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Prep football conference previews
Big Northern East
Richmond-Burton and Huntley replace Oregon and Byron from last year's Big Northern Red to form the competitive Big Northern East. Burlington Central's experienced offense returns all-conference QB Brett Porto and a big line, but its graduation-depleted defense is a question mark. Huntley will challenge due in part to last season's playoff experience and a speedy, opportunistic defense, as will Richmond-Burton behind Donovan Moore, widely considered the league's best all-around player. Johnsburg and coach Bob Bradshaw, entering his 41st year in coaching, cannot be overlooked. The Skyhawks return 14 starters, including 300-pound tackle Ken Kozel. Marengo's veteran offense will be tested by a schedule that features six playoff teams. Harvard welcomes back captain Cody Book, injured all of last season.
2001 state qualifiers: Huntley (4A semifinals), Burlington Central (4A second round), Richmond-Burton (4A first round).
Quotable: Huntley coach Mike Slattery: "It's a tough football conference. If you can win in our conference, you can go deep in the playoffs."
Players to watch: Lukas Ekstrom (OL, 6-1, 280), Mike Murphy (OL, 6-2, 280), Brett Porto (QB, 6-0, 175), Joe Vanko (OL, 6-3, 280), Burlington Central; Cody Book (OL/LB, 5-10, 200), David Detmer (DB, 6-0, 180), Dan Haeflinger (RB/LB, 6-1, 190), Harvard; Brad Beth (OL, 6-0, 205), Brian Coots (OL, 5-11, 225), Adam Popenfoose (QB/RB/LB, 5-11, 205), Juri Staley-Gamble (WR/RB/LB, 6-2, 195), Huntley; Nick Ackerman (RB/LB, 6-1, 200), Greg Bays (OL, 6-2, 235), Mark Duncan (RB/DB, 5-7, 150), Ken Kozel (OL, 6-5, 300), Jason Miller (OL, 6-0, 210), Johnsburg; Ben Fish (OL, 6-0, 235), Derek Johnson (OL, 6-2, 295), Anthony Weber (RB/DB, 5-10, 190), Sterling Wolfe (LB, 5-11, 170), Marengo; Donovan Moore (QB/DB, 6-1, 210), Richmond-Burton.
Key game: Huntley at Burlington Central, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Burlington Central, Huntley, Richmond-Burton, Johnsburg, Marengo, Harvard.
Big Northern West
The good news for last season's Big Northern White is that Richmond-Burton and Huntley have left. The bad news is they've been replaced by Byron and Oregon in the revamped Big Northern West. Byron is the favorite, returning 12 starters, including the backfield tandem of Dan Stanleyrunner-up in the Class A 100-meter state finalsand Ryan Considine. QB Derek Wheeler will throw to TE Harry Adams, who also will anchor an experienced defensive line. Although Oregon returns only five starters, 1,100-yard rusher Mike Guzman & Co. cannot be overlooked. Stillman Valley must find a way to replace 20 of 22 starters from last year's Class 3A semifinal team. Hampshire has to replace injured offensive lineman Jason Thompson, who'll be out at least six weeks with a broken foot. Genoa-Kingston faces six playoff qualifiers but has 20 returning starters. Winnebago lacks depth due to a small senior class.
2001 state qualifiers: Stillman Valley (3A semifinals), Hampshire (3A second round), Byron (4A second round), Oregon (4A second round).
Quotable: Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor: "Oregon and Byron have state-title-type talent. That makes [the league] competitive and it makes for great games on Friday nights."
Players to watch: Harry Adams (TE/DL, 6-3, 210), Ryan Considine (RB, 5-7, 140), Dan Stanley (RB, 5-9, 170), Derek Wheeler (QB, 6-0, 170), Byron; Justin Bohn (RB/LB, 5-10, 185), Brad Caldwell (OL/DL, 6-0, 230), Rick Warren (RB/LB, 5-9, 180), Genoa-Kingston; Kevin Ackmann (RB/DB, 5-9, 180), Mark Dedina (OL/LB, 6-2, 220), Aaron Meyer (QB/DB, 6-1, 190), Jason Perry (DL, 6-2, 240), Hampshire; Jason Appel (RB, 5-10, 170), Brandon Bolhous (OL/DL, 6-2, 220), Brandon Gecan (OL/LB, 6-0, 195), Mike Guzman (FB/DL, 5-8, 195), Oregon; Cory Meyers (QB/DB, 5-9, 160), Josh Russom (RB/LB, 5-10, 185), Stillman Valley; Dan Strathman (RB, 5-11, 175), Winnebago.
Key game: Byron at Oregon, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Byron, Oregon, Stillman Valley, Hampshire, Genoa-Kingston, Winnebago.
Catholic Metro Blue
Out from under the shadow of departed powers Providence and Mt. Carmel (Catholic Metro Red and White, respectively), St. Rita figures to emerge with the conference title. Massive offensive tackle Denis Ehmig (6-3, 300), LB John Plude (135 tackles) and QB Paul Standring head a group of 11 returning starters with something to prove after falling just short in the 7A semifinals last year. Loyola returns scrappy receiver Nick Marks (41 receptions, 578 yards, seven TDs) and has won two of its last three meetings with St. Rita. St. Patrick will continue its winning ways with C Pat Gamboney plowing holes for FB Jakub Koziol. Keep an eye out for De La Salle QB Shedrick Mossman, a playmaker who is battling back from an injury-plagued junior season.
2001 state qualifiers: St. Rita (7A semifinals), Loyola (7A second round), St. Patrick (7A second round).
Quotable: St. Patrick coach Dan Galante: "We're heading into uncharted waters. We'll have our hands full."
Players to watch: John Burns (FB, 5-9, 225), Marty Foley (LB, 6-2, 200), Liam Winters (OT, 6-7, 235), Brother Rice; Tom Klupshas (LB, 6-0, 215), Shedrick Mossman (QB, 6-2, 220), Chris Tucker (TE, 6-2, 210), Teddy Young (WR, 6-0, 175), De La Salle; Mike Killackey (DB, 5-11, 160), Nick Marks (WR, 5-11, 175), Mike McHugh (C, 5-11, 235), Mike Schnoor (LB, 6-2, 210), Loyola; Bob Fabrizio (DB, 5-7, 175), Tom Miller (FB/DE, 5-11, 225), Eric Thompson (DE, 5-10, 220), Marist; Mike Bartgen (RB, 6-0, 185), Tony Lascola (QB, 5-11, 175), Matt O'Connell (LB, 5-11, 180), St. Laurence; Leo Brady (TE, 6-2, 225), Mike Dwyer (LB, 6-0, 230), Pat Gamboney (C, 6-2, 290), Saul Ibarra (DB/WR, 5-11, 170), St. Patrick; Denis Ehmig (OT, 6-3, 300), Steve Parker (FB, 6-1, 240), Paul Standring (QB, 6-1, 190), St. Rita.
Key games: St. Rita at Loyola, Sept. 14; St. Patrick at St. Rita, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: St. Rita, Loyola, St. Patrick, De La Salle, Brother Rice, Marist, St. Laurence.
Catholic Metro Red
Five state qualifiers, including two state champions, and all three conference winners (Providence, Joliet Catholic, St. Viator) from last year's Catholic Metro alignment now reside in the Redthe toughest conference in the state. Joliet Catholic needs junior RB Bobby Buchanan and OT Steve Douglas, a three-year starter, to carry the torch for an offense that averaged 39 points a game and rolled to its 10th state title last season. But the Hilltoppers' strength in 2002 is a defense led by LBs Ryan Lincoln and Chris Jeske, a tandem Dan Sharp describes as the best he has coached. And don't forget Providence, which went 14-0 last season en route to the 6A state title. The Celtics hope RB Clay Cleveland can replace the graduated Mike Mentz and his 3,500 career rushing yards. The title could be decided as early as Sept. 20, when Providence plays at Joliet Catholic, but both teams must pass through Kankakee, where Bishop McNamara is primed to play the spoiler.
2001 state qualifiers: Providence (6A champion), Joliet Catholic (5A champion), Bishop McNamara (5A second round), St. Viator (5A second round), Holy Cross (5A first round).
Quotable: Holy Cross coach Joe DiCanio: "Two state champs in one conference? We'll show up every week. Whether we can compete is a different story."
Players to watch: Ryan Kimberlin (DB, 5-6, 140), Tom Regnier (QB, 5-10, 175), Dustin Rorabaugh (FB, 6-1, 210), Bishop McNamara; Nathan Hood (WR, 6-3, 188), Lenald Mumbo (K/WR, 5-10, 180), Lionel Riley (OT, 6-3, 275), Hales Franciscan; Dan Loper (FB/LB, 5-9, 210), Brendan Lyon (RB, 5-9, 210), Holy Cross; Bobby Buchanan (RB, 5-11, 175), Ross Crampton (LB, 6-2, 195), Steve Douglas (OT, 6-5, 275), Chris Jeske (LB, 6-0, 205), Ryan Lincoln (LB, 6-3, 215), Joliet Catholic; Kenny Davis (QB, 6-3, 195), Stephen Lee (LB, 6-2, 210), Leo; Joe Cerullo (OT, 6-3, 295), Clay Cleveland (RB, 5-9, 175), Matt McDermott (DB, 5-11, 175), Mark Reiter (DB, 6-2, 185), Mike Stevens (DE, 6-4, 210), Providence; Mike O'Malley (LB, 5-11, 250), Pat Perkins (TE, 5-11, 200), Brendan Petrando (RB, 5-9, 190), Nick Schey (RB, 5-9, 180), St. Viator.
Key games: Providence at Joliet Catholic, Sept. 20; Joliet Catholic at Bishop McNamara, Oct. 4; St. Viator at Holy Cross, Oct. 12; Providence at Bishop McNamara, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Joliet Catholic, Providence, Bishop McNamara, Holy Cross, St. Viator, Leo, Hales Franciscan.
