2019 record: 4-5, 2-3
Coach: Jeff Vlk (5th year)
Worth noting: It’s all about the brothers at Buffalo Grove. The Bison got a huge lift when 6-foot-2, 185-pound Ian Luyando moved from Mexico to play QB. He will have some nice targets to throw to including his brother, 6-5 Andre. Ayden Anderson, who is 6-4 and has committed to Cornell University, is one of the area’s top receivers and coming off a season where he had 52 catches for 762 yards. His brother, Trystan, who is a 6-4, 225-pound defensive end, has been generating interest from colleges. It will be an experienced Buffalo Grove team that started 8 sophomores last season and a handful of juniors. Cole Nixon, who rushed for 504 yards, will also be a key to the offense.
2019 record: 2-7, 1-4
Coach: Miles Osei (5th year)
Worth noting: With their quarterback and running back returning, Elk Grove is looking to make big strides this season. The Grens return Class 7A all-stater and Drake-commit Ian Ridge, a three-year starter, who is coming off a huge season where he rushed for 1,634 yards. Quarterback Joe Gaskill, who is committed to Illinois Wesleyan, took over the reins late in the season for Elk Grove and will be very comfortable running the offense this spring. Seniors James Trost, Sebastian Batko and Dean Fries are back on the offensive line to block for the duo.
2019 record: 9-2, 4-1 (Class 7A second round)
Coach: Joe Pardun (7th year)
Worth noting: The key for the Huskies will how they will replace quarterback Jordan Hansen, who accounted for 2,500 yards of offense and 38 touchdowns. Junior Jimmy Makuh backed up Hansen last year and should step in quite nicely. He will be surrounded by a trio of solid wide receivers in Ben Randall, Josh Bontje and Ben Clawson with Bontje and Clawson also playing defensive back. The Huskies will also have a group of running backs in Max McCall and Quin Carpenter, Michael Somary and Anthony Morris. Defensively, McCall and Morris will be at linebacker with Carpenter and Somary at defensive back. Ryan Gudaitis, who is a beast at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, is the lone returning starting lineman on both sides of the ball.
2019 record: 8-3, 3-2 (Class 7A second round)
Coach: Dan DeBoeuf (3rd year)
Worth noting: The Knights will again implement their high-tempo offense that can wear opponents down. They return 7 starters from an offense that broke the school record in points last season. QB Alex “Gary” Moeller, who threw for 2,069 yards and 26 touchdowns leads the way. Luke Zardzin, who will play at Northern Illinois in the fall, ran for 1,488 yards. He is a three-year starter and tough to bring down. Offensive linemen Sam Tsgallis, Erik Malinowski and Matt Pancauskas all return to key a strong offensive line. Tyson Splinter and Noah Marx (38 receptions, 629 yards) are productive at wide receiver. Watch for sophomore Frank Covey, who has been raising some eyebrows with his play.
2019 record: 12-1, 5-0 (Class 7A semifinals)
Coach: Sam Baker (1st year)
Worth noting: Through no fault of their own, the Mustangs’ 10-year streak of qualifying for the state playoffs will end. Sam Baker, who is the only new head coach in the MSL, comes over from Grayslake North. He will be inheriting 6 players from a team that went to the Class 7A semifinals in 2019. Tops among those is Daniel Sobkowicz, who is 6-foot-3 and is standout two-sport athlete. Charlie Smith, who logged plenty of time last season as a junior, will run behind an offensive line of Nick Tannhauser, Anthony Lara and Chuck Malleck, who helped anchor that line last season. Michael Radon will step in at QB for the Mustangs this season.
2019 record: 0-9, 0-5
Coach: Brian Hauk (4th year)
Worth noting: It was a young team last year for the Wildcats that especially struggled on the defensive side of the ball. This season, the Wildcats are a year older and up and ready to practice each day at 6 a.m. Wheeling returns 13 starters including third-year players Kyle Kong and linemen Conor Osterman and Kenny Yoshino. Paul Ufir, who had a good season last year at wide receiver, slides over to running back this season. Solomon Hudson takes over at quarterback this season.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Ryan Gudaitis, OL/DL, Hersey: The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder will play at ISU next season.
- Gary Moeller, QB, Prospect: Threw for 26 TD’s with just 2 INT last season.
- Ian Ridge, RB, Elk Grove: Gained 1,634 yards and 7A all-state last season and will play at Drake.
- Michael Sobkowicz, WR, Rolling Meadows: Maybe the most underrated player in the state.
