Suburban Life Football Capsules for Week 1

West Suburban Conference

Proviso East at Downers Grove North

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Downers Grove North 42, Proviso East 6 (2016)

About the Pirates: Aaron Peppers takes over as Proviso East’s coach this season, but he’s a familiar face. Peppers, a retired Maywood police officer, previously coached the Proviso East varsity from 2005-2010, going 23-33 in his previous tenure. Junior defensive back/wide receiver Jokwan Cherry, senior linebacker Kendall Brown and junior wide receiver/quarterback/defensive back Tyler Thomas are among the players to watch.

About the Trojans: Downers Grove went 6-5 last season, its most wins since 2013. The Trojans hope to keep it going with a much younger group. Drew Bielawski, a three-year starter and all-conference linebacker who was Downers Grove North’s leading tackler as a junior, leads the players back. Danny Bancoro is a two-year starter at defensive back.

Pick: Downers Grove North

Glenbard West at Addison Trail

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Glenbard West 49, Addison Trail 0 (2019)

About the Hilltoppers: Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet has had high praise for this group in the preseason, which does appear loaded coming off a 10-1 season. Returning running backs Jalen Moore and Samson Zander combine for a potent one/two punch out of the backfield running behind Syracuse recruit Wes Hoeh. Iowa commit Denin Limouris is another player to watch. Linebacker Caleb Moorhead, a Brown recruit, leads five starters back on defense.

About the Blazers: Chris Bazant, a varsity assistant since 2012, takes over as Addison Trail’s new head coach. The Blazers, whose last playoff appearance was in 2014, return four of their offensive linemen and three – juniors Nathanial Figueroa, Jason Houser and John Voinea – started as sophomores. It’s a young team in general dominated by juniors.

Pick: Glenbard West

Oak Park-River Forest at Hinsdale Central

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Hinsdale Central 22, Oak Park-River Forest 15 (2019).

About the Huskies: The Huskies last season went 4-5 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011, head coach John Hoerster’s first year at OPRF. Dual-threat quarterback Jaden McGill transferred to Naperville Central, leaving a talent void behind center. Senior linebacker Naahlyee Bryant is a Western Michigan recruit and senior linebacker Jake Birmingham is a Valparaiso commit.

About the Red Devils: Hinsdale Central, 8-2 last season, has won eight or more games in four straight years. Senior Michael Brescia, last year’s conference MVP and a Colgate recruit, is one of the area’s better quarterbacks. Miami (Ohio) commit Ryan Orput is his favorite target and 6-foot-5 Columbia commit Charlie Sessa another viable option. Junior linebacker JT Pyle has a strong pedigree.

Pick: Hinsdale Central

York at Hinsdale South

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Hinsdale South 49, York 21 (2012)

About the Dukes: The Dukes have made steady progress in head coach Mike Fitzgerald’s first seasons, back-to-back 4-5 finishes. York’s senior class is full of skill-position players who saw time last season with linemen that rotated in. Senior Luke Malaga, a Cornell University commit, was York’s leading receiver last season with 37 catches for 503 yards and quarterback Max Assaad threw for over 1,200 yards as a junior.

About the Hornets: Hinsdale South comes off a 3-6 season, the program’s fewest since 2010. Senior Jaylon Smith was Hinsdale South’s leading receiver with 29 catches for 518 yards and six touchdowns, and tight end Lucas Kozak and receiver Juke Terrell also return. Dual-threat quarterback Marquese Garrett graduated, but there’s still plenty of speed and big-play ability in the program.

Pick: York

Leyden at Willowbrook

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Willowbrook 42, Leyden 7 (2019)

About the Eagles: Leyden, 4-5 last season, last posted a winning record in 2016. The Eagles have a smaller roster than usual because of the pandemic – but 16th-year head coach Tom Cerasani characterizes it as a tough and gritty group that looks to be as competitive as possible. Players to watch include senior receiver/defensive back Elijah Diblich, senior running back/defensive back Nico Venezia,

About the Warriors: The Warriors have established themselves as one of the upper-echelon teams in Class 7A, with four straight quarterfinal appearances and last season reached the semifinals for the first time since 1975. Dual-threat quarterback Sam Tumilty has graduated, but the cupboard is far from bare in Villa Park. Left tackle Enrique Cruz, a Syracuse commit, is Willowbrook’s first Division I recruit in over a decade. Senior linebacker Moe Ayesh is another to watch.