Catholic Metro White
Last season Mt. Carmel failed to win a conference title for the first time in 11 years, was ousted from the state playoffs in the second round and had to "settle" for its 10th Prep Bowl crown. Count on the Caravan to begin a new conference reign with the rest of the White chasing RB Greg Owens (1,390 yards, 21 TDs). But Carmel will pose a formidable challenge with 13 returning starters, including three-year starters RB Sean Walker and C Mitch Krombach and LB Nathan Duprey, who is 73 tackles from his school's career record of 313. Nifty RB Casey Gough will keep Fenwick in contention, and Marian Catholic should rebound from a 5-6 season behind diminutive junior backs Travis Bushnell and Chris Rodriguez (both 5-9, 170).
2001 state qualifiers: Carmel (6A semifinals), Mt. Carmel (7A second round), Fenwick (6A first round).
Quotable: Carmel coach Andy Bitto: "It's hard to teach experience, and our kids have played in that rare air, in front of big crowds with a charged atmosphere. But as usual in the Catholic League, you have to be ready every week."
Players to watch: John Case (DB, 5-11, 175), Phil Goforth (WR, 6-2, 185), Dan Zebold (DE, 6-0, 210), Benet; Nathan Duprey (LB, 5-10, 215), Mitch Krombach (C, 6-2, 275), Dexter Reid (DB, 5-10, 165), Jack Simmons (WR, 6-6, 190), Sean Walker (RB, 6-3, 220), Carmel; Evan Barbosa (OT, 6-4, 270), Lou Bertuca (LB, 6-2, 210), Casey Gough (RB, 5-11, 175), Julius Griauzde (OG/DT, 6-2, 250), Fenwick; Danny Cook (LB, 6-3, 220), Anthony Rice (LB, 6-2, 220), Anthony Swope (OT/DT, 6-5, 280), Gordon Tech; Travis Bushnell (RB, 5-9, 175), Steve Koenig (LB, 6-1, 170), Chris Rodriguez (RB, 5-9, 170), Calvin Rowe (DB, 6-1, 185), Marian Catholic; P.J. Blough (LB, 6-0, 210), Justin Curran (DL, 6-0, 210), Robbie Krutilla (OG, 6-2, 285), Frank Lenti Jr. (WR, 6-2, 185), Greg Owens (RB, 5-10, 215), Mt. Carmel; Nick Djurdjevic (LB, 6-2, 215), John Peterson (OT, 6-0, 270), Dean Cademartori (LB, 5-11, 180), Notre Dame.
Key games: Carmel at Mt. Carmel, Sept. 14; Fenwick at Carmel, Sept, 20; Fenwick at Mt. Carmel, Oct. 26.
Predicted finish: Mt. Carmel, Carmel, Fenwick, Marian Catholic, Benet, Gordon Tech, Notre Dame.
Central Suburban North
Glenbrook North has owned this conference for the last three years. This season should be no different. The three-time defending champion Spartans have lost only two regular-season games in three years, going undefeated last year before falling by one point to Buffalo Grove in Round 2 of the playoffs. North returns most of its firepower from a squad that averaged 34.7 points per game, including RB James Velissaris (1,600 yards in nine games last season) and QB Kevin Kaspers. North's offense should make up for a defense that has no starters returning. Highland Park, with QB Billy Bodle, should edge Deerfield for second place.
2001 state qualifiers: Deerfield (7A first round), Glenbrook North (7A second round), Highland Park (7A first round).
Quotable: Glenbrook North coach Frank Whalen on his defense: "The only guy returning is our coordinator, Larry Heise."
Players to watch: Billy Nardini (FB/LB, 6-0, 200), Dan Waltz (WR/K, 5-6, 160), Blake Levin (LB, 5-11, 205), Deerfield; James Velissaris (RB, 5-9, 175), Kevin Kaspers (QB, 6-1, 175), Matt Prokash (OT, 6-1, 265), Jordan Novak (OG, 6-1, 215), Glenbrook North; Billy Bodle (QB, 6-1, 185), Daniel DelMonte (RB, 5-8, 175), David Lindquist (OG/LB, 6-3, 245), Tom Emalfarb (RB/SS, 5-11, 180), Scott Smith (LB/TE, 6-3, 205), Highland Park; J.R. Jordan (RB, 5-11, 185), Joe Puleo (C, 5-10, 240), Maine East; Vic Gomez (RB, 5-11, 185), Matt Rowan (OT/DE, 6-5, 250), Maine West; Clint Warda (OT, 6-5, 270), Charbel Isaac (OT, 6-3, 280).
Key games: Deerfield at Glenbrook North, Sept. 27; Highland Park at Glenbrook North, Oct. 18; Highland Park at Deerfield, Oct. 26.
Predicted finish: Glenbrook North, Highland Park, Deerfield, Maine West, Maine East, Niles North.
Central Suburban South
The title most likely will be decided in the conference's opening week, Sept. 28, when Maine South plays host to New Trier. The defending champion Hawks, who narrowly missed their second straight title-game appearance last season, are again the team to beat, despite having just two returning starters. Maine South, which relies heavily on seniors, has 40 of them on the roster, including RB/S Neil Sherlock, who will be running behind another physical and strong offensive line led by Vince Natali. For the first time since Maine South coach Dave Inserra can remember, the Hawks will start a sophomore, Sean Price, at quarterback. New Trier, which had its three-year reign as conference champ snapped last season, should be the only team to give Maine South a run. The Trevians suffered major losses in the backfield and QB but have a surplus of athletes, led by WR/CB Lewis Powell. Waukegan should battle Niles West for third.
2001 state qualifiers: Maine South (8A semifinals), New Trier (8A second round), Niles West (8A first round), Waukegan (8A first round).
Quotable: Maine South's Inserra: "We're definitely down. I don't think we compare to the last couple of years."
Players to watch: Jody Ellis (WR/S, 6-1, 195), Tim Reed (FB/LB, 6-2, 225), Evanston; Zach Maurides (OT/DT, 6-6, 280), Mike Ahn (OG, 6-2, 250), Glenbrook South; Vince Natali (OT/DT, 6-2, 275), Brendan Cameron (OG/ DT, 6-1, 230), Neil Sherlock (RB/S, 5-11, 180), Bill Truty (S, 6-3, 190), Derek Brenner (CB, 5-11, 185), Maine South; Lewis Powell (WR/CB, 6-1, 185), Chris Schmidt (WR, 6-0, 175), Bill Welch (LB/OT, 6-2, 220), Tad Stacey (DB/WR, 6-5, 180), New Trier; Nick Cosmos (OT/DT, 6-4, 249), Jeff Maher (SS/WR/RB, 5-10, 182), Rashard Mendenhall (RB, 5-11, 193), Niles West; Jamarlon Figgs (DE/C, 6-1, 225), Andrew Williams (DT/OG, 6-2, 225), Jason Wells (RB, 6-0, 176), Waukegan.
Key games: New Trier at Maine South, Sept. 28; Evanston at New Trier, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Maine South, New Trier, Waukegan, Niles West, Evanston, Glenbrook South.
This league has had a team playing for a state championship in seven of the last eight years. In that same span five different DuPage Valley teams advanced to the semifinals. This year the league will be as tough as ever, but there could be a changing of the guard. Wheaton North, a semifinalist last year, returns 13 starters, including QB Zach Ullrich and most of his offensive line, and likely will battle Naperville Central and Naperville North for the league title. Central, which last fall won its seventh conference crown in eight years before losing in the 8A title game, lost talent but has plenty to spare, including WR Dan Passarelli, who's headed to Northern Illinois. Naperville North went just 5-5 but should bounce back strong with returning backs Corey McKeon and Mike Costantino. Longtime defensive coordinator Ron Muhitch takes over an inexperienced but talented group at Wheaton Warrenville South. Young teams at Glenbard North and Glenbard East will look to grow up fast.
2001 state qualifiers: Naperville Central (8A finals), Wheaton North (8A semifinals), Wheaton Warrenville South (8A second round), Glenbard North (8A first round), Naperville North (8A first round).
Quotable: Wheaton North coach Matt Foster: "The expectations are high, but these kids are realistic. They've seen the steps we've taken to get here."
Players to watch: Travis Cherry (LB, 6-1, 200), Chris Balon (DT, 5-10, 230), Chris Bartula (OL, 6-6, 285), Anthony Beljung (RB, 5-8, 165), Glenbard North; Matt Coppock (QB, 6-0, 170), Aaron Boulton (FB, 5-8, 180), Kevin Hilmers (T, 6-4, 265), Derek Walker (DE, 6-4, 240), Glenbard East; Pat Watson (DL, 6-4, 250), Dan Passarelli (WR, 5-11, 180), Brady Hester (LB, 6-0, 205), Blake Jeffers (QB, 6-0, 180), Naperville Central; Corey McKeon (RB, 6-2, 212), Mike Costantino (RB, 6-2, 185), Jarrett Lassa (T, 6-4, 290), Richard Davis (LB, 6-0, 220), Naperville North; Marquis Hubbard (RB, 5-9, 175), Mike Soderlind (WR, 6-5, 185), West Aurora; Jared Hall (QB, 6-3, 180), Tony Zumpano (WR, 5-10, 170), Roger Strike (6-2, 230), West Chicago; Zach Ullrich (QB, 6-1, 185), Akim Millington (T, 6-5, 315), Dareon Spencer (TE, 6-4, 200), Bobby McLearen (LB, 6-3, 205), Wheaton North; Chris Flores (DT, 6-3, 265), Brett Adamson (WR, 5-11, 185), Tim Sowa (OL, 6-5, 345), Joe Blais (QB, 5-10, 175), Wheaton Warrenville South.
Key games: Naperville North at Wheaton North, Sept. 13; Naperville Central at Wheaton North, Sept. 27; Naperville North vs. Naperville Central at North Central College, Oct. 11.
Predicted finish: Wheaton North, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard North, Glenbard East, West Chicago, West Aurora.
Until somebody beats McHenry, it's McHenry's league. Riding a 40-game, 3½-season conference winning streak that dates to Week 6 of the 1997 season, the Warriors again are prohibitive favorites to win their 13th league title in the last 15 seasons. After that, the remaining playoff spots are truly up for grabs because graduation put a hit on last year's Nos. 2 and 3 teams, Prairie Ridge and Woodstock. Prairie Ridge has a new coach, Chris Schremp, and 6-foot-5-inch, 310-pound Drew Nystrom on its side along with enough returnees to make the Wolves solid contenders. Crystal Lake South joined the playoff fray last year and looks to continue its improvement. Inexperience cost Lake Zurich and Cary-Grove last year, but both could move into the postseason. Winless two years ago and 2-7 last fall, Crystal Lake Central might surprise.
