Recognize Greater Chicago

Updated: October 3, 2008, 4:18 PM ET
ESPNRISE.com

ESPN RISE takes a look at the teams to watch this month in Greater Chicago:

Football - Glenbard North
It may have seemed like a Cinderella run when Glenbard North snuck into the state playoffs with a 5-4 record last year and made it all the way to the Class 8A title game, but a closer look reveals a more accurate story. Three of the Panthers' four regular-season losses came by a total of 15 points, and the other came at the hands of the team that beat Glenbard North again in the 8A championship game: Naperville North. "We don't look at it like it was some storybook finish for us," says coach Ryan Wilkens. "We had a good team, and when we played our game we could beat anyone." That's the attitude the Panthers carried into this season, and it's serving them well so far. Senior quarterback Evan Watkins, a Northwestern commit who spearheaded the playoff run last season, commands the offense. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, the ESPN RISE All-Area first teamer has the size and skill necessary to put a team on his back. "Evan gives us a weapon that a lot of teams can't match up with," says Wilkens, "and that's a huge advantage to have at the quarterback position." He's not the only star in the backfield, as senior running back Tyler Doll is also capable of taking over a game at any moment. On defense, Andrew Zika, Kyle Schwetz and Jordan Brooks lead the way. "Hopefully we don't need to win the last one just to make the playoffs this time," says Wilkens. "We shouldn't have to."

Girls' Golf - Marion
The Wildcats finished second at the state tournament last season, and the Class 2A title is a distinct possibility this time around. Junior twin sisters Cassie and Ashleigh Rushing are just hitting their stride, giving the team a pair of aces at the top of the card, and fellow junior Campbell Hunt is also capable of firing in the low-70s. Behind the more established players, seniors Lauren Bond and Darcy White provide solid depth in rounding out the top five.

Boys' Soccer - Neuqua Valley
Following up last season's 22-2-4 record and state title game appearance, Neuqua Valley is once again emerging as a championship contender. Though the Wildcats lost leading goal scorer Bret Hruby to graduation, senior Jaymie Bullard and junior Bryan Ciesiulka are capable of picking up the scoring slack. Junior goalie Jack Turanchik has also impressed, playing behind the team's stout back line. If the Cats are firing on all cylinders come tourney time, they can take down anyone.

Girls' Cross Country - Lyons
Losing their two lead runners from 2007 hurt, but the Lions have found a way to remain among the best teams in the state. Junior Katherine Rehn could finish among the top 20 at the Class 3A state meet next month, and senior Katie Flaherty isn't far behind. Junior Emily Meingast is promising, and the team is depending on sophomore Carly Rocco to come through in the clutch. If everyone performs to their capabilities at the state meet, Lyons could push favorite Geneva for first place in the team standings.

Breakout teams

FOOTBALL  LEO CATHOLIC
Senior quarterback Darwin Rogers is deadly operating behind the Lions' terrific offensive line.

GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY  LOCKPORT
Finished seventh at state meet last year, and senior Janna Mitsos is one of top runners in the area.

BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY  NAPERVILLE NORTH
Senior Kyle Gibson and junior Tyler Jermann are both capable of finishing top 20 in Class 3A this season.

GIRLS'TENNIS  DOWNERS GROVE SOUTH
Junior Jenny Hois is establishing herself as one of the state's top singles players.