High School: Schaumburg
The Class 3A and 4A boys basketball playoffs begin on Monday. Here’s a glance at the top games and players to see this week.
Five regional semifinals to see
1. St. Charles East vs. St. Charles North at St. Charles North on Wednesday
2. Marist vs. Brother Rice at Marist on Tuesday
3. Stevenson vs. Prospect at Stevenson on Wednesday
4. Benet vs. Bolingbrook at Metea Valley on Wednesday
5. Neuqua Valley vs. Naperville Central at Neuqua Valley on Wednesday
Five potential regional championships to see on Friday
1. St. Rita vs. Whitney Young at Whitney Young
2. Bogan vs. De La Salle at Mount Carmel
3. Farragut vs. St. Joseph at Nazareth
4. Crane vs. Riverside-Brookfield at Riverside-Brookfield
5. Minooka vs. Bloom at Joliet Central
6. Crete-Monee vs. Joliet West at Thornton
7. West Aurora vs. Naperville North at Oswego
8. Harlan vs. Morgan Park at Rich Central
9. Evanston vs. Notre Dame at Notre Dame
10. Schaumburg vs. Glenbard West at Glenbard West
Ten to players to see in regional play (alphabetical order)
There will likely be plenty of time to see Simeon’s Jabari Parker and some of the other stars in the area, but these players and teams may or may not be around come next week.
1. David Cohn, junior, York: It hasn’t been a great year for high-scoring numbers, but Cohn has been one of the exceptions. He can drop 30-plus points on any night. He had 47 points just recently. York is a No. 4 seed in the Lake Park regional.
2. Willie Conner, senior, Crane: Conner improved his game this season and made himself a mid-major college prospect. Crane has been up and down this season, but Conner has been consistent. Crane is a No. 5 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield regional.
3. Tony Hicks, senior, St. Rita: Hicks, a Penn recruit, has been as good as any senior in the state. He’s been averaging 25 points a game. St. Rita is a No. 4 seed in the Whitney Young regional.
4. Mike LaTulip, senior, Prospect: LaTulip is headed to Illinois next year as a preferred walk-on. He’s been one of the area’s top shooters and scorers this year. Prospect is a No. 9 seed in the Stevenson regional.
5. Jahlil Okafor, sophomore, Young: Okafor is the state’s top sophomore and among the nation’s top players in the Class of 2014. The state hasn’t seen a big man as skilled as Okafor since possibly Eddy Curry. Whitney Young is a No. 5 seed in the Whitney Young regional.
6. Sean O’Mara, sophomore, Benet: O’Mara, a 6-9 center, has emerged as one of the state’s top young prospects. He’s a skilled big man and is following in the footsteps of former Benet center Frank Kaminsky. Benet is a No. 6 seed in the Metea Valley regional.
7. Michael Orris, senior, Crete-Monee: Orris, a 6-3 point guard, is headed to Illinois next season. He’s expected to help backup Tracy Abrams there. Crete-Monee is a No. 4 seed in the Thornton regional.
8. Juwan Starks, senior, West Aurora: Starks is on the verge of West Aurora’s career-scoring record of 1,613 points, which is owned by Billy Taylor (1987-1991). Starks is 60 points shy of matching Taylor. West Aurora is a No. 4 seed in the Oswego regional.
9. Tyler Ulis, sophomore, Marian Catholic: Ulis, a 5-8 point guard, is a scoring machine. He put up 38 points in a loss to St. Viator last month. Marian Catholic is a No. 7 seed and could face Andrew in the Andrew regional championship.
10. Milik Yarbrough, sophomore, Zion-Benton: Yarbrough could eventually be one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2014. He’s a multi-skilled 6-6 guard/forward. Zion-Benton is a No. 16 seed in the Zion-Benton regional.
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
Little had already paid a price for one of his mistakes and was suspended from playing in games last football season due to an undisclosed disciplinary reason. He wasn’t sure it was going to end there. He wasn’t in danger of falling into a life of crime or anything that extreme, but he was concerned about the person he was becoming.
For all those wants to become reality, Little knew changes had to be made.
“I wasn’t really heading down a good road when I got into trouble,” Little said. “I got into trouble and started making big mistakes. I had an attitude. I had an attitude toward my parents. I felt I needed to change that.