2001 state qualifiers: Prairie Ridge (6A quarterfinals), McHenry (7A second round), Woodstock (6A first round), Crystal Lake South (6A first round).
Quotable: McHenry coach Mike Noll: "Every year, every team is on a new journey. We've always managed to focus on the task at hand, the moment at hand."
Players to watch: Brad Thornton (QB, 6-1, 205), Jack Somers (RB, 6-0, 195), Cary-Grove; Chris Lausche (QB, 6-1, 175), Paul Miller (S, 6-3, 185), Crystal Lake Central; Brian Marx (FB/DE, 6-1, 240), Trent Steckle (HB, 6-3, 210), Crystal Lake South; Mike Steinhaus (DE/TE, 6-3, 221), Scott Killinger (LB/FB, 6-0, 227), Dundee-Crown; Ryan Glynn (LB/G, 6-1, 190), Chris Mellender (LB, 5-9, 175), Grayslake; Chris Bielski (QB/WR, 6-3, 185), Mike Savage (S/RB, 5-9, 160), Don Norwick (OL/DL, 6-1, 225), Jacobs; Chris Redding (RB, 6-1, 198), Adam Wilk (OL/DL, 6-5, 255), Chris McNeil (WB, 5-9, 185), Lake Zurich; Jay Weston (RB, 6-0, 170), Matt Walters (G, 5-11, 210), Rob Molloy (LB, 5-9, 210), Eric Fitzgerald (DE, 6-1, 235), Mike Jamie (OL, 5-11, 225), McHenry; Drew Nystrom (OT, 6-5, 310), Chris Van Ham (WR/CB, 5-10, 180), Rick Goffron (RB, 5-9, 180), Prairie Ridge; Grant Fredericksen (RB, 5-10, 190), Matt Phillips (TE/K, 6-3, 195), Woodstock.
Key game: Prairie Ridge at McHenry, Sept. 6.
Predicted finish: McHenry, Prairie Ridge, Lake Zurich, Cary-Grove, Woodstock, Crystal Lake South, Crystal Lake Central, Jacobs, Grayslake, Dundee-Crown.
The conference adds two teams that will compete only in football: Peotone should jump right into the title race, but Manteno likely will take its licks. Peotone, formerly an independent, has some playoff experience, while Manteno is fielding a varsity team for the first time. Seneca, the league's three-time defending champion, is loaded with 19 seniors, but after finishing second last year, Wilmington could end the Fighting Irish's reign. Coal City and Lisle could be spoilers.
2001 state qualifiers: Seneca (3A first round), Wilmington (3A first round), Coal City (3A first round), Lisle (4A second round), Peotone (4A first round).
Quotable: Wilmington coach Jeff Reents: "It will be one of the tightest races we've had in years."
Players to watch: Ryan Cumming (FB, 5-10, 170), Tim Peters (LB, 6-0, 200), Coal City; Shane Leskanich (FB, 6-0, 180), Joel Steichen (QB, 6-1, 180), Dwight; Kevin Crouch (QB, 6-2, 190), Jeff McGrath (SS, 5-10, 165), Lisle; Jeff Meyer (QB, 6-3, 190), Manteno; Paul Rathje (TE/DE, 6-4, 215), John Scardullo (RB/LB, 6-1, 190), Peotone; Doug Lyle (LB, 5-11, 195), Nick Mosca (RB/DB, 5-10, 165), Plano; Jarred Johnston (HB/CB, 5-11, 160), Justin Vice (OL/DL, 6-0, 200), Reed-Custer; Jeremy Mager (TE/LB 6-2, 230), Sandwich; Brandon Countryman (FB, 6-1, 220), Brian Oest (QB, 5-9, 180), Zack Paulsen (DE, 6-2, 205), Seneca; Jason Banning (RB, 5-8, 175), Steve Bianchetta (FB, 5-10, 205), Mike Flores (DT, 6-2, 240), Wilmington.
Key games: Seneca at Peotone, Sept. 6; Coal City at Seneca, Oct. 5; Seneca at Wilmington, Oct. 11; Coal City at Wilmington, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Seneca, Wilmington, Coal City, Peotone, Lisle, Dwight, Sandwich, Plano, Reed-Custer, Manteno.
Prospect returns 11 starters from last year's undefeated Class 7A state championship team and has added a handful of other significant contributors. Yet the majority of conference coaches say Buffalo Grove is the team to beat in the East. How can that be? Simple: The Bison return do-it-all QB Tom Zbikowski, one of the state's best athletes; a beefy offensive line; and 13 starters from 2001, when the Bison finished 10-2. Both of Buffalo Grove's losses were to Prospect, the second in the state quarterfinals 21-12. But before the East crowns a new champion, someone must defeat a bigger, possibly more explosive Prospect team and its opportunistic defense that had a plus-25 turnover ratio last season. Elk Grove and Hersey, who will likely battle for third, have the potential to upset Prospect and Buffalo Grove. Elk Grove returns a big offensive line led by tackle Bart Miller (6-4, 305). Keep an eye on newcomer RBs Carnal Byrd of Elk Grove and Bryon Gattas of Prospect, both of whom possess game-breaking abilities.
2001 state qualifiers: Buffalo Grove (7A quarterfinals), Prospect (7A state champion), Elk Grove (7A first round), Hersey (7A first round).
Quotable: Prospect coach Brent Pearlman: "This year's team is much more physical, much more talented. The big question is how will this team respond week in and week out?"
Players to watch: Tom Zbikowski (QB/DB, 6-1, 190), Matt Erlenbaugh (LB, 5-11, 190), Eric Andino (LB, 6-3, 210), Steve Whitecotton (S, 6-1, 190), Scott Harrington (RB, 5-10, 190), Buffalo Grove; Carnal Byrd (RB, 5-8, 175), Bart Miller (OT, 6-4, 305), Brandon Fox (WR/RB, 6-1, 190), Pat Kernaghan (NG, 5-10, 180), Mike Consolazio (DT, 6-2, 315), Elk Grove; Ryan Baysinger (LB, 6-3, 205), Mike Story (LB/FB, 6-0, 210), Mike Chernick (QB, 6-3, 205), Nick Krams (RB, 5-10, 185), Hersey; Jim Argentine (OG/LB, 6-2, 215), Jared Dall (QB, 5-10, 175), Bryon Gattas (RB, 6-2, 200), Nick Iovino (WR/FS, 5-9, 145), Scott Sprague (WR/CB, 5-10, 160), Chris Bergner (C/DE, 6-4, 235), Prospect; Brian Storer (LB, 5-10, 190), Sean Anderson (DE, 6-2, 200), Ryan Galka (WR/DB, 5-11, 185), Rolling Meadows; Eric Johanson (LB/RB, 5-10, 205), David Diaz (WR/DB, 5-10, 175), Wheeling.
Key games: Buffalo Grove at Propect, Sept. 27; Prospect at Elk Grove, Oct. 4; Elk Grove at Hersey, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Buffalo Grove, Prospect, Elk Grove, Hersey, Rolling Meadows, Wheeling.
Fremd, with speed merchants Jamil Walker and Ray Woodford in the backfield along with strong FB Matt Nemschick, is the choice of many to run away with the championship. Then again, that was the prevailing thought last year before Conant swept through conference play undefeated en route to a 9-3 season. One thing is certain: Fremd has plenty of athletes, particularly on offense. Walker, a track standout, is joined in the backfield by Atlanta transfer Woodford, an extremely quick sophomore who has conference coaches buzzing. Conant, behind LB Sean Carr and DB Kevin Koski, should be strong defensively and has the talent to repeat as champion. And never discount perennially strong Schaumburg, which has good size on its offensive line.
2001 state qualifiers: Conant (8A quarterfinals), Fremd (8A second round), Schaumburg (8A first round).
Quotable: Fremd coach Mike Donatucci on his running backs, Jamil Walker and Ray Woodford: "I've been around 25 years and I've never seen speed like this."
Players to watch: Scott Palmer (OT, 6-4, 225), Anton Steinhart (RB, 6-0, 175), Aaron Kirchoff (RB, 5-11, 180), Barrington; Leon Wiggins (RB, 5-9, 175), Stu Schmidt (OT, 6-2, 270), Bill Gruzynski (OG, 6-3, 255), Sean Carr (LB, 5-11, 190), Kevin Koski (DB/K, 5-9, 170), Conant; Jamil Walker (RB, 6-1, 205), Ray Woodford (RB/CB, 5-9, 185), Matt Nemschick (RB/SS, 5-10, 190), Mike Moffet (WR, 5-11, 170), Nick Grinvalds (LB, 6-2, 220), Charlie Bullen (QB, 6-2, 180), Fremd; Brett Farmer (OG/DT, 6-4, 312), Johnny Harper (RB/DB, 5-10, 165), Hoffman Estates; Joe Degiulio (DT/OG, 6-1, 235), Art Ketterhagen (OT/DT, 6-4, 255), Tony Lacapra (RB/DB, 5-10, 175), Palatine; Anthony Rubican (OT, 6-5, 275), Jamail Bradley (RB, 5-6, 160), Brandon Sanchez (DT, 6-1, 260), Jeremy Kasper (DB, 5-9, 150), Schaumburg.
Key games: Hoffman Estates at Conant, Sept. 27; Conant at Fremd, Oct. 4; Fremd at Palatine, Oct. 12; Fremd at Schaumburg, Oct. 26.
Predicted finish: Fremd, Conant, Schaumburg, Barrington, Palatine, Hoffman Estates.
North Suburban Lake
With Warren returning only five starters, the usual three-horse race known as the North Suburban Lake will be down to two: Stevenson and Libertyville. Stevenson is confident it can repeat its quarterfinal showing of a year ago without a dropoff in offense (the Patriots scored 39 or more points five times). Heading the attack are RB Brian Shust and former RB Bob Giannini. Shust added about 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season. Giannini, in his third year on varsity, moves to quarterback this fall and will be protected by tackle Alex Rucks (6-5, 295), only a junior. Libertyville's offensive line includes five returning starters, and overall the Wildcats have 30 seniors, all of whom would like to forget the drubbing Mt. Carmel gave them in last year's playoff opener. Lake Forest hopes to make some waves with a solid group of returnees and a defensive line featuring three 300-pound players, two of them juniors.
