2021 fall preview: Scouting the Fox Valley Conference

Burlington Central

2021 spring record: 1-4

Coach: Brian Melvin (sixth season)

Worth noting: The Rockets return several third-year varsity starters, led by RB-LB Gavin Sarvis, one of the FVC’s top backs over the past two years, who finished with 521 yards rushing and an FVC-best 105 carries. … WR-SS Nate Majewski tied for the team lead with 12 receptions, and DB Shawn Adkerson was pressed into QB duty after Mark Ganziano was lost with an injury. Adkerson threw for 359 yards in three games. … OL Nick Nuno (6-foot-1, 265 pounds), Matt Eshoo (5-10, 210), J.J. Hansen (6-4, 280), Zach Schultz (6-4, 250) and James Muetterties (6-2, 225) all started on the line last season. … Sarvis, Majewski, Adkerson and WR-DB Zach Lawrence are all back to start on the defense. … “We have a nice group of three-year starting seniors and a nice group of underclassmen,” Melvin said. “Leadership from the seniors will need to be prevalent for us to be successful. I am positive we can have major success this year.”

Cary-Grove

2021 spring record: 4-0

Coach: Brad Seaburg (11th season)

Worth noting: The Trojans are looking to make the playoffs for the 19th consecutive season (not counting the 2021 spring season when there were no playoffs because of the COVID-19 pandemic). C-G won its spring opener, 28-20, over Burlington Central, then was quarantined for COVID-19 and missed Weeks 2 and 3 games. The Trojans came back blazing, beating Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake Central and Oswego East in their final three games by a combined score of 108-21. … FB Nick Hissong (6-2, 225) ran for 479 yards and eight touchdowns. RB Wade Abrams and QB Jameson Sheehan also return in the backfield. Sheehan did not throw a lot but had his most productive passing game when the Trojans defeated Crystal Lake Central to win their division. … Michael Dec, Nick Wojcik and Thomas Burton all return on the defensive line. LB Zach Petko and DB Toby Splitt also return on defense. … TE Noah Riley and OL Max Katsenos are returning offensive starters. … Other players who saw action and will step into larger roles are DB Ben Hurt Haller, RB Drew Magel, FB-LB Colin Desmet and DB Drew Borzych. … “Our senior class is deep and talented and expects to win,” Seaburg said. “If we can stay healthy and fill in some holes from last year’s team, we expect to compete for a conference championship and make a run for a state title.”

Crystal Lake Central

2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Jon McLaughlin (13th season)

Worth noting: Central started the spring season 3-0 and defeated Prairie Ridge, 14-13, in overtime, the Tigers’ first win over their rival since 2012, but stumbled in their final three games against McHenry, Cary-Grove and Hampshire. … Most of the offense returns , led by QB Colton Madura, who was fourth in area passing yards (1,007) and also rushed for 230 yards. RB Brent Blitek led the Tigers in rushing (304) and returns in the backfield. … WRs Jacob Carnrite (17 receptions) and Charlie Fleming (11) return and should be prominent targets for Madura. … The Tigers return Mitch Helm, Jacob Pollack, Buzz Macke and Tyler Julitz on the offensive line. … The defense was hit harder by graduation, but LBs Will Martin, Jack Blum, Nico Acevedo and Braydon Gibour all return, along with DT Leo Diaz, DB Vince Honer and S Joseph Scaraville. … “We need our defensive line to step up because we lost some good players there,” McLaughlin said. “We should be very competitive with all of our returning players. We just need to continue to improve and get better each week.”

Crystal Lake South

2021 spring record: 1-5

Coach: Rob Fontana (fifth season)

Worth noting: It all starts with QB Justin Kowalak, who led the area with 1,608 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in their six spring games. … RB Nate VanWitzenburg returns after rushing for 450 yards on 100 carries as a sophomore. … Nate Compere and Andy Burburija are back to lead the offensive line. … LB Shane Moran was one of the state’s top Class 2A wrestlers at 170 pounds and is starting for a third season. LB Ian Burke, DB Brandon Haning and WR-DB Michael Prokos are other returning starters.

Dundee-Crown

2021 spring record: 1-4

Coach: Mike Steinhaus (eighth season)

Worth noting: The Chargers finished their spring season with a victory over Crystal Lake South. … TE-DL Hunter Guyon (6-3, 220) led D-C with 12 receptions in the spring. WR-DB Drew Randl (6-1, 170) was another one of their top players. … OL-LB Porter Leith (6-1, 215) had a standout wrestling season and returns. RB Keegan Otte (5-8, 175), WR-DB Henry Kennedy (5-10, 160) and OL-DL Jimmy Stewart (6-1, 210) are other starters returning. … Steinhaus will look to sophomore QB Zach Randl (5-10, 147) to lead the offense and RB-LB Alek Ledezma (6-0, 180) is another new player who should contribute.