- Luke Zardzin, RB, Prospect: Ran for 1,448 yards last year and is a PWO for Northern Illinois
|East Division||Buffalo Grove||Elk Grove||Hersey||Prospect||Rolling Meadows||Wheeling|
|Week 1||at Elk Grove; 1 p.m., March 20||vs. Buffalo Grove; 1 p.m., March 20||at Rolling Meadows; 1 p.m., March 20||vs. Wheeling; 1 p.m., March 20||vs. Hersey; 1 p.m., March 20||at Prospect; 1 p.m., March 20|
|Week 2||vs. Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., March 26||at Prospect; 7 p.m., March 26||vs. Wheeling; 7 p.m., March 26||vs. Elk Grove; 7 p.m., March 26||at Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., March 26||at Hersey; 7 p.m., March 26|
|Week 3||at Wheeling; 7 p.m., April 1||at Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., April 1||at Prospect; 7 p.m., April 1||vs. Hersey; 7 p.m., April 1||vs. Elk Grove; 7 p.m., April 1||vs. Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., April 1|
|Week 4||at Hersey; 7 p.m., April 9||vs. Wheeling; 7 p.m., April 9||vs. Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., April 9||at Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., April 9||vs. Prospect; 7 p.m., April 9||at Elk Grove; 7 p.m., April 9|
|Week 5||vs. Prospect; 7 p.m., April 16||at Hersey; 7 p.m., April 16||vs. Elk Grove; 7 p.m., April 16||at Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., April 16||at Wheeling; 7 p.m., April 16||vs. Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., April 16|
FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 1 — Hersey at Rolling Meadows: These two teams have played for the conference title the last three seasons.
Week 2 — Elk Grove at Prospect: The conference’s two top running back’s Ian Ian Ridge from Elk Grove and Luke Zardzin square off.
Week 3 — Hersey at Prospect: Hersey’s defensive schemes against Prospect’s spread offense.
Week 4 — Prospect at Rolling Meadows: These teams met twice last season with Meadows winning both.
Week 4 — Buffalo Grove at Hersey: The traditional battle between two neighborhood rivals continues.
MID SUBURBAN WEST
2019 record: 6-4, 3-2 (Class 8A playoff qualifier)
Coach: Joe Sanchez (20th year)
Worth noting: The Broncos have made the playoffs the last nine seasons, building with their seniors. This season will be no different as Barrington will lean heavily on 16 of them. The Smith brothers — Ryan, who is a wide receiver and Bryan, who will be counted on at tailback — will help key the Bronco offense. Peter Anderson, who will play at Augustana in the fall, will lead the Broncos at quarterback this year. Joey Gurskis, who had 312 receiving yards, will also be a vital component in the Barrington passing game. Logan Ambroz, Matt Blasius and Cooper Slatter will anchor the offensive line. Evan Roper returns at linebacker to guide the Bronco defense.
2019 record: 6-4, 2-3 (Class 7A playoff qualifier)
Coach: Bryan Stortz (4th year)
Worth noting: With their double wing option offense, the Cougars are especially deadly as they can control the ball and the clock on opponents. Quarterback Joey Dergo was running the option to near perfection last year when an injury cut his season short. Harvard commit Malik Frederick, who is a two-year all-area player, is the top running back in the conference. He is coming off another superb year where he gained 1,305 yards. Jack Hominac is a third option with the ball. Conant returns seven starters from its playoff squad from a year ago including safety Jeremiah Carrell and defensive lineman Christian Gripper.
2019 record: 8-3, 5-0 (Class 8A second round)
Coach: Lou Sponsel (9th year)
Worth noting: The Vikings think that this team is better than the one that won the MSL West last season. And for good reason. The Vikings are strong up the middle on defense with four three-year starters. Nose tackle, 6-foot-4, 297-pound Jack Walsh, linebackers Jason Haas and Trey Castella and safety Joey Rattin, who will play at Upper Iowa are solid. The Vikings also return Will Kristo on the defensive line and Chris Skaria at linebacker to give Fremd a difficult team to score against. Meanwhile the Vikings will have three-year starting quarterback Ryan Saxe back. Saxe, who will play in the fall at Illinois Wesleyan, is a dual threat, throwing for 1,251 yards and rushing for another 587 yards in 2019. He will get to run behind Walsh, who will play offensive line at Wyoming next year, and Brian Clay.