2001 state qualifiers: Stevenson (8A quarterfinals), Warren (8A quarterfinals), Libertyville (7A first round), Lake Forest (7A first round).
Quotable: Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski, whose teams have sent Stevenson into the playoffs on a losing note the last two seasons: "We play Stevenson in Game 5 this year as opposed to Game 9 in years past. I kind of liked the Game 9 showdown, but I don't think [Stevenson coach Bill Mitz] did."
Players to watch: Scott Gehrke (FB/LB, 6-0, 218), Ken Barth (OL/DL, 5-11, 258), Antioch; Roger Smith-Bergsrud (HB/WR, 5-9, 165), Ben Block (FB/LB, 6-1, 215), Travis Myers (QB, 6-2, 180), Lake Forest; Kevin Fontana (TB, 5-11, 180), Devon Parks (G/DT, 6-2, 245), Jimmy Lewis (WR, 6-4, 165), J.P. Duturo (OT, 6-3, 265), Libertyville; Jamie Hawkins (RB, 5-9, 150), Matt Heber (RB/LB, 6-2, 210), Mundelein; Brian Shust (RB/DB, 5-11, 192), Alex Rucks (OT, 6-5, 295), Dan Fix (DT, 5-11, 225), Bob Giannini (QB/DB, 6-3, 212), Stevenson; Tyler Smith (WR, 6-2, 175), Dan Treiber (QB, 5-9, 165), Chance Wollbrinck (DL, 6-2, 240), Warren.
Key games: Stevenson at Libertyville, Sept. 27; Libertyville at Warren, Oct. 11;Warren at Stevenson, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Stevenson, Libertyville, Lake Forest, Warren, Mundelein, Antioch.
North Suburban Prairie
How do you make a varsity squad grow by 50 percent and an entire program nearly double in size? Name a former Chicago Bear, in this case Glen Kozlowski, as the new head coach. Such is the scenario at Wauconda, a forgettable 3-15 over the last two seasons. He recently treated his defense to a Q&A session with newly minted Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, but Kozlowski knows it takes more than just marquee names to turn around a team that scored 139 points and surrendered 326 last season. To show how serious he is, Kozlowski persuaded top Utah prep coach and former BYU teammate Dave Mills to move halfway across the country to become his defensive coordinator. Offensively, the Bulldogs are depending on QB Jack Kopacz, a three-year starter. Defending champ North Chicago has 25 returnees, plus two transfers who will startfullback Torris Childs from Zion-Benton and linebacker DeWayne Williams from Waukegan. However, the Warhawks have about 3,000 yards of offense to replace after the graduation of the Turner twins, Keith and Kevin. Expect Vernon Hills, which has a solid foundation for a 3-year-old programand, finally, its own football fieldand Zion-Benton, coming off a down year, to challenge North Chicago.
2001 state qualifiers: North Chicago (5A first round), Vernon Hills (5A quarterfinals), Round Lake (6A first round), Grant (6A first round).
Quotable: Wauconda's Kozlowski on his modest 42-player roster: "You can go to a [well-stocked] program where you can baby-sit, or you can go to a program where you teach the kids to learn a system. As a smaller school, we're at a distinct disadvantage. We don't even have kids who can go 80 or 90 yards down the field [on a big play]. We're going to have to nickel-and-dime people to death."
Players to watch: Nathan Rodriguez (RB, 5-10, 175), Nick Fain (CB, 5-11, 160), Grant; Torris Childs (FB, 5-9, 210), Josh Franklin (WR/FS, 6-0, 180), Duke Woods (LB, 5-10, 185), DeWayne Williams (LB, 6-2, 230, North Chicago; Derek Fettner (RB/DB, 5-10, 160), Kevin Parker (RB/DB, 5-7, 150), Round Lake; Keith Heerdegen (WR/SS, 6-1, 190), Kevin Rhedin (LB, 5-11, 185), Ryan Ellis (RB/LB, 5-10, 195), Frank DeFrancesco (LB, 5-7, 175), Vernon Hills; Jack Kopacz (QB, 6-0, 195), Matt Crocker (SS, 6-1, 185), Brian Custer (C/DT, 6-2, 250), Wauconda; Kyle Grimes (QB, 6-1, 160), Nate McBride (OT, 6-4, 295), Marcus Denham (TB/DB, 5-9, 160), Zion-Benton.
Key games: North Chicago at Zion-Benton, Sept. 27; North Chicago at Vernon Hills, Oct. 4; Vernon Hills at Zion-Benton, Oct. 11.
Predicted finish: North Chicago, Zion-Benton, Vernon Hills, Wauconda, Grant, Round Lake.
Private School League
Four of the eight teams have new coaches. Walther Lutheran has won the last three titles and seven of the last 10. But the Broncos lost not only all-conference QB Bo Flowers Jr., now playing in the Detroit Tigers organization, but also his dad, head coach Bo Flowers Sr., who left to take over at Proviso East. Walther will suit up only seven seniors and returns only three starters from last year's 10-1 team. Under new coach Bruce Tuomi, Walther does return Division I prospect Floyd Turner, a 275-pound lineman who ran the 40 this summer in 4.9 seconds. Chicago Christian also has a new coach, Mark Vander Kooi, who returns to his alma mater after 5½ years as an assistant at Trinity International University in Deerfield. The Knights, however, return 11 starters from last year's 7-3 team and figure to challenge Rockford Lutheran and Walther for the title. Josh Cole, a 6-1, 245-pound lineman, has a 29 ACT score and leads the Knights up front. In the backfield are 200-pound FB Tim Jager and WB John Riley. Last year's runner-up, Rockford Lutheran, returns its coach, Rich Infusino, and QB Eric Aspenson as well as six other starters, including Class A heavyweight wrestling champion Ryan Spears. Watch for Luther North's baby bull backfield of 220-pound FB Chris Sanchez and 210-pound TB Frank Pizzirulli.
2001 state qualifiers: Walther Lutheran (2A second round), Chicago Christian (3A first round), Rockford Lutheran (3A first round), Rockford Christian Life (2A first round).
Quotable: Walther's Tuomi on replacing Bo Flowers Sr.: "It's going to be a challenge. We hope to continue the tradition [10 straight playoff appearances]."
Players to watch: Drew Morganegg (OL/DL 6-2, 220), Aaron Schick (FB/LB 5-10, 220), Aurora Christian; Josh Cole (OG/NT, 6-1, 245), John Riley (RB/DB, 5-10 185), Chicago Christian; Frank Pizzirulli (RB/LB, 5-9 210), Chris Sanchez (FB/LB, 5-10, 220), Devin Johnson (TE/DE 6-7, 240), Luther North; Chris Jackson (WR/DB 6-2, 180), Marco King (OL/DL 6-0, 215), Luther South; Eddie Nesby (FB/LB 5-10, 230), Rockford Christian Life; Mark Warren (RB/DB 6-1, 185), Jon Hedges (RB/LB 5-11, 210), Rockford Christian; Ryan Spears (OT/DT, 6-4, 280), Eric Aspenson (QB/DB, 6-0, 170), Rockford Lutheran; Floyd Turner (OG/DT, 6-3, 275), Jeff Weathersby (OT/DT, 6-3, 330), Marvin Atkins (RB, 5-10, 170), Walther Lutheran.
Key games: Walther Lutheran at Chicago Christian, Sept.13; Rockford Lutheran at Chicago Christian, Sept. 20; Walther Lutheran at Rockford Lutheran, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Chicago Christian, Rockford Lutheran, Walther Lutheran, Luther North, Rockford Christian Life, Aurora Christian, Rockford Christian, Luther South.
Thornton finally surpassed Lincoln-Way Central at the top of the conference last year, and the Wildcats appear geared up for a repeat. QB Antonio Tribble, WR Brandon Tobias and the multitalented Marcus Randle El lead a potentially explosive offense. Some coaches think Lincoln-Way Central won't be the best Lincoln-Way school this year. Lincoln-Way East, which went 6-3 and made the playoffs with no seniors last season, is a popular pick to contend with Thornton. But Central still will be a threat, along with Lockport and Sandburg. Homewood-Flossmoor QB/RB Steve Oliver could be the conference's most athletic player.
2001 state qualifiers: Lincoln-Way Central (8A second round), Lincoln-Way East (8A first round), Lockport (8A first round), Sandburg (8A quarterfinals), Thornton (8A first round).
Quotable: Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar: "We're going into the season with humble confidence and cautious optimism. If you get arrogant, you'll get your butt kicked."
Players to watch: Delvin Boatman (LB/FB, 6-1, 214), Jason Miller (C, 6-2, 315), Bloom; Amara Koroma (DE, 6-3, 245), Steve Oliver (QB/RB/DB, 5-11, 195), Homewood-Flossmoor; Jeremy Fears (WR, 6-4, 190), Joliet; Mike Cholipski (DB/WR, 5-10, 175), Otto Linwood (DT, 6-2, 290), Dustin Powell (QB, 6-2, 180), Lincoln-Way East; Mike Cagle (DE, 6-3, 230), Jason DePolo (LB, 6-1, 225), Justin Young (RB/DB, 6-1, 205), Lincoln-Way Central; Spencer Jensen (WR/DB, 6-0, 175), Jason Sherko (LB/DL, 6-1, 195), Steve Walker (QB, 6-1, 195), Lockport; James Ward (QB, 6-4, 180), Sandburg; Marcus Randle El (RB/WR/DB, 5-11, 175), Jeff Nowden (LB, 6-1, 205), Brandon Tobias (WR, 6-5, 205), Antonio Tribble (QB, 6-0, 190), Thornton.
Key games: Lincoln-Way East at Thornton, Sept.14; Lockport at Lincoln-Way East, Sept. 20; Lincoln-Way Central at Lincoln-Way East, Sept. 27; Lockport at Lincoln-Way Central, Oct. 4; Lincoln-Way Central at Thornton, Oct. 12; Thornton at Lockport, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Thornton, Lockport, Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way Central, Sandburg, Homewood-Flossmoor, Bloom, Joliet.