“I stopped being a sneaky kid and stopped hiding stuff. I’m more of an honest person. I decided I was going to a great big brother, great family member, a great teammate and a great friend.”
It’s what Little, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, has become. While much of his headlines these days have been generated from being one of the state’s top running backs, Little has impressed Saxons coach Mark Stilling the most with his actions off the field.
“I do think what happened to Shepard was extremely important,” Stilling said. “I’m a believer in things happen for a reason. It wasn’t like he was an awful kid, but part of becoming an adult is learning how your decisions not only affect yourself, but how they affect others. I think what happened was he had a pattern of making choices and making decision and not thinking of the consequences.”
Little did have to face the consequence of his decision -- which Stilling described as non-malicious -- when he was suspended last season. The one positive in the situation was Little was still allowed to practice if he chose to.
Little didn’t hesitate. He was there on the practice field every day. Fridays weren’t easy to watch from the sideline, but he understood that was his punishment.
“I hated it on Friday nights, but during the week I was there to make my team better,” said Little, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound halfback. “Friday night I would hate seeing plays where I would think, ‘You should have made this play, made this read.’ It was my fault that I wasn’t playing. Everything happens for a reason.”
Stilling was glad to have Little there, but he also never expected otherwise. Little’s work ethic has never been questioned.
“He was the best scout-team tailback in America,” Stilling said. “I know how important football is to Shepard. I guess I wasn’t surprised when he came every day despite knowing he couldn’t dress on Friday nights. I guess it was reassuring to know that it was important to him. Throughout the process of suspending him, on a daily basis my thought process was I hope this changes his life.”
Coming into the season, Little was getting his personal life in order, but he worried about his football game as well. He was afraid that he couldn’t be the same running back he was as a sophomore when he rushed for 1,700-plus yards on varsity. His fear was he had lost too much of his game by being away for the year.
One game in, he proved otherwise, rushing for 244 yards and a touchdown in the Saxons’ upset of No. 1-ranked Maine South. Two games in, Little took it even further, running for 331 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo Grove.
Through six games, Little has compiled 1,175 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and has put himself in the running for ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year award. The Saxons have also been ranked for much of the season.
“I think his vision is good,” 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.”
Colleges have taken notice, too. Eastern Illinois has offered him. Others are evaluating him. Stilling believes Little could play in the MAC if given the opportunity.
A lot has changed for Little in the past year, but it’s all been for the better. He doesn’t miss his old life.
“It feels a lot different playing football,” Little said. “My name is in paper, and my picture is in the paper. I have to be more careful where I’m going. I don’t have to worry about that. I lost the attitude that I had being a negative person, being a tough guy and all that.
“It’s not about being cool. It’s about being respectful and doing what’s right. It’s not cool to be one of those kids who’s getting in trouble. That’s what I gained out of this.”
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.
The story: One of the best rivalries in high school sports will write a new chapter on Friday night. Last season, St. Rita took it to the Caravan and won 54-18 in one of the most lopsided games in the rivalry’s history. Mount Carmel will be looking for revenge on St. Rita’s ground. The Caravan have bounced back nicely since losing in the season-opener to Simeon. Their offense has been impressive all season. St. Rita has remained undefeated thanks to its defense and running game.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Senior running back Michael Banks missed last week with a groin injury. When healthy, he’s one of the fasted players in the state.
St. Rita player to watch: Running back Jahwon Akui scored five times in last year’s win over Mount Carmel. He’ll look to add to that total on Friday.
Prediction: St. Rita 48, Mount Carmel 42
No. 16 Schaumburg (4-1) at No. 13 Barrington (5-0) on Saturday
The story: The Mid-Suburban League West will likely be determined here. Both teams enjoy giving the ball to their star running backs and letting them loose. Barrington’s Chase Murdock has rushed for 740 yards and 10 touchdowns on 132 carries. Schaumburg’s Shepard Little has run for 991 yards and eight touchdowns on 120 carries. Their one common opponent this season is Elk Grove. Barrington defeated Elk Grove 30-23 in overtime, and Schaumburg lost 36-34.
Schaumburg player to watch: A lot of attention will go to both teams’ running backs, but both also have capable quarterbacks. Schaumburg’s Mark Iannotti has completed 10-or-more passes in all five games.
