Northwest Herald area preview capsules for Week 1 of the 2023 season

Johnsburg's Ian Boal tries to tackle Marian Central's Christian Bentancur during a non-conference football game Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, between Marian Central and Johnsburg at Marian Central High School.


Burlington Central (4-5, 4-5) at Cary-Grove (3-6, 3-6)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Central defeated C-G 10-7 in Week 8 last season.

About the Rockets: Central fell one win shy of becoming playoff eligible for the first time since 2014. … Kicker Griffin Kollhoff kicked an 18-yard field goal last season to give the Rockets their first win over the Trojans in four years in the FVC. … QB Jackson Alcorn threw for 1,132 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. WRs Michael Person (28 receptions, six TDs), LJ Kerr (25, four) and Caden West (21, three) were his top targets, and all return. … OL-DL Porter Mihelich (6-1, 260) was a force on both lines for the Rockets, and LB Mason Rosborough returns to lead the defense.

About the Trojans: C-G had a string of 17 consecutive playoff appearances stopped last season, one in which the Trojans were hit hard by graduations from its 2021 Class 6A state champion team and then by injuries to some of their best players. … QB Peyton Seaburg and RB Andrew Prio return in the backfield, while sophomore Logan Abrams (6-3, 220) may get a lot of the carries at fullback after starting as a freshman at defensive end. … LB Connor Anderson is the only returning starter from the 2021 state champions. … “Our team is very hungry to get back to our winning ways,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said.

Friday Night Drive pick: Cary-Grove

Crystal Lake Central (2-7, 2-7) at Huntley (8-2, 8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Huntley won last season’s opener against Central 37-20.

About the Tigers: Jason Penza started only 1 1/2 games at quarterback last season, and those three halves of football were highly productive. Central had almost 300 yards of offense before Penza suffered a broken arm in the opener against Huntley, which had the lowest-scoring defense in the FVC. When Penza returned at quarterback in Game 9, the Tigers lost a wild game to Prairie Ridge 56-49. … WR George Dimopoulos committed to Northern Illinois and is back at his usual position after filling in for Penza most of last season. WR Griffin Buehler led the Tigers with 25 receptions and also is back. … OL-DL Tommy McNeil, a junior, is a leader on both lines.

About the Red Raiders: Huntley shared the FVC title with Jacobs and Prairie Ridge last season. … RB Haiden Janke (6-0, 210) is the leading returning rusher in the area at 1,430 yards. … WR Bryce Walker (5-9, 150) missed the last six games with a broken leg but should provide a big-play threat for Huntley. … The Raiders hope to continue as one of the FVC’s top defensive teams. Their 17.7 points allowed per game led the conference last season.

FND pick: Crystal Lake Central

Dundee-Crown (2-7, 2-7) at Crystal Lake South (5-5, 5-4)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Crystal Lake South beat the Chargers 39-32 in Week 4 last season.

About the Chargers: D-C started the season 2-1 with a pair of close victories but could not manage another win after that. The Chargers were in most of their games. … WR-DB Kali Freeman (29 receptions, five TDs) was one of the most dangerous receivers in the FVC and returns to catch balls from QB Zach Randl, who was fifth in the area with 1,580 passing yards and threw for 16 touchdowns.

About the Gators: South returns a dynamic passing duo in QB Caden Casimino, who led the area with 2,658 passing yards, and WR Michael Prokos, whose 66 catches led all receivers. WR Colton Hess is another tall target for Casimino. … OL-DL Andy Burburija is one of the top linemen in the FVC, and LB Daniel Zebrowski is another top defender who returns.

FND pick: Crystal Lake South

Hampshire’s Cole Klawikowski catches a pitched football during the first day of football practice Monday, August 7, 2023, at the Hampshire High School.

McHenry (4-5, 4-5) at Hampshire (1-8, 1-8)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: McHenry won 12-8 in Week 5 last season.