Coach Phil Acton may be gone, but Bolingbrook, under new coach and former NFL player John Ivlow, should defend its league title. RB A.J. Johnson, who has already committed to Illinois, is the top skill player in the conference. Bolingbrook's stout defense, led by LBs Kyle Williams and Alex LaGrone and DE Mark Menafee, should put the Raiders over the top. Aaron Mitchell, already dynamite at free safety, takes over at QB for Thornwood, which makes the Thunderbirds definite contenders. Romeoville and Stagg have multiple Division I recruits, while Andrew boasts four three-year starters. Shepard must find a replacement for graduated RB Jon Cleveland in order to return to the playoffs.
2001 state qualifiers: Bolingbrook (7A semifinals), Romeoville (7A first round), Shepard (7A first round), Thornwood (8A first round).
Quotable: Romeoville coach Jim Boudouris: "It hasn't changed any. In order to be a champion this year, you have to get past Andrew and Bolingbrook."
Players to watch: Tom Hannon (DT, 5-11, 255), Eric Stuedemann (RB, 6-2, 210), Andrew; A.J. Johnson (RB, 6-0, 225), Mark Menafee (DT, 5-9, 290), Albert Spears (WR, 6-1, 175), Kyle Williams (LB/RB, 6-2, 210), Bolingbrook; Jeff Byrne (LB/FB, 6-1, 220), Zach Mahan (DL, 6-4, 275), Bradley-Bourbonnais; Tristan Burge (CB/WR, 6-0, 175), Matt Caffey (RB, 5-10, 205), Anthony Robinson (FB/LB, 5-10, 225), Ryan Tucker (G, 6-3, 330), Romeoville; Phil Babich (TE/LB/K, 6-4, 220), Mike Cosentino (T/DT, 6-6, 250), Shepard; Dave Mordis (RB/WR/S, 6-3, 215), Joe Ganz (QB, 6-2, 185), Stagg; A.J. Adams (LB, 6-2, 225), Thornridge; Aaron Mitchell (FS/QB, 5-11, 185), Marvin Richardson (OT, 6-8, 310), Bryon Waller (TE/DE, 6-4, 220), Thornwood.
Key games: Thornwood at Bolingbrook, Sept. 21; Andrew at Thornwood, Sept. 28; Bolingbrook at Andrew, Oct. 18; Thornwood at Romeoville, Oct. 18; Romeoville at Bolingbrook, Oct. 26.
Predicted finish: Bolingbrook, Thornwood, Andrew, Romeoville, Stagg, Shepard, Bradley-Bourbonnais, Thornridge.
Last year Rich East and Hillcrest emerged as new powers in the SICA Green, with Rich East finishing league play undefeated. This year Rich Central is the slight favorite. The Olympians have at least two possible Division I recruits: lineman Qudus Adeboyejo and LB Pierre Henderson. Hillcrest and Rich East graduated several quality seniors but still have some solid talent. Bremen is always a contender, and league coaches rave about Rich South QB Billy Yeo. Yeo, a starter since his sophomore year, gives opposing defenses fits in the Stars' pass-happy system.
2001 state qualifiers: Bremen (5A first round), Hillcrest (5A second round), Rich Central (5A first round), Rich East (5A second round).
Quotable: Hillcrest coach Earnest Sutton on critics of the SICA Green: "People can be cynical if they want, but we had four teams in the playoffs last year."
Players to watch: Derrick McGhee (FB, 5-11, 235), Terry Hartwig (QB, 6-1, 210), David Johnson (LB, 5-11, 195), Bremen; Darius Garrett (S, 5-10, 180), Terrence Jordan (FB, 5-10, 180), David Townsend (LB, 6-3, 220), Hillcrest; Nate Hillman (C, 6-0, 295), Chris Wallace (QB, 6-2, 185), Kankakee; Qudus Adeboyejo (OT/DT, 6-5, 205), Pierre Henderson (LB, 6-3, 215), Richard Page (QB, 6-1, 190), Sean Sheppard (G, 6-4, 265), Rich Central; Mike Evans (RB/S, 5-8, 155), Josh Smith (TE, 6-4, 242), Rich East; Billy Yeo (QB, 6-2, 195), Halid Shokumbi (CB, 5-10, 175), Darren Tate (S, 5-11, 180), Rich South; Greg Charles (WR, 6-2, 195), Bobby Neal (WR, 6-1, 160), Thornton Fractional North; Andy Bettenhausen (QB, 6-0, 170), Mike Domgalski (LB, 6-0, 205), Tinley Park.
Key games: Bremen at Hillcrest, Sept. 13; Bremen at Rich Central, Sept. 20; Rich East at Rich Central, Sept. 27; Hillcrest at Rich Central, Oct. 11; Rich East at Hillcrest, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Rich Central, Hillcrest, Rich East, Bremen, Rich South, Tinley Park, Kankakee, T.F. North.
It's the same old story at the top. Richards, which lost in the Class 6A title game, doesn't figure to drop off much. The Bulldogs will have a new look on offense. Led by 6-foot-7-inch junior QB Sean Lewis, Richards is installing a Purdue-style system with a great deal of one-back sets. Thornton Fractional South, led by standout RB Pierre Thomas, will be Richards' top challenger. Oak Forest, with one of the area's best young coaches in Brian McDonough, figures to make the playoffs. Crete-Monee has a new coach in Greg Schneider and Argo lost three of its best defensive players, but both teams should be in the mix along with Reavis.
2001 state qualifiers: Argo (6A first round), Oak Forest (6A first round), Richards (6A runner-up), Thornton Fractional South (6A quarterfinals).
Quotable: T.F. South coach Tom Padjen on his vacation in Florida: "I watched Tampa Bay's training camp in Orlando, and I wish I could have brought Warren Sapp back to line up against [Richards' 6-5, 270-pound lineman] Mike Jones."
Players to watch: Sherman Benton (RB/S, 5-10, 180), Greg Neal (OT, 6-4, 245), Sean Yerkes (TE/DE, 6-3, 220), Argo; Brian Keaton (6-3, 235, Sr.), Cory Terrell (RB, 6-0, 175), Crete-Monee; Cedric Criss (QB, 6-1, 190), Johnny Campbell (OL/DL, 5-10, 245), Eisenhower; Tony Jones (OT, 6-4, 275), Troy Stuewe (FB, 5-9, 175), Oak Forest; Mike Childs (DE, 6-6, 305), Brad Scaduto (RB, 5-10, 180), Oak Lawn; Chris Frasch (RB/S, 5-11, 195), Mike Giera (TE/LB, 6-2, 215), Reavis; Mike Jones (OT, 6-5, 270), Sean Lewis (QB, 6-7, 200), Nicholas Sykes (DE, 6-2, 230), Richards; Vince Calabrese (DB, 5-8, 155), Pierre Thomas (RB, 5-11, 185), Thornton Fractional South.
Key games: Oak Forest at T.F. South, Sept. 13; Richards at Oak Forest, Sept. 20, T.F. South at Crete-Monee, Sept. 20; Crete-Monee at Richards, Oct. 11, T.F. South at Richards, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Richards, Thornton Fractional South, Oak Forest, Crete-Monee, Reavis, Argo, Eisenhower, Oak Lawn.
Driscoll and Montini figure to duel for the title, and Marian Central could be a sleeper. Last fall Driscoll lost its first two games, then won 12 straight to claim the Class 4A championship, the school's second state football title. The Highlanders return 10 regularsfive each on offense and defenseincluding QB Matt Mahaney, who threw for more than 1,400 yards in 2001. Montini reached the 4A quarterfinals and returns seven starters, including Division I prospect Jim LaBonte, a 6-7, 310-pound tackle. Marian has eight starters back, plus talent up from an unbeaten sophomore team.
2001 state qualifiers: Driscoll (4A champion), Montini (4A quarterfinals), St. Francis (4A first round).
Quotable: Driscoll coach Tim Racki, on his team's approach after last year's title run: "We're very, very well-marked on everybody's schedule, so we don't have to worry about a cocky attitude."
Players to watch: Aaron Rozanski (QB, 5-8, 176), Adam Bohr (FB, 6-1, 214), Aurora Central Catholic; Matt Mahaney (QB, 5-11, 160), Anthony Gebhart (WB/DB, 5-9, 160), Drew deLutio (G, 6-0, 200), Jason Schultz (LB, 5-8, 185), Brian Burja (LB, 5-11, 170), Driscoll; Joe Mastrino (WR/CB, 5-10, 160), Immaculate Conception; Jon Lang (WR/DB, 6-2, 175), Jamey Scott (RB/OLB, 5-11, 180), Marian Central; Jim LaBonte (OT, 6-7, 310), Mike Albich (LB, 5-9, 190), Montini; Scott Rodseth (QB, 6-0, 180), St. Edward; Brian Kearney (DE, 6-1, 180), Chris Jackson (OL/DL, 6-0, 213), Brett Kolbeth (FB/LB, 5-9, 182), St. Francis.
Key games: Driscoll at Montini, Oct. 5; Driscoll at Marian Central, Oct. 11; Montini at Marian Central, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Driscoll, Montini, Marian Central, St. Francis, St. Edward, Immaculate Conception, Aurora Central Catholic, Marmion.
Suburban Prairie Red
With 2001 conference champion Morris off to the Suburban Prairie White, the title path is clear for Plainfield. The Wildcats have made the playoffs the last three seasons and, with 11 returning positions back, it appears ready to make it four. Senior-dominated Minooka expects to be even better than last season's 8-4 team. Oswego has missed the playoffs just twice since 1985, including 2001, when it was 3-6. The Panthers should be back on track with 12 returning starters, including three-year starting lineman Sean Stasseldt. Plainfield South, in its inaugural year, hopes to pull some surprises.
2001 state qualifiers: Batavia (6A first round), Glenbard South (6A first round), Minooka (6A quarterfinals), Plainfield (8A first round).
Quotable: Minooka coach Mike Briscoe: "I have 35 seniors who are all showing incredible leadership. I'm having a heck of a time picking six or seven captains out of the group."