Barrington player to watch: Broncos quarterback Matt LeMire has been proven to be an accurate passer. He was 8 of 12 for 100 yards in last week’s win.
Prediction: Schaumburg 28, Barrington 24
No. 18 Stevenson (5-0) at No. 4 Lake Zurich (5-0) on Friday
The story: This game should decide the North Suburban Lake championship. Both teams have been putting up a lot of points this season with each averaging nearly 40 per game. Stevenson’s Joe Cassata and Lake Zurich’s Jacob Brinlee are two of the best running backs around. If the game does come down to the wire, Lake Zurich has pulled out two narrow wins this season while Stevenson has yet to be tested.
Stevenson player to watch: Quarterback Kevin Earl doesn’t receive enough recognition. He’s one of the area’s premier quarterbacks.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Running back Jacob Brinlee is one of the area’s most entertaining players to watch. He can score any time he touches the ball.
Quote: Stevenson coach William McNamara – “Lake Zurich is a very aggressive team on defense and has the ability to strike at any time on offense. This game will be a tremendous challenge for our team. Brinlee is simply great with the ball in his hands. We have to get a complete team effort to try to keep him in check.”
Prediction: Lake Zurich 24, Stevenson 20
No. 10 Wheaton North (4-1) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (5-0) on Friday
The story: Top-ranked Wheaton Warrenville South faces its second major DuPage Valley test in as many weeks. The Tigers had no trouble with last week’s one as they cruised to a win over Naperville North. Wheaton Warrrenville South’s offense and defense have been equally as good. The Tigers have out-scored their opponents 200-40 this season. Wheaton North’s offense has slowed down in the last few weeks with a loss to Glenbard North and a narrow win over West Aurora. Either the Falcons’ offense needs to get going or their defense will have to contain quarterback Reilly O’Toole and company.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wheaton North quarterback Reece Butler has had some big games this season. He’ll need another one here to pull off the upset.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Quarterback Reilly O’Toole is the front-runner for ESPNChicago.com’s Player of the Year award right now.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 41, Wheaton North 24
Loyola (4-1) at Brother Rice (4-1) on Friday
The story: Every game is vital in the Catholic League Blue. With a loss here, either Loyola or Brother Rice could find itself outside of contention for the conference title. Both teams have one conference loss heading into the match up. Loyola fell to Mount Carmel in overtime, and Brother Rice lost 24-0 to St. Rita.
Loyola player to watch: Ramblers quarterback Malcolm Weaver has thrown 14 touchdowns passes this season.
Brother Rice player to watch: Junior running back Martez Walker can give a defense fits with his ability.
Prediction: Loyola 31, Brother Rice 14
York (5-0) at Lyons (5-0) on Saturday
The story: Whether York or Lyons can hang with Glenbard West in the West Suburban Silver has yet to be seen, but both teams have remained unbeaten so far. They have had to fight to stay that way, though. York, which was 4-5 last season, has won its last two games by a combined eight points. Lyons defeated Oak Park 14-9 last week. This is the first time York has been 5-0 since 1984.
York player to watch: Defensive back Joe Paparone has a knack for making big plays. He had an interception and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in last week’s win.
Lyons player to watch: Wide receiver Dylan Fiedler has stepped up in key situations. He had the game-winning touchdown against Oak Park last week.
Prediction: York 28, Lyons 20
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.
Elk Grove (2-1) at No. 6 Schaumburg (3-0) on Thursday
The story: It's no surprise the Mid-Suburban League has proven to be among the state's top conferences again. What is surprising is that different teams from a year ago are leading the way. Last year, it was Fremd and Prospect. Now, it's Barrington, Elk Grove and Schaumburg. In Thursday's crossover game, Elk Grove and Schaumburg have dynamic offenses and can put up points. Defense will be the key in this one.
Elk Grove player to watch: Linebacker Joey Bishoff won't be able to contain Schaumburg's offense alone, but he has the ability to do a lot .
Schaumburg player to watch: With a lot of the attention going to running back Shepard Little, it's important to remember the Saxons also have one of the area's top quarterbacks in Mark Iannotti.
Quote: Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling – "We have not had a consistent [offensive line] lineup, but the seven kids who have played there have been steady, which has paved the way for Shepard's performance. ... Our defense has been tackling well individually and collectively, running to the ball very well, executing their assignments. Consequently, we have given up very few big plays."