2019 record: 4-5, 1-4
Coach: Tim Heyse (4th year)
Worth noting: The Hawks like the way the pieces are coming together. There is no better piece than Jashawn Johnson. The 5-foot-10 junior had an eye-popping 40 receptions last season for 800 yards and has picked up a D-I offer to Western Michigan. Damian Piekarczyk, who had 130 yards receiving last season, returns to compliment Johnson. Mehki Williams, who rushed for 933 yards a year ago is also back to give the Hawks offensive balance. Joey Ayala, whose family moved from Palatine where he started last season, and Jesse Williams will be at quarterback. The Hawks also return a trio of offensive linemen in Miguel Bonilla, Kahmari Chanely and Eddie Resendez. Ladaun Jones, who is a junior and 6-3, 375 pounds, and Vince Barbato make the Hawks quite formidable upfront.
2019 record: 4-5, 3-2
Coach: Corey Olson (4th year)
Worth noting: Palatine heads into this season on a 3-game winning streak and the Pirates would like nothing better than to keep that alive. All eyes will be on wide receiver Jake Bostic, who moved across town from Fremd. Bostic, who is a junior, has already received numerous D-I offers. Another receiving a lot of attention is defensive lineman junior Jehmari Mabry. The Pirates return 11 starters including wide receivers Alex Clue and Charles Harries, along with running back Ronald Todd. Linemen Peter Russhenberg and Josh Brown along with linebackers Mitch Larkin and Rand Paddack will help key the defense. Tyler and Eric Pecson will be in the secondary with Eric Pecson and sophomore Grant Dersnah competing for the quarterback spot.
2019 record: 3-6, 1-4
Coach: Mark Stilling (16th year)
Worth noting: The Saxons will look to build off a group of five seniors that have been together since they were on the varsity as sophomores. Quarterback Luke Jessie, who will play at Roosevelt next year, threw for nearly 800 yards last season. Running back Mike DiGioia, who is in his fourth year as a varsity player and gained 733 yards, will be the two main factors in Schaumburg’s offense again this season. Defensively, the trio of Tyler Fortune, Blake Buchanan, who will play at Wisconsin-Whitewater, and Anthony Hernandez, a Northern Illinois PWO, will anchor the Schaumburg secondary. Mike Connolly and JJ Calabria also return this season at linebacker. Keep an eye out for sophomore wide receiver Omarion Jones, who has blazing speed.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Jake Bostic, WR. Palatine: Stock on this junior has been rising with numerous D-I offers.
- Malik Fredrick, RB, Conant: Harvard-bound and a three-year starter, Coming off a 1,305-yard season.
- Jayshawn Johnson, WR, Hoffman Estates: Great speed and great hands. Just picked up first D-I offer from Western Michigan.
- Ryan Saxe, QB, Fremd: Illinois Wesleyan commit. Ran for 587 yards and threw for 1,251 yards last season.
- Jack Walsh, OL, Fremd: Top offensive lineman in the area. Three-year starter will play at Wyoming in the fall.
|West Division||Barrington||Conant||Fremd||Hoffman Estates||Palatine||Schaumburg|
|Week 1||at Schaumburg; 5 p.m., March 20||vs. Palatine; 1 p.m., March 20||at Hoffman Estates; 1 p.m., March 20||vs. Fremd; 1 p.m., March 20||at Conant; 1 p.m., March 20||vs. Barrington; 5 p.m., March 20|
|Week 2||vs. Palatine; 7 p.m., March 26||vs. Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., March 26||vs. Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., March 26||at Conant; 7:30 p.m., March 26||at Barrington; 7 p.m., March 26||at Fremd; 7:30 p.m., March 26|
|Week 3||at Conant; 7:30 p.m., April 1||vs. Barrington; 7:30 p.m., April 1||at Palatine; 7:30 p.m., April 1||at Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., April 1||vs. Fremd; 7:30 p.m., April 1||vs. Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., April 1|
|Week 4||vs. Fremd; 7:30 p.m., April 9||at Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., April 9||at Barrington; 7:30 p.m., April 9||vs. Palatine; 7:30 p.m., April 9||at Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., April 9||vs. Conant; 7:30 p.m., April 9|
|Week 5||vs. Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., April 16||at Fremd; 7:30 p.m., April 16||vs. Conant; 7:30 p.m., April 16||at Barrington; 7:30 p.m., April 16||vs. Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., April 16||at Palatine; 7:30 p.m., April 16|
FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 1 — Fremd at Hoffman Estates: Great early test for both with power versus speed.
Week 2 — Palatine at Barrington: Great rivalry game between neighboring towns.
Week 2 — Hoffman Estates at Conant: The Hoffman “Mayor’s Cup” is at stake.
Week 3 — Fremd at Palatine: Annual “Battle of the Tracks.” Fremd was won the last two.
Week 4 — Fremd at Barrington: This is usually one of the most physical games in the conference each season.
STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH
|Elk Grove Village||1-5|