2019 record: 1-8
Coach: Tony Juarez
Worth noting: The Steelmen enter the season with their third different head coach leading the program. Last year’s head coach, Fred Gandy, departed to take the job at Thornton. At least the Steelmen have a coach familiar with the program as long-time coach Tony Juarez takes the reins for the second time. Juarez led the program from 2002 to 2005. This season likely will be used to try to lay a foundation in a program that has struggled to sustain success.
2019 record: 4-6
Coach: Bill Lech
Worth noting: After winning the school’s first conference title in more than 50 years the Tigers were hoping to use that momentum heading into the 2020 season. The team will look different than initially expected as running back Trent Howland, an Indiana recruit, is recovering from an injury sustained in the fall and won’t be with the Tigers this season. However, there was a lot of promising young talent in the Tigers ranks ready to take a step forward into larger roles. Prominent among them is junior linebacker Bryan McCoy and senior defensive back Nasir Lacey, who as of now plans to walk on at Northern Illinois.
2019 record: 1-8
Coach: Jon Periero
Worth noting: The Wildcats pressed a lot of underclassmen into duty in 2019 which gives them a lot of experience to start to rebuild. Quarterback Chris Leto will engineer the Plainfield Central offense and he’ll be flanked by a pair of returning offensive linemen. The Wildcats aren’t short on size with several newcomers to varsity looking capable of filling voids. Luke Johnson (TE/DL) and Ethan Obeng (RB/DB) are returning starters on both sides of the football. Ideally, other players will develop enough to ease some of the burden on those two-way players.
2019 record: 5-5
Coach: Brad Kunz
Worth noting: The Bengals have questions on both sides of the football, particularly on defense where about every key player was lost to graduation. The situation is a little better for Plainfield East on offensive as several building blocks are in place. University of Illinois recruit Zachary Barlev is one of two starters remaining on the offensive line, while Taven Washington is entering his third season as the lead running back. Brett Winiecki will play quarterback for Plainfield East after playing behind highly productive and now graduated Joey Morgan a year ago. Connor Bright seems like the likely candidate to see plenty of action at wide receiver.
2019 record: 5-5
Coach: Bill Bicker
Worth noting: The Cougars have developed a profile for their program and look to have the components in place to not have to deviate from that blueprint this season. Running back Keith Bronson returns for his senior season after having a highly productive junior season. Brunson should have experienced offensive linemen Chris Bornhoeft and Jeff Guthier leading the way. Defensively, veteran coach Bill Bicker has plenty of experienced defensive lineman ready to play which certainly is the way he likes it.
2019 record: 1-8
Coach: Justin Trovato
Worth noting: Justin Trovato took over the program midway through 2019 and now has the role from the jump for the Spartans. He’ll have an experienced group that hopefully can look past the struggles of the program over the past few years. The defense definitely looks like the anchor for the Spartans with seven seniors returning on that side of the football. The defense will be led by three-year starter defensive back Jacquille Brown, a Northern Michigan recruit. Rebuilding an offensive line that only has two returning starters in Tim Kasper and Jose Pantoja will be a top priority.
2019 record: 11-1
Coach: Matt Harding
Worth noting: The Indians will try to carry the momentum that finally allowed them to upend the kings of the conference in Oswego last season. They will do it under new leadership as veteran coach John Belskis left the program and Minooka appointed assistant coach Matt Harding to run the program. Although last year’s team was heavy on seniors the program is far from without talent. Defensively, Zach Wingerter and Mason Cave both were just short of being 100-tackle performers last year. The offense likely will be guided by QB Josh Davis, who played admirably when Minooka’s starter was knocked out of some early season games because of injury.
2019 record: 9-2
Coach: Brian Cooney
Worth noting: The Panthers had their eight-year hold on the Southwest Prairie Conference snapped by Minooka in 2019, but Oswego’s program has been a model of consistency. Oswego has made eight straight playoff appearances with either nine or 10 wins in every season under coach Brian Cooney. Oswego’s strength starts up front. Towering Boston College recruit Otto Hess, Wayne State commit Aidan Tweedy and Olivet Nazarene recruit Carter Anderson all return on the offensive line, with Olivet Nazarene commit Anthony Cikauskas and Matt Egly back on the defensive line. Jack Hugunin, now at NIU, does leave a void. Returning starting quarterback Cole Pradel also is a standout wrestler and brings that mentality to the position. Evan Brown, last year’s leading tackler, and Joey DiMarco return on defense and senior receiver Nik Hampton is back on offense. Keep an eye on 6-foot-5 sophomore receiver/tight end Deakon Tonielli.