Players to watch: James Ryan (OT/DT, 6-6, 285), Tom Hoffman (DE, 6-8, 215), Justin Kovach (MLB, 6-2, 220), Batavia; Kevin Grimoldby (RB, 5-11, 180), Justin Lustig (OL, 6-0, 260), Kevin Sullivan (WR, 6-3, 185), Geneva; Todd Rollins (DB/WR, 6-2, 175), Joe Paratorre (QB, 5-10, 205), Ben Wolski (LB, 6-1, 195), Glenbard South; Russ Weil (FB, 6-1 215), Brandon Wietting (WR, 5-11, 180), Matt Pieper (OT, 6-5, 280), Minooka; Sean Stasseldt (OL/DL, 6-3, 255), Mike Wiggin (NG, 5-8, 185), Paul Salopek (DB, 5-10, 180), Oswego; Jameson Jordan (QB/S, 5-10, 185), Nick Paxson (FB/LB, 6-0, 195), Plainfield.
Key games: Oswego vs Minooka, Sept. 27; Oswego vs Plainfield, Oct. 11; Plainfield vs Minooka, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Plainfield, Minooka, Oswego, Batavia, Glenbard South, Plainfield South, Geneva, Fenton.
Suburban Prairie White
Morris moves from the Suburban Prairie Red and becomes an instant favorite in its new home. The defending Red champ was 13-1 last fall and reached the Class 5A title game before falling to Joliet Catholic. The Redskins return 11 top performers from that group, including QB Benjy Kennedy, who threw for 1,350 yards and ran for 800 more. Defending co-champion Sycamore figures to contend with 11 returning starters, a big front line and solid running game. The faces may change at Riverside-Brookfield, but the high-flying offensive attack remains a mainstay. Junior Britt Davis succeeds record-setting Tim Brasic at quarterback, and his older brother, Brandon, will be a primary target.
2001 state qualifiers: Morris (5A title game), Riverside-Brookfield (5A quarterfinals), Evergreen Park (4A first round), Kaneland (4A first round), Sycamore (5A first round).
Quotable: Morris coach Dan Darlington: "We'll be a little young in some spots, but we think we could be real good."
Players to watch: Brian Curry (TB, 5-10, 195), Elmwood Park; Bob Elgersma (RB/LB, 5-9, 180), Sam Rizzo (RB/LB, 5-10, 185), Evergreen Park; Brent Harner (RB, 5-11, 185), Kevin Probst (QB, 6-0, 180), Russell Flanders (OL/DL, 5-10, 235), Kaneland; Matt Baetz (LB, 6-1, 230), Lemont; Benjy Kennedy (QB, 6-1, 185), Doe Valentine (FB, 5-9, 185), Orlando Lemus (RB, 6-0, 180), Morris; Ross Luchinski (LB/FL, 5-11, 175), Mike Rozbiewski (LB, 6-1, 180), Ridgewood; Brandon Davis (WR, 6-5, 240), Britt Davis (QB, 6-2, 170), Ryan Dollins (T, 6-0, 215), Riverside-Brookfield; Josh Schmidt (TB, 5-10, 180), Matt Andree (FB, 6-2, 230), Sycamore; David Winston (QB, 6-2, 175), Mike Fosses (DE, 6-2, 220), Westmont; Frank Cesarone (WR/DB 5-10, 165), Craig McQuade (QB/DB, 6-2, 170), Yorkville.
Key games: Morris at Sycamore, Sept. 6; Morris at R-B, Sept. 20; Kaneland at R-B, Oct. 4; Kaneland at Morris, Oct. 18; R-B at Sycamore, Oct. 25.
Predicted finish: Morris, Sycamore, Riverside-Brookfield, Kaneland, Evergreen Park, Yorkville, Westmont, Ridgewood, Lemont, Elmwood Park.
An 11-team league guarantees scheduling oddities. Because of the uneven number of schools, four teams played seven conference games last year while the remaining seven teams played six. The same situation will exist in 2002. Lake Park rates as a slight favorite, returning all-conference RB Dave Hochstetter and QB Joey Albin. Waubonsie Valley returns six defensive starters, including lineman Ed Lewandowski and LB Mike Ware, from the team that knocked off Thornton in the first round of the 2001 playoffs. St. Charles East welcomes back defensive mainstays Chris Devor and Chris Dunn but will play with heavy hearts after the death of starting LB Tyler Caruso last summer. The Saints play Waubonsie, but neither has Lake Park on its regular-season schedule. Keep an eye on St. Charles North, which fields seniors for the first time.
2001 state qualifiers: Bartlett (8A first round), Lake Park (8A first round), St. Charles East (8A second round), Elgin (8A first round), Waubonsie Valley (8A second round).
Quotable: Waubonsie coach B.J. Luke: "It's hard to get a grip on the rest of the conference when you don't play everybody."
Players to watch: Randy Wood (RB/LB, 6-2, 190), Ryan Tuggle (TE, 6-4, 225), Averill Sulchar (RB/LB, 5-11, 190), Bartlett; Kevin Faivre (LB, 5-10, 190), Johnny Watson (OL/DL, 5-10, 190), DeKalb; Brandon Reynolds (RB, 5-5, 160), Westley Sherman (TE/LB, 6-1, 215), Blazer Robinson (DE, 6-4, 265), East Aurora; Aaron Cobbs (FB/LB, 6-1, 180), Rolando Hernandez (OL, 6-3, 265), Steve Dalton (OL, 6-5, 305), Elgin; Joey Albin (QB, 6-0, 170), Dave Hochstetter (RB, 6-1, 190), Adam Wallace (OL, 6-5, 250), Ryan Lynn (DB, 5-10, 165), Lake Park; Luke Engen (OL, 6-0, 250), Larkin; Matt Newquist (TE, 6-3, 210), Jake Sheshull (LB, 5-9, 175), John Cresto (SS, 6-2, 200), Dan Gallup (FB, 5-11, 215), Neuqua Valley; Chris Devor (DL, 5-10, 205), Chris Dunn (DL, 6-3, 255), Ben Fishbune (QB, 6-3, 190), St. Charles East; Dom Cozzi (RB, 6-0, 195), Dan Krywarcuzenko (OL, 6-4, 230), Joe Pelizza (LB, 5-10, 195), St. Charles North; Mike Blumer (RB, 5-10, 175), Jeff Kaltinger (TE, 6-2, 175), Streamwood; Mike Ware (LB, 6-2, 230), Ed Lewandowski (DL, 6-0, 230), Kyle Volk (LB, 6-0, 200), James Antonides (QB, 5-6, 160), Paul Blalock (QB, 6-0, 195), Waubonsie Valley.
Defending champions: Bartlett, Lake Park.
Key games: Waubonsie at St. Charles East, Oct. 4; Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie, Sept. 20; Bartlett at Lake Park, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Lake Park, Waubonsie Valley, St. Charles East, Bartlett, Neuqua Valley, Elgin, St. Charles North, Larkin, Streamwood, East Aurora, DeKalb.
West Suburban Gold
Hinsdale South became the first team other than Downers Grove South to win the conference title since 1997. And for the second year in a row, the Hornets advanced to the state quarterfinals. But despite returning several top-notch players, Hinsdale, like most teams, will have difficulty competing with Downers' Mustangs. The defending 8A champs return 11 starters from last year's 12-2 team, including hulking Division I line prospects Martin O'Donnell and Kevin Gage and TB Erick Newman (1,200 yards in '01). Willowbrook returns 11 starters, including RB Mark Cunningham and QB Mike Camiliere, from a team that won four of its last five games and just missed the playoffs. Former Walther Lutheran coach Bo Flowers moves a few blocks east to Proviso East; former Dixon coach and one-time York QB Bill Lech takes over at Leyden.
2001 state qualifiers: Downers Grove South (8A champion), Hinsdale South (8A quarterfinals).
Players to watch: Mike Rumishek (QB/S, 6-1, 175), Tim Korinek (TB, 6-0, 185), Charles Jackson (DT, 6-2, 230), Carlos Jaile (LB, 6-0 180), Addison Trail; Martin O'Donnell (OL, 6-5, 285), Kevin Gage (OL, 6-6, 290), Erick Newman (TB, 5-11, 180), Jim Kucera (DL, 6-3, 240), Downers Grove South; Zack Nelson (QB, 6-3, 200), Joe Thomas (TE, 6-7, 220), Steve Holtzman (T, 6-2, 280), John Grbic (T, 6-5, 265), Hinsdale South; Vince Macaluso (LB, 6-2, 220), Brian Passanati (T, 6-3, 330), Leyden; Danny Surillo (CB, 6-0, 210), Tony Brandonisio (DT, 6-5, 275), Morton; Terry Love (WR, 6-1, 170), Jason Gibson (QB, 6-1, 175), Derrick Upchurch (DE, 6-4, 240), Proviso East; Mike Camiliere (QB, 5-10, 180), Mark Cunningham (LB/RB, 6-1, 205), John Lay (C, 5-10, 210), Willowbrook.
Quotable: Downers South coach John Belskis on his team's first state title: "Now the pressure's off. The pressure was to win the first one. We can relax and enjoy it and don't have to worry about the Buffalo Bills syndrome."
Key games: Downers South at Hinsdale South, Sept. 13; Hinsdale South at Willowbrook, Sept. 20; Willowbrook at Downers South, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Downers South, Willowbrook, Hinsdale South, Addison Trail, Proviso East, Leyden, Morton.
West Suburban Silver
Hinsdale Central is the hands-down favorite to win its third division title in four years. The Red Devils return 11 starters, including QB Brad Bower (14 TD passes last season), tackle Pat McGrath and DE Steve Pilcher (11 sacks). Glenbard West qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1994 and, with eight returning starters, will give Hinsdale its biggest run. York returns 14 starters from a team that suffered several close losses a year ago and just missed the playoffs. At Downers Grove North, longtime offensive coordinator John Wander takes over for the retired Pete Ventrelli and inherits an inexperienced team. Lyons Township hopes for a return to the playoffs after missing out last fall, and Oak Park is young but expects to improve on last year's 3-6 mark. Cecil Ratliffe moves over from Proviso East with hopes of building a solid program at Proviso West.
2001 state qualifiers: Hinsdale Central (6A second round), Glenbard West (6A first round), Downers Grove North (6A first round).
