DuPage Valley Conference
Metea Valley at DeKalb
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: DeKalb won, 31-30, last season on the road, in a game that started on a Friday night and was delayed by weather into Sunday.
About the Mustangs: Metea Valley went 1-8 for the third straight year in 2019, the first under John Parpet. Logan Frederick is back under center for the Mustangs and has a top target in 6-foot-3, 185-pound receiver Jalen Johnson. Already with an offer from Northern Illinois, Johnson also has interest from Duke, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa State among other schools.
About the Barbs: DeKalb coach Keith Snyder said he expects a battle on the line between the Barbs’ Christian Lorenzo and Metea Valley’s Jake Pauline, but said he trusts Lorenzo to protect third-year starting quarterback Trenton Kyler.
Snyder said with 505 days between games for DeKalb, the little things the coaching staff stresses become more important.
“There’s going to be a lot of rust,” Snyder said. “You have to focus on your reps, your jobs, your assignments and hustle. On offense we have to do our jobs and get the ball to the playmakers. There’s just so much rust on these kids, it’s going to be a process that continues throughout the season.”
Snyder said he feels there’s multiple players on the team who can score whenever they touch the ball, and that starts with the speedsters in the backfield: Trenton McCullom and Toriano Tate. Both can operate in the backfield or the slot, and Snyder has high hopes for the offense. That could be big given how close last season’s game was.
“It could have gone either way,” Snyder said. “We’ve had as difficult a time with them as anybody. They play fundamentally sound. It’s a testament to the job John and his staff do.”
Kaneland at Sycamore
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last matchup: Sycamore was a 35-14 winner last season en route to going undefeated in the Interstate 8.
About the Knights: Kaneland brings back a ton of talent, with linemen John Davis and all-state selection Sam Pryor paving the way for a crowded backfield that includes Jack McIntire, Evan Hogan, Jackson Certa and Corey Phillips.
Quarterback is more unsettled. Coach Pat Ryan said Cole Pugh and Lane Robinson will see time in Saturday’s game. He added that he wasn’t sure how long the split would last.
“It could be until we figure out if someone separates themselves because they are clearly a better quarterback,” Ryan said. “So we could just roll this way for a while. We don’t have a clear picture of one being better than the other, so for the first game at least we’re going to roll with both of them.”
About the Spartans: Nathaniel Altepeter took over last season because of an injury to the regular starter and got a ton of experience at running back. Now the junior comes into the short season as the main runner for the Spartans. Caden Carrier takes over at quarterback for the team.
With most of Carrier’s receivers coming off basketball season and being limited in practices, coach Joe Ryan said timing is key.
“We’ve had the basketball players practicing, but not a lot,” Joe Ryan said. “They’ve had a lighter load, but our focus is the passing game the next couple of days.”
Ryan said the talent at receiver is deep, but four of them were starters for the basketball team: Xavier Gagnepain, Ben Herrman, Hunter Alexander and Bailey Wiegmann.
Hiawatha vs. River Ridge at Alden-Hebron
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Last matchup: It’s the first meeting for the programs.
About the Hawks: The Hawks have accomplished a lot under coach Jason Keneway as he enters his fifth season. In 2016, his first season, he guided the Hawks to a 7-2 record and their first playoff berth since 1987. Last season, he led them to their first playoff win since 1987. Now, he’s at the helm as the Hawks move into eight-man football.
And they’ll have a challenge, facing a River Ridge program that is ranked No. 1 in eight-man by some publications, Keneway said. The Wildcats were a late addition to the schedule, as the Hawks were supposed to play Alden-Hebron. Keneway said issues with the number of players available for A-H and unspecified issues with the Wildcats’ opponent led to the reshuffling.
“It’s a fun challenge,” Keneway said. “They’re all seniors and have been playing eight-man for a full year. I’m excited to see where we’re at, and you get to see that when you play the No. 1 team. It’s a good challenge.”
Keneway said he’s excited to see how Matt Korb adjusts to quarterback this year. Keneway said Korb can be more of a running threat this year.
Keneway said he’s excited and ready to go.
“I’m actually surprised how ready I feel,” Keneway said. “I felt a little concerned with a short amount of time going into a new thing, with new plays and guys at different positions and everything.”
About the Wildcats: Keneway said while Bryton Engle is a threat in the passing game, he’s also concerned about running back Caleb Rhodes. “He’s their dude,” Keneway said. He ran for more than 1,700 yards last year.
Pick: River Ridge