clash of the best teams in the Catholic League White and Blue. Bishop McNamara’s offense has been carrying it. It has scored 28-plus points in all four games. The Fightin’ Irish will be without their leading rusher Maurice Shoemaker, who tore his ACL last week. St. Rita looks to rebound from last week’s upset scare. The Mustangs needed a last-minute stop to defeat Brother Rice 14-13.
Bishop McNamara player to watch: Junior running back Travis Grant rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns in Shoemaker’s place last week.
St. Rita player to watch: Running back Jahwon Akui was held to under 100 yards last week. That doesn’t happen often.
Quote: Bishop McNamara coach Rich Zinann – “Our offensive line in the strength of our team. We have four returning starters.”
Prediction: St. Rita 41, Bishop McNamara 17