Prediction: Schaumburg 36, Elk Grove 35
No. 12 Wheaton North (3-0) at No. 9 Glenbard North (3-0) on Friday
The story: After three weeks, we know Wheaton North's offense can score, and Glenbard North's defense doesn't allow offenses to score. Something will have to give in this one. The Falcons have scored 116 points this season and are coming off a 50-7 win over West Chicago. Glenbard North has allowed 17 points this season, and its defense was impressive in last week's 10-3 win over Naperville North.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wide receiver Richard Finley is one of quarterback Reece Butler's favorite targets. He had six catches for 152 yards last week.
Glenbard North player to watch: Safety Sean Fogarty was the difference in last week's win over Naperville North. He picked off two passes with one going for a touchdown and had a diving catch that set up a field goal.
Quote: Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens – "We must establish some type of run game. We need to disrupt their timed-passing game, try to pressure the quarterback and keep their offense off the field."
Prediction: Glenbard North 17, Wheaton North 10
No. 4 Joliet Catholic (3-0) at No. 7 Carmel (3-0) on Friday
The story: This is the game of the week for many reasons. For one, they're two top-10 teams. Secondly, they're East Suburban Catholic foes. Finally, last year's game came down to Joliet Catholic kicking a 35-yard field goal in the final seconds for a 19-16 win. This year's game could be just as exciting. Both teams have been dominant so far and have been led by their talented backfields. Both teams have capable quarterbacks, too.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Josh Ferguson is one of the state's premier running backs when he's healthy. He was hampered by an injury in Week 1 and had cramps in Week 3. The Hilltoppers will likely need him the whole way this week.
Carmel player to watch: Michael Panico is putting together a memorable season at running back after moving from cornerback. He has 496 yards and five touchdowns.
Quote: Carmel coach Andy Bitto – "We need to run the ball and prevent the big plays."
Prediction: Carmel 24, Joliet Catholic 21
No. 14 Lincoln-Way East (2-1) at Lockport (2-1) on Friday
The story: Lockport fell out of the top-20 rankings with last week's 14-7 loss to Bolingbrook. The Porters will need to get their offense going if they're going to win this game. Lincoln-Way East dropped its first game of the season in Week 2 to Wheaton North and bounced back last week with a victory over Joliet West. The Griffins' defense struggled against Wheaton North and will need to be more consistent against Lockport.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Running back Max Bayer is one of the keys to the Griffins' offense. He scored twice last week.
Lockport player to watch: Running back Dan Holman was held to under 100 yards last week. That doesn't happen often. Look for him to try and get back on track this week.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 24, Lockport 17
Prairie Ridge (3-0) at No. 11 Crystal Lake South (3-0) on Friday
The story: Prairie Ridge is one of the teams on the cusp of the top 20, and it would improve its stock with a win here. Crystal Lake South is highly ranked, but its schedule isn't the toughest around and could use a quality win like this. Prairie Ridge's offense has been especially strong in the first half of games. It put up 27 points in the opening quarter in last week's win over Jacobs. Crystal Lake South had a scare in Week 2, but came back with a big win last week.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Senior quarterback Stephen Covalt has found ways in the air and on the ground to score points for Prairie Ridge. He'll be looked at to do the same against Crystal Lake South.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Kicker Brad Walovitch could come into play in a tight game. He has made three field goals this year, including a 42-yarder.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 20, Prairie Ridge 14
No. 15 Mount Carmel (2-1) at No. 16 Loyola (3-0) on Saturday
The story: With Providence struggling early on, it appears as if there will be a new Catholic League Blue champion this season. St. Rita is the favorite, but Loyola and Mount Carmel aren't too far behind. Loyola has been solid on both sides of the ball this season and is coming off a win over Providence. The Caravan stumbled in the opening week as they lost to Simeon, but have rebounded nicely since. Loyola beat Mount Carmel twice last season.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Running back Michael Banks is extremely fast. He could give Loyola fits if it allows him to get outside.
Loyola player to watch: Wide receiver E.J. Webb has the size (6-5, 200 pounds) and ability to give defensive backs trouble. He had four catches for 152 yards last week.