Players to watch: Craig Lewis (RB/LB, 6-0, 220), Grant Kramer (WR/DB, 6-2, 175), Nick Makey (NG, 6-2, 245), Downers Grove North; Pat Coonan (QB, 6-1, 200), Palmer Hart (LB, 5-11, 175), Shea Moroni (CB/WR, 6-2, 185), Fred Prueter (DL/OL, 6-3, 245), Glenbard West; Brad Bower (QB, 6-2, 210), Brian Grzelakowski (RB, 6-0, 200), Steve Pilcher (DL, 6-4, 230), Dave Jenks (LB, 6-0, 220), Hinsdale Central; Chris Farnsworth (QB, 6-1, 175), Brian Davis (RB, 5-11, 180), Kyle Cibula (LB, 6-2, 210), Mark Yena (T, 6-3, 310), Lyons Township; Drew Slagle (QB, 6-2, 170), Earnest Compere (DT, 5-10, 230), JonMark Edwards (LB, 6-2, 185), Oak Park; Elliot Gordon (WR/DB, 5-11, 180); Cedric Davis (S, 5-9, 160), Proviso West; Nathan Wallick (TB, 6-0, 210), Andy Shields (QB, 6-2, 175), Sean Kasak (C, 6-1, 225), York.
Quotable: Hinsdale Central coach Ken Schreiner: "If your team was going to have 20 seniors starting out of 22 positions, most people would feel pretty good about it."
Key games: Glenbard West at York, Sept. 13; York at Hinsdale Central, Sept. 20; Glenbard West at Hinsdale Central, Oct. 5.
Predicted finish: Hinsdale Central, Glenbard West, York, Downers Grove North, Lyons Township, Oak Park, Proviso West.
Chicago Public League
Illini Prairie State
Clearly the city's toughest section, this newly configured conference boasts four of the Public League's best teams: city champion Morgan Park, city runner-up Dunbar, state quarterfinalist Hubbard and perennial power Simeon. Morgan Park pulled off an amazing trifecta last season when it captured city championships at all three levels, including its first varsity title in 30 years. Coach Lexie Spurlock's squad features plenty of speed from the school's city-championship varsity and sophomore track teams and has good size up front to block for RB Cinque Chapman-Pratt (1,520 yards, 19 TDs). WR Brandon Bradbury should be one of the city's premier playmakers. Hubbard graduated 18 seniors from last year's 11-1 team but returns four-year starting QB Nick Davis and RB Antoine Doby (1,500 yards, 28 TDs). Hubbard, the top seed in Class 7A last season, has the speed, size and skill to make another run at a state title. With the graduation of do-it-all RB Steve Holden, Dunbar may not equal last season's state-high 45-points-per-game average, but the Mightymen still should have a potent ground attack behind an experienced line. Simeon is looking to rebound from its worst season (6-6) in coach Al Scott's 31 years at the school.
2001 state qualifiers: Mather (7A first round), Hubbard (7A quarterfinals), Dunbar (7A second round), Simeon (6A second round), Morgan Park (7A second round).
Quotable: Morgan Park's Spurlock: "We have the same group of guys who won city in track. The only thing that can beat speed is more speed."
Players to watch: Donald Arrington (TE/DT, 6-6, 315), Amundsen; Russell Wiley (DT/C, 6-2, 250), Brandon Collins (TE, 6-4, 235), Jason Johnson (RB, 5-9, 175), Dunbar; Nick Davis (QB, 6-1, 185), Antoine Doby (RB, 5-9, 175), Christopher Patterson (LB/TE, 6-3, 225), Hubbard; Robert Schubert (QB, 6-0, 185), Sergio Oliva (WR/DB, 6-0, 185), Mather; Cinque Chapman-Pratt (RB, 5-10, 180), Brandon Bradbury (WR, 5-9, 165), Cortez Moore (OT, 6-3, 280), Kambium Butler (DE/OT, 6-4, 250), Morgan Park; Lawrence Rodgers (DL/C, 6-0, 275), Marcell Evans (DL/OL, 6-2, 290), Aaron Seals (TE, 6-3, 225), Simeon.
Key games: Hubbard vs. Morgan Park at Gately, Sept. 20; Dunbar vs. Simeon at Gately, Sept. 21; Dunbar vs. Morgan Park at Gately, Oct. 4; Morgan Park vs. Simeon at Gately, Oct. 11; Hubbard vs. Dunbar at Gately, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Morgan Park, Hubbard, Dunbar, Simeon, Mather, Amundsen.
Fenger returns eight starters from a 9-1 team and expects to have similar success this fall. Manley returns most of its defense from a 5-4 team that allowed double digits in just one game. Keep an eye on freshman receiver DeWan Williams from Collins; coach Jim Boggan says he will be a good one. Flower moves up to the Illini level after going undefeated in the former Chicago West last season. Flower will be quicker than last season but lack size up front.
2001 state qualifier: Robeson (5A first round).
Quotable: Fenger coach Michael Holmes: "We have a tougher preseason schedule, but we feel we have the personnel that could compete and give us a chance to win."
Players to watch: Robert Wilson (TE/DT, 6-2, 220), Chris Johnson (OT/DT, 6-3, 261), Cedric Allison (FB/LB, 6-0, 210), Collins; Joe Ramirez (QB, 6-1, 195), Quantel White (RB, 5-9, 175), Lemont Dallas (DE/TE, 6-2, 230), Fenger; Curt Cannon (RB, 5-7, 170), Dominique Richardson (QB, 6-0, 227), Quincy Miller (OG, 6-0, 230), Flower; Charnzie Carey (LB/TE, 6-4, 225), Paris Bryan (S/RB, 5-9, 170), Xavier King (OT/DT, 6-5, 260), Manley.
Key games: Fenger vs. Julian, Sept. 19; Julian vs. Robeson, Sept. 26; Fenger vs. Robeson, Oct. 17.
Predicted finish: Fenger, Manley, Collins, Robeson, Julian, Flower.
Illini Land of Lincoln
Marshall has won 18 consecutive conference games and will continue its run if RB Brian Gardner can return to form after sitting out his junior season with an injury. He gained 875 yards and scored eight TDs as a sophomore. Harper had only one conference loss last yearto eventual Illini Southwest champ Hubbard. Crane went 4-6 last season, losing three games in the final minute by a total of six points, but returns 16 starters and should be much improved.
2001 state qualifiers: Harper (6A first round), Marshall (5A first round).
Quotable: Marshall coach Ben Ward: "[Coach] Terry Lewis was a champ at Harper until Hubbard got in his conference. Now he's probably licking his chops to come over to the West Side and knock us off."
Players to watch: Anton LaPort (LB, 6-1, 190), Frederick Merkerson (FB, 5-9, 200), Russell Williams (QB, 5-11, 180), Crane; Brian Gardner (RB, 6-1, 225), Otis Neal (DT, 6-6, 273), Theodore Prayer (QB, 5-9, 170), Marshall; Daryl Parks (RB/DB, 5-11, 165), Taft.
Key game: Marshall vs. Harper at Stagg, Oct. 4.
Predicted finish: Marshall, Harper, Prosser, Crane, Taft, Westinghouse.
Illini Red Bird
Many of the coaches aren't very happy with this new conference's geographic separation of schools, but the competition should be solid. As it was in the former Illini Northeast, Lane will be the team to beat. Lane isn't as big as it was last season but has good team speed and depth, led by RB Alex Francois and WR Lincoln DePaula. Curie, third last year in the Illini Southwest and with 10 starters returning, has the size and numbers to overtake Lane, which ousted Curie in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs last year. Vocational may have the section's best size up front and could produce two 1,000-yard rushers in Gabriel Sargent and Donald Parker. Bogan, behind RB Shaun Jaudon, should be a factor.
2001 state qualifiers: Curie (8A first round), Lane (8A second round).
Quotable: Lane coach Rich Rio: "Team speed is the best I've ever had here. We have a lot of good skill people."
Players to watch: Shaun Jaudon (RB/LB, 6-0, 215), David Howell (FB/DE, 6-2, 225), Derrick Nicholson (OG/DT, 6-4, 260), Bogan; Gabriel Taylor (RB, 5-5, 165), Chris Acevedo (C, 6-6, 295), Luwan Williams (QB, 5-10, 185), Donald Owens (OT, 6-5, 285), Sterling McKenzie (DT, 6-4, 265), Curie; Ricky Cruz (WR, 6-0, 195), Kelvyn Park; Alex Francois (RB/SS, 5-11, 190), Lincoln DePaula (WR/FS, 6-1, 200), Matt Slusher (QB, 6-0, 195), Mike Demopoulos (OG, 6-2, 240), Pat Kalenik (DE, 5-11, 190), Lane; Gabriel Sargent (RB, 5-7, 145), Donald Parker (RB/DB, 5-9, 170), Tim Rucker (OT, 6-3, 270), Vocational; Bryan Jackson (WR/CB, 5-11, 200), Jason Franklin (QB/FS, 5-8, 160), Young.
Key games: Vocational at Lane, Oct. 4; Curie vs. Lane at Rockne, Oct. 18.
Predicted finish: Lane, Curie, Vocational, Bogan, Young, Kelvyn Park.
Chicago Big Shoulders
Hyde Park coach Wesley Yates has a simple plan: hand the ball to RB Joseph Mays and let him run behind OT Seren Woodfork-Bey (6-6, 300) and TE Christian Hopkins (6-7, 275). Sounds like a winner, but Steinmetz returns 14 starters, including senior LB Namon Johnson (12 tackles a game) and sophomore DT Herbert Obah to lead a swarming defense. The title will be decided when these two teams meet in the regular-season finale at Hanson Stadium on Oct. 19. Schurz boasts three-year starting LB Javier Alvarez, who is closing in on 300 career tackles.
2001 state qualifiers: Not eligible.
Quotable: Steinmetz coach Elbert Kern: "We just put together the X's and O's. Then it's up to the kids and who wants it most."
Players to watch: Sergio Ortiz (RB, 5-9, 165), Clemente; Christian Hopkins (TE, 6-7, 275), Joseph Mays (RB/LB, 6-0, 228), Seren Woodfork-Bey (OT/DT, 6-6, 300), Hyde Park; Javier Alvarez (LB, 5-11, 220), Tommie Ammons (LB, 6-0, 190), Schurz; Justin Anderson (QB, 6-0, 175), Laderius Collymore (WR, 6-3, 200), Namon Johnson (RB/LB, 6-0, 225), Torolan Williams (WR, 6-3, 185), Steinmentz.