2019 record: 5-5
Coach: Tyson LeBlanc
Worth noting: The Wolves five wins last season were their fewest since 2014, but they still made their fifth straight playoff appearance. Junior linebacker Jared Badie, who already has offers from Purdue, Minnesota and others, is a freak athlete for the Wolves’ defense, which is where Oswego East traditionally puts its best athletes. Back on defense is linebacker Gianni Cammarata, nose tackle Braydon Grabavoy and safety Kyle Morrissey. Michael Ford returns for his second season at quarterback. Oswego East is very inexperienced at the other skill-positions. Junior Darquel Sanders, in his second season playing football, is slated at running back, with Jackson Lamboley, Austin Johnson and Ty Carlson at receiver. Three linemen return led by 6-foot-4, 270-pound third-year starter Coran Woods. LeBlanc said sophomore Owen Valek, a former soccer goalkeeper, is a future Division I kicker.
2019 record: 6-4
Coach: Anthony Imbordino
Worth noting: The Tigers lost some explosive offensive skill players to graduation, but still have a few pieces to work with, including quarterback Adam Smith. On defensive, there are a lot of things to build on led by strong safety tackling machine Danny Nuccio and defensive back Carlos Conley. The junior class brings several potential impact players from a group that was 17-1 over their freshman and sophomore seasons.
2019 record: 2-7
Coach: Nate Eimer
Worth noting: The Blackhawks were young last season in a less than satisfying debut in the Southwest Prairie. Even though some of those players are back to provide a foundation, they’ll likely still be young again. They will play anywhere from 15 to 22 underclassmen in pivotal roles. Most of the experience comes on the offensive side of the ball with a potential strong running back tandem of Savion Little and Jeremiah Johnson keying the attack.
2019 record: 8-3
Coach: Dan McGuire
Worth noting: The Foxes did quite well in their first season as the smallest school in the SPC, winning their first seven games and posting their second consecutive 8-3 season. A stellar senior class led by Cale Reeder has graduated, but there still are quality players in the mix and three starters returning on both sides of the ball to help maintain that success. McGuire thinks senior Luke Davies, who missed last season with a knee injury, could be one of the best quarterbacks he’s had at Yorkville. Will Schumacher, a senior fullback/linebacker committed to Division II St. Anselm, Jared Slavin, a senior lineman committed to Wisconsin-Whitewater, senior defensive linemen Manny Cervantes and George Alba and senior receiver Brendan McGarahan are among returning starters. Wisconsin-Oshkosh commit Dougie Burson, who got on the field at times last season, is among several good tailbacks. The defense that allowed only 11 points a game in the regular season is hungry to build on that.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Jared Badie, Oswego East, LB, jr.: A 6-foot-5 outside linebacker with 4.49 speed, Badie could wind up the most-recruited player in Oswego East program history. Purdue and Minnesota are among his Big Ten offers already. Started all 10 games on varsity as a sophomore.
- Zachary Barlev, Plainfield East, OL, sr.: Barlev’s rise to being a Big Ten caliber recruit (Illinois) has been impressive. Now, he’ll try to help the Plainfield East program continue in a very positive direction.
- Anthony Cikauskas, Oswego, DL, sr.: Oswego has churned out some pretty impressive defensive linemen the last few years. Add this pass-rushing defensive end, who had 11 sacks as a junior, to the list. With big defensive tackle Jack Hugunin now at NIU, Cikauskas and Matt Egly take the lead up front for what’s usually a stout Oswego defense.
- Carlos Conley, Plainfield North, DB, sr.: Conley is a playmaker in the secondary for the Tigers and he’s capable of being a real standout for the Plainfield North. Still yet to commit collegiately, Conley has extra drive to make an impression in the short season.