Prediction: Loyola 31, Mount Carmel 28
The Maine South-Wheaton Warrenville South game on ESPN received much of the press in Week 2, but there was plenty of other quality football played.
Here’s a look back at the notables of the weekend.
1. Schaumburg running back Shepard Little ran for 331 yards and two touchdowns in the Saxons’ 28-6 win over Buffalo Grove.
2. South Elgin quarterback John Menken threw for 303 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 143 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s 49-26 win over Metamora.
3. Wheaton North quarterback Reece Butler threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s win over Lincoln-Way East.
4. St. Charles North quarterback Matt Shiltz threw for 361 yards and six touchdowns in his team’s 62-49 win over McHenry. Wide receiver Josh Mikes caught six of those passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
5. St. Rita running back Jahwon Akui rushed for 222 yards and four touchdowns in the Mustangs’ win over Jefferson City, Mo.
1. Wheaton Warrenville South’s Caleb Bednarz had an interception and returned a kickoff for 88 yards in the Tigers’ win over Maine South.
2. Barrington safety Rob Wagner made a diving interception to seal the Broncos’ overtime win over Elk Grove.
3. Naperville North’s Dan Pinkerton blocked a punt to spark Naperville North 17-0 win against St. Charles East.
4. Mount Carmel linebacker Brian Moore had two sacks in the Caravan’s win over Lake Forest Academy.
5. Westinghouse’s Taquan Smith has six sacks in his team’s 17-14 win over Kenwood.
1. Neuqua Valley 20, Naperville Central 18: A late field goal miss gave the Wildcats their win. Trent Snyder rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns for Neuqua Valley.
2. Wheaton North 33, Lincoln-Way East 20: Wheaton North had one of the weekend’s biggest upsets as it knocked previously-ranked No. 6 Lincoln-Way East. Quarterback Reece Butler was on fire, and John Bloss, Montrell Williams and Clemonte Dossie made key defensive play for the Falcons.
3. Barrington 30, Elk Grove 23 OT: Barrington safety Rob Wagner dove and intercepted a pass in overtime as the Broncos prevailed. Elk Grove kicker Matt Brandt sent the game into overtime with a 31-yard field goal with 2.2 seconds left.
4. Crystal Lake South 10, Bartlett 9: The Gators’ Kenny King and Joe Coriaci stopped Bartlett’s Russell Martin from scoring on a 2-point conversion with 1:18 left in the game for the win.
5. Lockport 28, Richards 21: A year after Lockport beat Richards 37-36, the Porters pulled out another close game. Daniel Holman ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
"My numbers don't matter, just the numbers on the scoreboard," said Little, after rushing for 302 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns in Schaumburg's 28-6 win over visting Buffalo Grove.
"Shepard runs so extremely hard. I don't think he ever gets cheated on a carry," added Saxons' head coach, Mark Stilling. Schaumburg has now taken four straight from the Bison, and starts the season 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
Saxons' quarterback Mark Iannotti also showcased his abilities rushing for a 19-yard, first-quarter touchdown to start the scoring. The senior signal-caller then went airborne, connecting with Matt Bolger for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 6:49 left in the first half.
Buffalo Grove made it a one-score game when Mike Garrity's 7-yard pass found Kevin Tennenbaum in the corner of the end zone, but the Bison would miss the PAT and trail 14-6 at the half. Schaumburg outgained Buffalo Grove by 389 yards, allowing just 10 on the ground.
Player of the game: Schaumburg senior RB Shepard Little
Stats of the game: Little had 34 carries for 302 yards and two touchdowns and Saxsons’ QB Mark Iannotti was 10-for-13 for 97 yards passing.
It was over when: Little ran for a 50-yard touchdown with 10:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Quote of the night: "Did you say 300? Wow. That's the O-line doing its job. I've got nothing else to say." -- Shepard Little
It was a win he -- nor anyone in the community -- will forget anytime soon. At the same time, though, Stilling is ready to move on. Beating Maine South was a good step for this year's team, but he hopes it's not the final one.
Despite everyone else trying to call him, Stilling did have time to take a phone call from ESPNChicago.com and talked about the historic win, his team's goals, the return of running back Shepard Little after being suspended last season, starting a freshman guard against Maine South and more.
What was the weekend like for you?