Key game: Hyde Park vs. Steinmetz at Hanson, Oct. 19.
Predicted finish: Hyde Park, Steinmentz, Kelly, Schurz, Clemente, Farragut.
Chicago Great Lakes
Carver and Corliss should duke out it in this new conference. Carver has two potential Division I talents in senior TE Tyree Houston and junior CB Eric Taylor. Corliss is led by DE Devon Whitehead, who had 27 sacks in nine games last year, and RB Darnell Williams. The league will be diverse, as Phillips will run a wishbone attack and Lake View will attempt a run-and-shoot offense.
2001 state qualifiers: Not eligible.
Quotable: Carver coach Willie Simpson, on finally playing schools of similar size: "We've played schools of 2,000 with an enrollment of 700, so this should be pretty good for us."
Players to watch: Tyree Houston (TE/LB, 6-4, 235), Eric Taylor (CB, 6-0, 180), Troy Walton (OT, 6-4, 310), Carver; Cedric Donaldson (OL/DL, 6-2, 280), Devon Whitehead (DE/RB, 6-1, 200), Darnell Williams (RB/LB, 5-10, 180), Corliss; Maurice Brown (C/LB, 6-0, 190), Anthony Sellers (FB/LB, 5-9, 180), Englewood; Joshua Ivory (QB, 6-3, 190), Dyon Deals (RB/CB, 5-9, 170), Harlan; Robert Jackson (RB/LB, 6-1, 175), Theon Reynolds (QB, 6-0, 190), Lake View; Dawon Becton (RB, 6-2, 190), Rondell Williams (RB/LB, 6-0, 170), Phillips.
Key games: Carver at Englewood, Sept. 28; Corliss at Englewood, Oct. 5; Corliss at Carver, Oct. 10.
Predicted finish: Carver, Corliss, Englewood, Harlan, Phillips, Lake View.
Chicago Second City
QB Thomas Nelson leads Austin, the pick to win the first title in this new section after finishing second in the old Chicago West a year ago. A third-year starter, Nelson threw for 1,271 yards last season and has a pair of big targets in WR Clarence Evans (6-2, 210) and TE Ernest Willis (6-4, 235). LB Truvell Barnes leads a defense that returns only three starters from last year's 6-3 team. Sullivan returns 12 lettermen. Alan Edwards returns to his starting QB job, and Eric Collins will lead on offense (at end) and defense (at middle linebacker). First-year Tilden coach William Berry expects a boost at from De La Salle transfer Joseph Latta (QB/FS). Sophomore FB/LB Cedrick Thomas was a starter as a freshman.
2001 state qualifiers: Not eligible.
Quotable: Bowen coach Robert Cook: "I believe [the new conference] gives us a chance to compete with other schools equal to us in size."
Players to watch: Thomas Nelson (QB, 6-2, 220), Ernest Willis (TE, 6-4, 235), Truvell Barnes (LB, 5-10, 200), Austin; Brandon Temple (WR, 6-3, 185), Eric Alston (TB/S, 5-9, 155), Bowen; Cortez Coffie (FB/LB, 5-10, 220), Zennan Owens (OT/DT, 6-0, 320), Orr; Eric Collins (E/MLB, 5-10, 170), Alan Edwards (QB, 6-0, 185), Henry Ogunjimi (TB/S, 6-0, 175), Sullivan; Joseph Latta (QB/FS, 6-0, 160), Cedrick Thomas (LB/FB, 6-3, 215), Tilden; Demoan Davis (FB, 6-2, 220), Andre Cobb (RB, 5-6, 185), Washington.
Key games: Austin vs. Tilden at Stagg, Sept. 27; Austin vs. Sullivan at Hanson, Oct. 17.
Predicted finish: Austin, Sullivan, Tilden, Washington, Bowen, Orr.
Chicago Windy City
No obvious favorite emerges from this conference made up of six teams that combined for 10 victories last season. Gage Park, 8-1 two years ago, will try to counter an inexperienced defense with a ball-control offense led by two-year starter Milton Mallard at QB and Lawrence Fleming at RB. Todd Freeman and Jerome Gayden are back to anchor the defensive line. G/LB Nicky Gonzalez leads Foreman, which returns 11 starters from last year's 1-6 team. Kenwood's 0-8 mark last season included losses to five state playoff qualifiers.
2001 state qualifiers: Not eligible.
Quotable: Foreman coach Chuck Saieva: "Everybody's going to be playing their cards close to their vest and not showing a lot on offense early in the year."
Players to watch: Ricky Fernandez (QB, 5-8, 155), Nicky Gonzalez (G/LB, 5-11, 225), Foreman; Milton Mallard, (QB, 5-11, 185), Todd Freeman (OL/DT, 6-0, 230), Jerome Gayden (OL/DT, 6-2, 240), Gage Park; Brad Mickow (RB, 6-0, 180), Rhyne Rada (OT, 6-1, 223), Kennedy; Antwon Allen (WR/SS, 6-3, 190), Michael Overstreet (FB, 5-11, 200), Earnest Streeter (RB/FS, 5-11, 180), Kenwood; C.J. Okeke (RG/MLB, 6-2, 250), Jonas Addison (TB/S, 5-8, 170), Lincoln Park.
Key games: Gage Park vs. Foreman at Hanson, Sept. 21; Gage Park vs. Kenwood at Gately, Oct. 5.
Predicted finish: Gage Park, Foreman, Kenwood, Lincoln Park, Kennedy, Senn.
Four new teams have been added to break the Intra-City into two sections, North and South. The North consists of Brooks, Payton, Roosevelt and Wells, with Juarez the lone holdover. Juarez finished 0-5 in the league and 0-8 overall last year. Roosevelt likewise was 0-8 and 0-5 while playing in the Chicago Central, but it hopes to improve as powerful FB Alvaro Orellano anchors the offense for second-year coach Lorin Volberding. The key for Roosevelt could be the performance of DB Manuel Merchan, who led the team with 30 tackles and three interceptions last season.
2001 state qualifiers: Not eligible.
Quotable: Roosevelt coach Lorin Volberding on Orellano: "He's a real go-to guy; he can really change a game when he's in there."
Key games: Roosevelt vs. Juarez at Winnemac, Sept. 21; Payton vs. Juarez at Lane, Oct. 10.
Predicted finish: Roosevelt, Juarez, Payton, Wells, Brooks.
Holdovers Calumet and Du Sable will be joined this year by Hope, Lindblom and South Shore. Calumet finished 2001 with a 3-2 conference record, something on which new coach Johnny Butler hopes to improve. Improvement is the goal at Lindblom (1-7, 0-5 Chicago Central) and South Shore (2-6, 0-5 Chicago South), both of whom struggled last season. Hope not only is new to the Intra-City, it's new to football: The school did not participate in the sport last season.
2001 state qualifiers: Not eligible.
Key games: Calumet vs. South Shore at Stagg, Sept. 14; Calumet vs. Du Sable, Oct. 11.
Predicted finish: Calumet, Du Sable, South Shore, Lindblom, Hope.
Alden-Hebron: Coach Mike Mitchell enters his second season back on the sidelines after a 20-year hiatus from football. Mitchell expects improvement from last year's 2-7 record because of two factors: He'll have more depth, with 25 players out this year as opposed to 18 last season, and an improved defense led by ends Nick Moore and Nick Case and LBs Keith Sphar and Craig Spiniolis.
Mooseheart: The Ramblers are coming off an 0-9 season, but third-year coach Mark Johnson is hoping to turn it around with help from his two returning startersFB-LB LaShawn Williams and TB-LB Nick Diaz, "a kid who never leaves the field," Johnson says. Mooseheart also has high hopes for 6-4, 185-pound sophomore QB Danny Anderson, who got significant playing time as a freshman.
Nazareth Academy: The Roadrunners have beefed up their schedule for the second consecutive year in preparation for their move to a new East Suburban Catholic Conference next season. The first two gamesagainst Riverside-Brookfield and Class 3A champion Spring Valley Hallwill tell if they can improve on last season's 7-3 record. QB Mike Donato (1,800 yards passing, 15 TDs) and RB Lawrence Cannon (1,080 yards rushing, 430 receiving) are the key returnees on offense. Leading tackler Luke Moran (74 as a junior) and LB John Polivka (6-1, 210) head the defense.
North Shore Country Day: The Raiders, 8-2 last season, reached the Class 1A playoffs for the second time in the last three years. They also recorded their fourth straight winning season, not accomplished at North Shore since the '70s. With 16 experienced players back from last year's playoff team, that streak should reach five. QB Charlie Doar is untested, but few other Raiders are. North Shore's best are Danny Murphy, a linebacker/receiver, and do-everything Henry Gaud. Another key senior is C-DT Ross Blumenthal.
St. Francis de Sales: The Pioneers had more victories (four) last season than in the previous four years combined. The success can be attributed to a switch from the Catholic Metro to an independent schedule. Do the playoffs await? "I feel we have 17 players who can play for anybody," coach Greg Zaragoza said. Carlos Carrillo (DB, 5-11, 185), Michael Clay (OT, 6-3, 265), Chris Wartman (FB, 5-10, 190) will lead the way.
St. Joseph: Bob DeCarlo, after three years away from coaching, takes over as head coach. He'll open the season against St. Laurence, where he formerly coached. Not only that, his son, Joe, is a WR/DB at St. Laurence, and the Vikings' head coach, Tim Johnson, was among his former players. The linesled by Joe Boland (C/LB, 6-1, 240) and Aris Papadakis (OL/DL, 6-3, 270)will be the Chargers' strengths this season. St. Joseph enters the East Suburban Catholic next fall.
Conference previews are based on information provided by coaches and were compiled and written by Nathan Baird, Ed Cavanaugh, Chris Diserio, Sean Duncan, Phil English, Bill Harrison, Jack McCarthy, Sam Natrop, Ken O'Brien, Michael Pankow, Jonathan Schoenberg, Bob Skolnik and Ben Trecroci. Attempts were made to reach every coach. Athletes' names were provided by coaches.