About the Warriors: McHenry finished one win short of being playoff eligible but spoiled the postseason hopes of Burlington Central with a 28-13 win over the Rockets in Week 9. … QB Dom Caruso and WRs Jacob Zarek and Zack Maness gave the Warriors a productive passing game last season but have graduated. … RB-LB Kyle Boelkens and TE-DL Quentin Kinshofer are two of the key returning players. … Jeff Schroeder takes over as McHenry coach. Schroeder coached Woodstock North in that program’s first 13 seasons and was an assistant at Prairie Ridge last year.

About the Whip-Purs: Hampshire did not get a win until Week 9 against Cary-Grove, but the Whips were competitive in most of their games. … TE-LB Gage Homola (6-4, 250) committed to Cornell of the Ivy League this month. … RB Cole Klawikowski (1,261 yards) is the second-leading returning rusher in the area. … Whips coach Shane Haak is in his first season at Hampshire. He is the son of former Harvard coach Tim Haak, who is an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

FND pick: Hampshire

Jacobs (8-2, 8-1) at Prairie Ridge (12-2, 8-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Jacobs beat Prairie Ridge 42-35 in a back-and-forth battle in Week 4 last season.

About the Golden Eagles: Jacobs will look to a power running game with RB Joey Scrivani (845) getting a lot of the carries. … FB-LB Paulie Rudolph is back on both sides, and TE-DE Grant Stec, a Wisconsin commit, is another two-way standout who led the Golden Eagles with 24 catches. … Jacobs shared the FVC title last season with Huntley and Prairie Ridge.

About the Wolves: Prairie Ridge won a third of the FVC title and advanced to the Class 6A state championship game, where it lost to East St. Louis 57-7. … QB Tyler Vasey graduated and now plays at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater after setting the IHSA season rushing record with 3,887 yards. … OL-DL John Fallaw and RB-DB Dom Creatore are two of the Wolves’ top returning players. Fallaw Angel Rodriguez (6-2, 220) and Zachary Helland (6-2, 245) return on the offensive line. … Junior DL Gavin Tinch (6-4, 285) is a player to watch this season. He is starting to grab the attention of D-I schools. … QB Joey Vanderwiel takes over the offense after starting at linebacker last season.

FND pick: Prairie Ridge


Richmond-Burton (11-1) at Marian Central (3-6)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Marian defeated R-B 38-25 in the first round of the 1988 Class 2A playoffs.

About the Rockets: R-B is 54-4 in five seasons under coach Mike Noll, with a Class 4A state title in 2019. … R-B loves a power running game, and FB Braxtin Nellessen (5-10, 220) will be tough to stop behind the Rockets’ offensive line. … WR-DB Jack Martens, TE Luke Bresnahan, OL Pat Willin, OL Logan Garcia, WR-DB Max Loveall and LBs Ryan Wisniewski, Luke Rendtorff and Daniel Kalinowski are some key returning players. … R-B had strong teams stopped by Marian five times in the Class 2A playoffs in the 1980s. … The Rockets have been to the Class 4A playoffs semifinals three times and quarterfinals once in their past four playoff appearances. … R-B has been to the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons, the longest current streak among area teams.

About the Hurricanes: Marian was 3-6 while playing a tough independent schedule against several of its former CCL/ESCC opponents last season. The Hurricanes will play in a more favorable Chicagoland Christian Conference, a new eight-team league. … This date was filled by Johnsburg in past seasons, but Hurricanes coach Liam Kirwan was happy to get R-B for the opener. “For me, it was a no-brainer,” Kirwan said. “I want to play at least one local team in the nonconference schedule each year, and to play a team of R-B’s caliber is a great test for our kids.” … WR-DE Christian Bentancur caught 54 passes for 1,058 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. QB Cale McThenia threw for 2,554 yards and 26 touchdowns, and WR Rylan Dolter had 42 grabs for 548 yards.

FND pick: Richmond-Burton

Lisle (5-5) at Harvard (0-9)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lisle beat Harvard 27-0 in last year’s season opener.

About the Lions: Lisle made the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year and lost to Byron in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs last season. … Cory Dillard, the son of former Lions athletic director Dan Dillard, takes over as head coach. … RB-DBs Drew Nigro and Antonio Nicholas are two of the Lions’ key returning players.