Mark Stilling: You know what? It was me trying to be polite and accept congratulations and not nearly enough time to answer everybody. It's very exciting for our kids, and everyone around school was extremely jacked up about it.
But I think our kids have a healthy level of confidence. I don't know if they were that surprised by the outcome. We have team goals. Beating Maine South wasn't one of them. These guys believe they can play deep into November. Not to take away from it being a huge win, but this weekend for me was moving onto Buffalo Grove. People were extremely congratulatory about it, which is awesome, but my focus moved onto next Friday night.
How were you able to sell to the kids they could be the first ones to beat Maine South in three years?
MS: I'll be very honest with you, we never talked about beating Maine South. We have a consistent message about making yourself play hard and believing in our stuff, in terms of schemes and what we do. Our kids believe in playing hard and believe in doing what we're doing.
Were you confident about it?
MS: I'll say this -- this is the fourth year we played them, and in terms of reading our kids this was the most confident our kids felt about going out and doing their job. Sometimes when you're playing an opponent that's more highly regarded, that affects kids in their ability to do their jobs. I think that might have been the case the last couple of years.
Does being a professional psychologist help in any way in coaching?
MS: Not consciously. I hear all coaches are psychologists to a certain degree. It's not something I consciously do. If anything, it makes it a little more difficult at times because as a psychologist, especially in a counseling setting, you're extremely understanding and tolerant of what people think and how they feel as part of the therapeutic process. I have to be a little more demanding when the bell rings at 2:45 and step on the football field. There's a different mind set. The commonality is you're trying to guide people's behavior to achieve goals. What do I have to move these kids, motivate these kids?
What surprised you about Friday's game?
MS: This was the fastest we played against them. I don't necessarily think this is the fastest team we've had in the last 4-5 years. It certainly is not. It goes back to the level of confidence we had. Not beating Maine South, but confident in doing their jobs and knowing their assignments.
We're sitting there the Tuesday before the game with our 6th, 7th, 8th offensive linemen in the starting lineup. We were pretty banged up last week. We ended up starting our backup center [Mike Baumhard] and a freshman guard [Matt Zolper]. Those two kids performed not adequately, but they performed as if they belonged. It was a concern going in how they would respond. The first series our quarterback is on his back two times. The second time he picked himself up slowly. Oh, boy. To see them respond on that stage was pretty impressive, especially the freshman kid. He hadn't taken a varsity snap. He hadn't taken a high school football snap.
Did the year away from football have any impact on Shepard Little on or off the field?
MS: Here's the deal, the way our athletic code works is he wasn't allowed to play any games last year, but he was at practice every day. He never missed a day. He's back. He's not only our most talented player, but he's our hardest working player. I think it made him appreciate what he has. He's really made a conscious effort to change himself as a human being. Part of the incident was life just happens. He didn't think about what happened if he did it. I think he's much more aware of what's at stake.
Maine South hasn't been held to that few points in three years as well. What impressed you about the defense?
MS: Maine South is extremely athletic. On top of that, I think they play very hard. The last few years we've been victimized by the big plays. Their big plays just crushed us, particularly on third down. One, they didn't get a big play until 46 seconds left in the game. A lot of what they do revolves around a bubble screen. Our kids were phenomenal in the execution that revolved around that.
What impact could this have on the season?
MS: Making sure our kids know they have to get better. I think it was responding to texts and responding to e-mails and voicemail, trying to be gracious and polite to everybody. I can't express how much I appreciate that. If I'm going through that, I can't imagine what our kids are going through. Just understanding that we have team goals and beating Maine South wasn't one of them. It's cool to be in the papers and for our program, but we want more than this. As for the rest of the season, this is all a really nice accomplishment for our program, but this isn't the end.
Are you afraid of a letdown?
MS: I really believe our kids have a good level of maturity. Shepard being there two years ago helps. I think our captains have a mature enough sense about them that they understand we didn't just go out and beat Maine South because we're more talented. We didn't go out and beat Maine South because we got lucky. We went out and accomplished that because of the work we put in. It's my job that we continue to understand that.