Pick: Willowbrook

CCL/ESCC

Mount Carmel at Montini

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Mount Carmel 27, Montini 20 (2019)

About the Caravan: Mount Carmel had paused in-person class and all activities until March 15 after a student tested positive for COVID-19, but the Caravan reportedly returned to football practice March 6. The Caravan are defending Class 7A champs. Quarterback Justin Lynch, the signal-caller for that championship team, is a Temple recruit. Kenenna Odeluga, a Penn recruit, rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2019.

About the Broncos: Third-year starter Demond Butcher, committed to Eastern Illinois as a preferred walk-on, and Colin Baker, a wrestling state qualifier in 2019, lead a Montini line with size up front. DiAndre Harris, a Georgetown recruit, is a returning two-way starter at running back/receiver/safety. Starting quarterback Tre Jones will not be available for the opener, but is expected back for Week 2. With Jones out, Schaumburg transfer Cole Teschner figures to get the call behind center.

Pick: Mount Carmel

Benet at St. Ignatius

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Benet 35, St. Ignatius 6 (2019)

About the Redwings: Benet, 6-4 last season, is moving Butler commit Nick Bafia into the starting quarterback position and he will also play defensive back on the other side. Pierce Walsh, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver/defensive end, and linebacker John Weidenbach are two sophomores to watch. Augie Mazza is a big-play talent.

About the Wolfpack: St. Ignatius, 5-5 last season, has made five consecutive playoff appearances. This will be a young team, with half the roster made up of sophomores. Sophomore fullbacks Vinny Rugai and John Kemp could be a big part of the Wolfpack’s triple-option attack.

Pick: Benet

DuKane Conference

Glenbard North at Wheaton North

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Glenbard North 21, Wheaton North 7 (2019)

About the Panthers: Glenbard North enjoyed a huge bounce-back season in 2019, going from 0-9 and 7-4, winning football that the folks in Carol Stream are more accustomed to. Brandon Smiley is a two-way threat at defensive back and wide receiver. Jake Cicero and Paulie Robertson are players to watch on the line.

About the Falcons: The Falcons went 4-5 for the fifth time in six seasons in 2019. Mark Forcucci leads six starters back on the offensive side of the ball. Wheaton North added six juniors who did not play at the sophomore level last season. Keep an eye on La’Juan Hill, a 6-foot-5 defensive end.

Pick: Glenbard North.

Lake Park at Wheaton Warrenville South

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Wheaton Warrenville South 27, Lake Park 7 (2019)

About the Lancers: Jason Kradman, who went 33-25 over six seasons at Maine West with three playoff appearances, was hired in February 2020 as Lake Park’s new head coach after Chris Roll was fired the previous November. Quarterback Nathaneal Merchant, running back Micah Flagg and wideout Alex Fitzpatrick are three starters back on offense.

About the Tigers: The Tigers are coming off back-to-back quarterfinal appearances, and an 8-4 finish in 2019. Quarterback Parker Brown is back for his second season as starter, Kaleb Clousing his favorite target. Seven starters return on defense led by linemen Jaylen Brown, Micah Roberts and Connor Kelty.

Pick: Wheaton Warrenville South

Metro Suburban Conference

St. Francis at IC Catholic Prep

When: 7:15 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: St. Francis 20, IC Catholic Prep 19 (2019)

About the Spartans: The Spartans’ last meeting with the Knights was a memorable one, a 20-19 St. Francis’ win in October 2019 that snapped IC Catholic’s 33-game winning streak. Illinois State recruit Tommy Rittenberg returns for his third season as starting quarterback. Sophomore lineman TJ McMillen has already accumulated five Division I offers. The roster was bolstered athletically with an infusion of transfers including Grayson Griffin and Elijah Lee from Waubonsie Valley and Adam Criter from Downers Grove North.

About the Knights: IC Catholic Prep had its streak of championship game appearances snapped with a 2019 quarterfinal loss to Richmond-Burton, so the Knights are itching to get back on the field. Kyle Franklin, an Indiana State recruit, is back for his fourth varsity season, having already run for nearly 5,000 yards and 74 touchdowns for his career. Eastern Illinois commit Chauncey Lee is a two-way player to watch. It’s a young group.