About the Hornets: The Hornets struggled to score last season with 69 total points. … Brad Swanson takes over for former coach Sean Saylor after coaching for four seasons at Kewanee, where his teams were 22-13. … RB Danny Rojas will be one of the Hornets’ leading ball carriers. Brian Cordova, RIley Vest, Carlos Tejada and Lucas Waldo are back on the line.

FND pick: Lisle

David Lopez throws the ball during Marengo High School football practice Tuesday morning.

Marengo (5-5) at Evergreen Park (8-3)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: This is believed to be the first matchup of the two teams.

About the Indians: Marengo has been to the playoffs four consecutive seasons and needed wins in its final two games to make it last year. … QB Josh Holst, the KRC/I8 Blue Division Offensive Player of the Year and a four-year starter, is now at Northern Illinois. He accounted for 2,318 total yards and 37 touchdowns. … WR David Lopez, a junior, will take over at quarterback, a position he played in eighth grade. … RB-LB Isaac Anthony and Connor Sacco should see a lot of carries.

About the Mustangs: Evergreen Park has been to the playoffs four consecutive seasons. … The Mustangs lost to St. Francis 42-0 in the second round last season. The Spartans beat Marengo 69-0 in the first round.

FND pick: Evergreen Park

Rochelle (9-3) at Woodstock (2-7)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Rochelle won last year’s opener over the Blue Streaks 14-7.

About the Hubs: Rochelle lost to St. Francis 35-16 in the Class 4A playoffs quarterfinals. … Two-time All-State RB Garrett Gensler graduated after setting school records for career (50) and season (29) rushing touchdowns. … The Hubs return four offensive starters and seven on defense.

About the Blue Streaks: Woodstock returns seven starters, and coach Mike Brasile likes what he sees with his offensive and defensive lines. … Landen Stoltz and Nolan Van Hoorn will get most of the work at running back. … WR Charlie Gilmore had nine receptions for two touchdowns last season and is the leading returning receiver.

FND pick: Rochelle

Johnsburg's Anthony Bravieri is slowed down by Rochelle's Bradley Cooney, as he grabs Bravieri’s jersey during a IHSA Class 4A second round playoff football game Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, between Johnsburg and Rochelle at Johnsburg High School in Johnsburg.

Johnsburg (6-5) at Woodstock North (1-8)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Johnsburg won last season’s opener over the Thunder 27-17.

About the Skyhawks: The Skyhawks suffered some tough graduation losses with RB-LB Jake Metze (Drake), who had more than 1,700 all-purpose yards, and four-year starting OL-DL Jacob Welch (Northern Illinois). WR-DB Ian Boal, who had 11 touchdown catches, also is gone. … Junior QB A.J. Bravieri returns after throwing for 2,537 yards and an area-best 29 touchdowns. … DE CJ Ameachi, OL Keegan Felten, DE Dominic Vallone and DB Maddux Malachuk are key returning players. … Johnsburg rolled Hyde Park in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs 54-8, then fell to Rochelle 34-22 in the second round.

About the Thunder: Coach Matt Pollnow is in his second season with the Thunder. … Seniors Carter Brey and Shane Buening return on the lines and will be team leaders. … FB Kaden Combs (636 yards) is back after leading the team in rushing. … Landan Creighton, one of the best athletes in his school and a three-time state qualifier in track and field, takes over at quarterback.

FND pick: Johnsburg


Rockford Christian Life (1-8) at Alden-Hebron (3-6)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Last matchup: A-H beat Christian Life 46-0 in Week 2 last season.

About the Eagles: Christian Life’s only victory last year was a 1-0 forfeit win against Parkview Christian Academy in Week 8. … The Eagles allowed 454 points in eight games.

About the Giants: A-H returns QB Ben Vole (707 yards rushing) and RB Wyatt Armbust (564) from what was a productive offense. Vole also threw for 1,087 yards in seven games. He suffered a sprained ankle early in Week 8 that ended his season. Armbrust also caught 17 passes for four touchdowns. The game initially was scheduled for Thursday, but was moved because of oppressive heat conditions.

FND pick: Alden-Hebron