No. 15 Montini (0-0) at No. 5 Joliet Catholic (0-0) on Friday
The story: This is the perfect game to open the 2010 high school football season. These two teams met in the Class 5A state championship in November with Montini edging the Hilltoppers 29-28 with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 32 seconds remaining. Joliet Catholic would like to redeem itself with a win here, but Montini is also out to prove last year’s victory wasn’t a fluke. Both teams will be starting a new quarterback.
Montini player to watch: Senior Matt Westerkamp takes over at quarterback for the Broncos. He doesn’t have the arm of last year’s quarterback Brandon Pechloff, but he does have size at 6-2, some speed and knows the offense.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Junior running back Malin Jones torched Montini for 141 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s state championship game. He and fellow running back Josh Ferguson will be the keys to this game again.
Quote: “According to everyone, we are the underdogs again,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “We don’t care. We’ll line up and play. We’ll line up and play anytime, anywhere. We’ll line up in the parking lot if you want.”
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 40, Montini 35
No. 6 Fremd (0-0) at No. 9 Lake Zurich (0-0) on Friday
The story: Fremd and Lake Zurich played in one of the more dramatic season-opening games last season with Fremd pulling out a 10-7 win at home. The Bears will now get a chance to avenge that result at their place. Both teams lost a couple key pieces from last year, but they also return a couple key ones. Both teams should be in contention for a state title this season.
Fremd player to watch: Senior Justin Wallace came up big in last year’s win over Lake Zurich with a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery. Wallace will be a key defensive player again this season, but will also be one of the main running backs.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Running back Jacob Brinlee is one of the state’s most electrifying players. He has the speed and vision to pop a long one at any time. He had a 73-yarder last season against Fremd.
Quote: “We need to win the turnover battle, win in the special teams’ phases of the game and negate their size with our speed,” Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. “They’re fundamentally sound and well coached.
Prediction: Fremd 14, Lake Zurich 13
No. 2 Wheaton Warrenville South (0-0) at No. 19 Hinsdale Central (0-0) on Friday
The story: Wheaton Warrenville South began its state championship run with a season-opening 34-26 win over Hinsdale Central last season. Wheaton Warrenville South returns a bulk of its team from last season and is the favorite to repeat in Class 7A. The Red Devils have some returnees, especially on the offensive line, but they did graduate all-state quarterback John Whitelaw. Hinsdale Central plans on using a platoon system at quarterback for now. Hinsdale Central could have a chance at home, but it needs to limit its errors.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: All eyes will be on Illini recruit quarterback Reilly O’Toole. Everything points to him having a monstrous season for the Tigers.
Hinsdale Central player to watch: Center Jack Allen is one of the premier offensive linemen in the state. He’s big, but he’s also quick. He recently committed to Michigan State.
Quote: “Wheaton Warrenville South does everything well,” Hinsdale Central coach Mike DiMatteo said. “They are not the great program they are for no reason. … We need to keep O’Toole in check as much as we can. He’s the best QB in the state this year, and we will have our hands full.”
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Hinsdale Central 20
Bolingbrook (0-0) at No. 14 Downers Grove South (0-0) on Friday
The story: This has turned into one of the more exciting non-conference rivalries. Last year, Bolingbrook blocked a late field goal attempt to beat the Mustangs in the season opener. Downers Grove South got its revenge during the playoffs by knocking Bolingbrook out with a late comeback win. This is the last scheduled meeting for the teams, but they could of course meet in the playoffs again this year and in the future.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Linebacker Antonio Morrison is one of the key defensive players the Raiders will be looking to this season.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Wide receiver Ryan Oruche can beat a team in a variety of ways. He can run, catch and even pass if needed. Bolingbrook’s defense will have its hands full with him.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 28, Bolingbrook 17
No. 1 Maine South (0-0) at Schaumburg (0-0) on Friday
The story: Maine South is the team everyone is shooting for again. The Hawks are riding a 28-game winning streak into the season. They’re not as offensively powered as the past few years, but their defense should be among the state’s best. Schaumburg just missed the top 20. The Saxons have a lot of offense back, especially quarterback Mark Iannotti and running back Shepard Little.
Maine South players to watch: No decision was made on Maine South’s quarterback, so sophomore Matt Alviti and junior Jimmy Frankos will both play against Schaumburg. Both have shown promise throughout the offseason.
Schaumburg player to watch: Shepard Little rushed for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2008. He sat out last season due a disciplinary issue and is back again. If he can return to form, the Saxons will be a team to watch this season.