Pick: St. Francis

Riverside-Brookfield at Hillcrest

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First known meeting.

About the Bulldogs: Riverside-Brookfield picked up a game with Hillcrest after Elmwood Park was unable to play Week 1. The Bulldogs are coming off their fifth playoff appearance in six seasons. Junior quarterback/receiver/defensive back Owen Murphy is a Notre Dame baseball recruit who contributes all over the field. Senior linebacker Jordan Medrano leads the defense.

About the Hawks: Hillcrest comes off a 10-2 season and a Class 5A quarterfinal appearance. Four-star running back Mar’Keise Irving, a Minnesota recruit and the No. 9 running back in the nation by Rivals, ran for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.

Pick: Hillcrest.

Chicago Christian at Westmont

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Chicago Christian 41, Westmont 12 (2019)

About the Knights: Chicago Christian went 6-4 in 2019, reaching the playoffs for the second straight season. The Knights should be strong up front with four returning offensive linemen led by Hillsdale College commit Hunter Sperling, the conference’s Lineman of the Year and First-Team All-State selection.

About the Sentinels: Westmont’s had just winning season since making the playoffs in 2006. The Sentinels struggled offensively last season, shut out three times and held to 12 or fewer points twice.

Pick: Chicago Christian

Bishop McNamara at Wheaton Academy

When: 7:15 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Bishop McNamara 28, Wheaton Academy 7 (2019)

About the Irish: Bishop McNamara went 8-4 last season with a quarterfinal appearance. Senior running back Manny Harris was a Class 4A All-State pick last season, as he rushed for 1,334 yards and 19 touchdowns for a Class 4A quarterfinalist. Six starters return on defense.

About the Warriors: Jim Johanik, previously the JV head coach for three seasons, was hired in March when Brad Thornton stepped down after seven seasons. Wheaton Academy went 4-5 in 2019. Trevor Donna, a senior linebacker and Kenyon College commit, is a two-time all-conference pick and was defensive player of the year as a sophomore.

Pick: Bishop McNamara.

Upstate Eight Conference

Glenbard East at Larkin

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Glenbard East 35, Larkin 10 (2019)

About the Rams: The Rams last season went 8-2 and made their second straight playoff appearance – the first time that’s been done in program history. Six starters return on offense, four of them along the line, and seven more return on the defensive side. All-conference quarterback Connor Cerkas and all-league wide receiver LaDonus Rogers are among those back.

About the Royals: Larkin went 1-8 last season in the first year of head coach Matt Gehrig’s second stint as head coach. The Royals’ last winning season came in 2009, also under Gehrig. Lineman Adam Maloy, a Wisconsin-Eau Claire recruit, lead the returners.

Pick: Glenbard East

Glenbard South at Bartlett

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: Bartlett 49, Glenbard South 14 (2019)

About the Raiders: The Raiders come off a 6-4 season, their ninth straight playoff appearance. Junior running back Trevor Burnett, who had over 1,000 all-purpose yards with 25 tackles and two interceptions as a sophomore, holds offers from Army, Air Force, Eastern Illinois, Kent State and South Dakota State.

About the Hawks: Bartlett, 8-2 Upstate Eight Conference co-champs in 2019, is well-equipped for a big spring with seven starters back on offense and nine on defense. The Hawks allowed just 146 points in 10 games last season. Alec Palella, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound Central Michigan recruit who plays tight end and defensive end, leads the returners.

Pick: Bartlett

South Suburban Conference

Lemont at Shepard

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Lemont 49, Shepard 7 (2019)

About the Indians: Graduation hit the Lemont ranks hard, but the Indians have a long history of finding ways of making things work. Running back Alex Tagler had some solid outings in 2019 and could benefit from more opportunities. Looking for an impact player on defense? Look no further than linebacker Al Pontrelli, who should be an absolute force.

About the Astros: Shepard was a playoff team in 2019, and although a repeat effort won’t be available to it in this spring season, it appears that the Astros have the foundation of a pretty sound squad. That starts with an offensive line that has four returning starters, but Shepard does face the daunting task of breaking in an entirely new backfield. Wide receiver Jalen Smith could be looked to in easing that transition for the other less experienced specialist players for the Astros.

Pick: Lemont

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.