Hampshire

2021 spring record: 4-1

Coach: Jake Brosman (fourth season)

Worth noting: The Whip-Purs ended a 24-game losing streak in the final two weeks of the 2019 season and stretched their winning streak to five games with the first three games of 2020. Their only loss in the 4-1 spring season was to unbeaten Huntley. … QB Tyler Fikis threw for 871 yards and ran for 317 and returns to lead the offense. OL Patryk Barnas (6-3, 285), Ryan Miedema (5-10, 260) and Mike Freeman (6-2, 205) return to pave the way for the offense. … Brosman is excited about an expanded offensive role for TE-LB Devin Yeats, who has size and speed and played mostly defense in the spring. … FB Ray Hill returns and RB Tristan Villarreal is one of the fastest Whips and should get some carries in the backfield. … “We had a great winning atmosphere around us (in the spring),” Brosman said. “Positivity was lifted. We have a lot coming back.”

Huntley

2021 spring record: 5-0

Coach: Matt Zimolzak (sixth season)

Worth noting: Huntley rolled through its FVC division for the spring season and eagerly awaited an FVC Super Bowl matchup against C-G, but a COVID-19 quarantine knocked the Red Raiders out of that game. … Huntley tied Prairie Ridge for the FVC championship in 2019. … RB-LB Chris Medina (5-10, 195) switches from safety on defense and will get some carries at RB, along with starter Ryder Hunkins (6-0, 205). … WR Christian Brown (6-2, 195), DB Nick Martino (5-10, 170), DL Boston Bower (6-2, 240), OL-DL Ben Wiley (6-2, 220), OL Luke Griskey (6-5 270), WR Chase Jetel (6-3, 185) and WR Carter Knutsen (5-11, 160) are other returning starters. … QB Sam Deligio (5-10, 175) transferred from Jacobs, where he started in the spring season as a sophomore. … Zimolzak feels Huntley has the players to again be strong on both lines. “In order to be successful, we have to dominate up front,” Zimolzak said. “The key to our success the past few years has been a dominant offensive and defensive line. A good defensive line allows our linebackers to play fast and our defensive backs to cover for shorter amounts of time. Our offensive line has allowed us to spread the ball around to different players, and our run game has been really good the last couple of years.”

Jacobs

2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: Brian Zimmerman (second season)

Worth noting: The Golden Eagles have RB Ben Ludlum (549 yards) and RB Nasir Canty (247) back to lead their running attack. Ludlum suffered an injury or likely would have qualified for the IHSA Class 3A Track and Field State Meet in the 4x200-meter relay. … QB Max Benner steps in to replace Sam Deligio, who started in the spring and transferred to Huntley. Benner has two big targets in TE Grant Stec (6-6, 225) and WR Nick True (6-4, 205). … Will Seibert (6-3, 240), Joe Volenec (6-2, 255), Kyle Koziel (6-1, 230) and Luke Shannon (5-10, 220) return on the offensive line. … Sophomores Paulie Rudolph and Joey Scrivani return at linebacker, while DB Jack Bonkoski and S Eli Vasquez also return for the defense. … “Having 15 guys who all started or saw legitimate playing time will be a big confidence booster,” Zimmerman said. “We will rely on our running attack with two veterans in Ben Ludlum and Nasir Canty. I like the way Max Benner has looked stepping into the starting role this summer throwing the football.”

McHenry

2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: Jon Niemic (fourth season)

Worth noting: The Warriors beat Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South to make it to 2-2 and were quarantined the day of what would have been their final game, against Burlington Central. … RB Brody Hallin (5-8, 160) ran for 374 yards and QB Andrew Hoffman (6-0, 180) threw for 645. … WR-DB Kyle Kaempf (6-1, 160) was a defensive standout (four interceptions) and will see more time at receiver with Matt Gallimore and Adam Benton both graduated. … Luke Zunkel (6-0, 225) will be integral on both lines. Elijah Nothdorf (6-1, 280) and Dylan Hogan (6-4, 270) return on the offensive line, while Frank Smiesko (6-2, 190) and Tyler Groves (6-0, 280) are back on the defensive line. LB Joey Crowley (5-9, 160) also returns on defense.

Prairie Ridge

2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Chris Schremp (20th season)

Worth noting: Prairie Ridge has played in three of the past four Class 6A state championship games, winning in 2016 and 2017 and losing to East St. Louis in 2019. … OL-DL Jack Schnoor, who will play at NCAA Division II Minnesota State, DB Mason Loucks and LB Matt Fryer are third-year starters coming back for the Wolves. … QB Tyler Vasey was set to take over the offense but suffered an elbow injury when he fell in practice this week and is out indefinitely. Schremp is uncertain who will take over at QB. Vasey showed great speed at running back in the first two spring games before he suffered a broken collarbone. … FB Nathan Greetham, RB Zach Bentsen and RB Drake Tomasiewicz will be in the backfield. … Sam Schultz and Matt Nygren return as starters on the offensive line. … S Dom Creatore and LB Zach Lindquist are other returning starters on defense. … The Wolves have been to the playoffs for seven straight years (not counting this spring’s season). … “It will be interesting to see how this teams comes together as the season goes on,” Schremp said. “We have some talented guys in Schnoor, Loucks and Schultz, who all can be game-changers. If we stay healthy, I look for us to compete at the top of our conference and have a nice run in the playoffs.”