Quote: “They are obviously talented and play extremely hard,” Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. “Our kids need to stay focused on doing their jobs and resist the temptation to try anything special.”
Prediction: Maine South 31, Schaumburg 21
Glenbrook South (0-0) at No. 18 Minooka (0-0) on Friday
The story: Minooka is out to prove it belongs with the elite teams this season. Glenbrook South is out to show that it can reload after losing a number of stars from last season’s quarterfinal team. After this game, we should know a little more about both teams. Minooka will look to control the ball. It will be important for Glenbrook South to stay away from turnovers. The Titans will be missing four players to injury and another due to suspension.
Glenbrook South player to watch: John Strickland steps into the spotlight for the Titans. He’s moved from linebacker to fullback and will likely see a bulk of the carries.
Minooka player to watch: Zach Colvin, a Division I recruit, will be playing both ways to start the season. He’s a dominant a defensive end, but it may slow him down having to be on offense as well.
Quote: “Week 1 is always tough,” Minooka coach Bert Kooi said. “No matter how much time you have spent with your team, you never really completely know what to expect until you see them in a game situation.”
Prediction: Minooka 20, Glenbrook South 14
No. 20 Oak Park at Glenbard North on Friday
The story: Oak Park is one of the sleeper picks for the 2010 season. The Huskies are coming off a 5-5 season and have a bulk of their team back. If they’re going to take another step this season, this game would be a good start. Glenbard North beat them 33-21 last season. The Panthers lost some talent from last year’s 11-2 team, but they’re still among the area’s best.
Oak Park player to watch: Running back Tony Stapleton rushed for 1,300 yards as a junior. He has a number of Division I schools looking at him.
Glenbard North player to watch: Running back/linebacker Evan Natick battled through injuries last season. Now healthy, he should make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Quote: “We need to be able to run the football and stop the run,” Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. “They run the ball well.”
Prediction: Oak Park 21, Glenbard North 20
Edwardsville (0-0) vs. No. 7 Lincoln-Way East (0-0) at Illinois State on Saturday
The story: Lincoln-Way East opens its season with a non-area opponent. Edwardsville is expected to be one of the top St. Louis-area teams this season. It went 6-4 last year and returns Rodney Coe, one of the state’s top athletes. Lincoln-Way East is familiar with teams from that area. The Griffins defeated Belleville West in the opening round of the playoffs and then were upset by O’Fallon in the second round. Lincoln-Way East’s defense should be among the state’s best again this season.
Edwardsville player to watch: Running back Rodney Coe is being recruited by nearly every top program in the country. He will be a good first test for the Griffins’ defense.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Quarterback Blake Winkler makes his debut. Winkler has drawn comparisons to former Griffins quarterback Anthony Kropp, who led the team to a state championship in 2005.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 30, Edwardsville 21
No. 11 Mount Carmel vs. Simeon at Soldier Field on Sunday
The story: These Chicago south side foes met twice last season with Mount Carmel winning both games. The Caravan won the season opener 53-27, but their second meeting was closer with Mount Carmel winning 19-14. Mount Carmel had an up-and-down 2009 season and is looking to return to dominance this year. Simeon just missed out of the top-20 rankings and should be the class of the Public League this season.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Michael Banks has moved from wide receiver to running back. He has great speed and could flourish in the Caravan’s triple-option system.
Simeon player to watch: Chris Bryant is one of the state’s top offensive linemen. He’s also one of the biggest as he comes in at 6-5 and 330 pounds.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 28, Simeon 14
No. 8 Providence (0-0) vs. Morgan Park (0-0) at Soldier Field on Sunday
The story: Providence is coming off a dream season where nearly everything seemed to go the Celtics way. They return a strong offensive line and quality linebackers, but they need to replace stars Pete Houlihan and Tim Hanrahan. Morgan Park is coming off a 9-3 season. The Mustangs upset Brother Rice at Soldier Field last season.
Providence player to watch: Senior quarterback Joey Houlihan returns for the Celtics. He was key in Providence’s run to the Class 6A state championship game last season.
Morgan Park player to watch: Junior Deshaun Hurley takes over at quarterback for Morgan Park. He did get some experience there last season.
Prediction: Providence 34, Morgan Park 19