- Bryan McCoy, Joliet West, LB, jr.: McCoy is a gifted linebacker that should be one of the leading components for the Tigers defense. McCoy is garnering plenty of recruiting interest and deservedly so.
|Joliet Central||Joliet West||Plainfield Central||Plainfield East||Plainfield South||Romeoville|
|Week 1||vs. West Aurora; March 20, 12:30 p.m.||vs. Oswego East; March 19, 6 p.m.||vs. Yorkville; March 19, 7 p.m.||vs. Minooka; March 19, 7 p.m.||vs. Oswego; March 19, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield North; March 19, 7 p.m.|
|Week 2||@ Plainfield South, March 26, 7 p.m.||vs. Romeoville; March 26, 6 p.m.||@ Plainfield East; March 26, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield Central; March 26, 7 p.m.||vs. Joliet Central; March 26, 7 p.m.||vs. Joliet West; March 26, 6 p.m.|
|Week 3||@ Romeoville; April 2, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield East; April 2, 6 p.m.||vs. Plainfield South; April 2, 7 p.m.||@ Joliet West; April 2, 6 p.m.||@ Plainfield Central; April 2, 7 p.m.||vs. Joliet Central; April 2, 7 p.m.|
|Week 4||vs. Joliet West; Aprii 10, 1 p.m.||@ Joliet Central; April 10, 1 p.m.||@ Romeoville; April 9, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield South; April 9, 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield East; April 9, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield Central; April 9, 7 p.m.|
|Week 5||@ Plainfield Central; April 16, 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield South; April 16, 7 p.m.||vs. Joliet Central; April 16, 7 p.m.||vs. Romeoville; April 16, 7 p.m.||vs. Joliet West; April 16, 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield East; April 16, 7 p.m.|
|Week 6||vs. Plainfield East; April 23, 6:30 p.m.||vs. Plainfield Central; April 23, 6 p.m.||@ Joliet West; April 23, 6 p.m.||@ Joliet Central; April 23, 6:30 p.m.||@ Romeoville; April 23, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield South; April 23, 7 p.m.|
|Minooka||Oswego||Oswego East||Plainfield North||West Aurora||Yorkville|
|Week 1||@ Plainfield East; March 19; 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield South; March 19, 7 p.m.||@ Joliet West; March 19, 7 p.m.||@ Romeoville; March 19, 7 p.m.||@ Joliet Central; March 20, 12:30 p.m.||@ Plainfield Central; March 19, 7 p.m.|
|Week 2||vs. Oswego East; March 26, 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield North; March 26, 7 p.m.||@ Minooka; March 26, 7 p.m.||vs. Oswego; March 26, 7 p.m.||vs. Yorkville; April 26, 7 p.m.||@ West Aurora; April 26, 7 p.m.|
|Week 3||vs. Plainfield North; April 2, 7 p.m.||vs. West Aurora; April 2, 7 p.m.||vs. Yorkville; April 2, 7 p.m.||@ Minooka; April 2, 7 p.m.||@ Oswego; April 2, 7 p.m.||@ Oswego East; April 2, 7 p.m.|
|Week 4||@ Yorkville, April 9, 7 p.m.||@ Oswego East; April 9, 7 p.m.||vs. Oswego; April 9, 7 p.m.||vs. West Aurora; April 9, 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield North; April 9, 7 p.m.||vs. Minooka; April 9, 7 p.m.|
|Week 5||@ West Aurora, April 16, 7 p.m.||vs. Yorkville; April 16, 7 p.m.||@ Plainfield North; April 16, 7 p.m.||vs. Oswego East; April 16, 7 p.m.||vs. Minooka; April 16, 7 p.m.||@ Oswego; April 16, 7 p.m.|
|Week 6||vs. Oswego; April 23, 7 p.m.||@ Minooka; April 23, 7 p.m.||@ West Aurora; April 23, 7 p.m.||@ Yorkville; April 23, 7 p.m.||vs. Oswego East; April 23, 7 p.m.||vs. Plainfield North; April 23, 7 p.m.|
FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 2: Oswego at Plainfield North: Plainfield North is trying to get into the upper tier of the conference. This would be a statement game to prove it belongs in that discussion.
Week 3: Yorkville at Oswego East: Yorkville opened eyes in 2019 by winning its first seven games in its maiden season in a league with bigger schools. This provides a gauge on whether the Foxes can maintain that.
Week 4: Oswego at Oswego East: Oswego has never lost to its crosstown rivals, a matchup where the defenses have held the upper hand most often recently. Can the Panthers continue that fall history in the spring?
Week 5: Joliet West at Plainfield South: These two teams established themselves as part of the top contenders group in the East Division. Will be important in deciding conference crown.
Week 5: Oswego at Minooka: Minooka finally knocked Oswego off of its perch as the league’s dominant team in 2019. Was it a fluke or the development of a trend?