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nick Hissong, FB, Cary-Grove: Hissong (6-1, 226) is one of the Trojans’ biggest fullbacks they have had in their option offense. He was troublesome for defenses in the spring, as they just struggled to bring him down. He ran for 479 yards and eight touchdowns as C-G finished 4-0. He will play a huge role for another tough offensive unit this fall.

Kyle Kaempf, WR/DB, McHenry: Kaempf (5-11, 145) was one of the top defensive backs in the spring, grabbing four interceptions for the Warriors (2-2). He also had a key punt return touchdown in a victory over Crystal Lake Central. Kaempf will have an expanded role on offense at wide receiver, as well as playing a big part in the Warriors’ defensive backfield.

Ben Ludlum, RB, Jacobs: Ludlum (5-10, 180) had back-to-back four-touchdown games in the spring, running for 124 yards in a 47-12 victory over Dundee-Crown and for 220 in a 46-26 win over Burlington Central. The Golden Eagles were under COVID-19 quarantine and missed their last two games. Look for Ludlum, who finished with 549 rushing yards, to be a force again running behind an experienced Jacobs offensive line.

Chris Medina, RB/LB, Huntley: Medina (5-11, 195) made big contributions on a strong defense as a sophomore. Since then he has added almost 40 pounds and remains one of the fastest Red Raiders. He will move to linebacker this season and also see time at running back. Huntley has Ryder Hunkins as its starter, Medina will offer a change-of-pace look and also could be in some passing packages.

Gavin Sarvis, RB/LB, Burlington Central: Sarvis (6-1, 195) has been a two-year standout for the Rockets on offense and defense. He finished eighth in area rushing and was durable, rushing for an area-high 105 attempts in five games. Sarvis ran for 521 yards in the spring season and had 59 tackles, with nine tackles for losses on defense.

SCHEDULES

Burlington CentralCary-GroveCrystal Lake CentralCrystal Lake SouthDundee-Crown
Week 1vs. Hampshire; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Huntley; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Jacobs; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2at Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m. Sept. 3at Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Jacobs; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Hampshire; 7 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Hampshire; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4at Huntley; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at McHenry; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Hampshire; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5vs. Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Prairie Ridge; 1 p.m., Sept. 25at Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6at Jacobs; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Huntley; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Crystal Lake South; 7 p..m., Oct. 1at Crystal Lake Central; 7 p..m., Oct. 1at McHenry; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Jacobs; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. McHenry; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at McHenry; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Huntley; 7 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9vs. McHenry; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Hampshire; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Huntley; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Jacobs; 7 p.m., Oct. 22
HampshireHuntleyJacobsMcHenryPrairie Ridge
Week 1at Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. McHenry; 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2at Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at McHenry; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Huntley; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Burlington Central; 7 p.m. Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. McHenry; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Jacobs; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Huntley; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4at Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Jacobs; 7 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5vs. McHenry; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Jacobs; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Huntley; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Hampshire; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Cary-Grove; 1 p.m., Sept. 25
Week 6at Prairie Ridge; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Hampshire; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Huntley; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Hampshire; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Jacobs; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Dundee-Crown, 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Hampshire; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9vs. Cary-Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Crystal Lake South; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Dundee-Crown; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Burlington Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Crystal Lake Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 22

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1 – McHenry at Prairie Ridge: The Warriors return a lot from a 2-2 team that was improving in the spring season. The Wolves don’t have as many experienced players as some seasons, but they have a terrific tradition. It’s a great measuring-stick game for both teams right away.

Week 2 – Jacobs at Crystal Lake Central: Jacobs (2-2 in the spring) was just starting to roll with back-to-back wins when a COVID-19 quarantine ended its season. The Golden Eagles return a lot of experienced players. Central started 3-0 and finished at 3-3, but the Tigers have a lot back on offense.

Week 4 – Hampshire at Crystal Lake Central: Hampshire is one of the most intriguing FVC teams after going 4-1 in the spring. The Whip-Purs beat Central, 33-21, in their final game and return a lot of key players, led by QB Tyler Fikis. Central QB Colton Madura returns with a lot of other starters on offense, which could make the Tigers a formidable unit.

Week 5 – Prairie Ridge at Cary-Grove: This game is an automatic pick for the top game every season after the recent history of these two FVC powerhouses. C-G won in the spring, 20-7, and finished 4-0. Prairie Ridge battled numerous injuries and was 3-3.

Week 6 – Cary-Grove at Huntley: The two five-team divisions for the spring schedule worked nicely and there were plans for an FVC Super Bowl, which would have been C-G vs. Huntley. The Red Raiders were knocked out of the game with a COVID-19 quarantine and C-G finished its season with a big win at Oswego East. Neither team lost in the spring.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamProjected Record
Cary-Grove9-0
Huntley8-1
Crystal Lake Central7-2
Prairie Ridge6-3
McHenry5-4
Hampshire4-5
Jacobs3-6
Crystal Lake South2-7
Burlington Central1-8
Dundee-Crown0-9
Joe Stevenson

Joe Stevenson

I have worked at the Northwest Herald since January of 1989, covering everything from high school to professional sports. I mainly cover high school sports now.